"I know what I can do, so I never doubt myself"
Whoever you are, good running comes down to being confident.
You take two equally fit runners, but the one with the confidence of Usain Bolt will always prevail.
But what is the best way to actually determine what you need to do? What methods can be used to gain confidence?
Enter the benchmark workout.
These are basically training sessions that cover close to or all of the goal distance at the goal pace, with some recovery between repetitions. They are great methods to track fitness, build confidence, and work on specific endurance for target races. The recovery from the taper and the motivation of being at a race should be able to get you through the full distance without the recovery sections.
Below are some sample workouts you can use. These should be performed two to three weeks prior to the target event. And don't forget the warm up and cool down!
The benchmark workout for the 5k is incredibly specific:
5x1k at goal race pace with 2:00 recoveries between repetitions
Other examples include:
4x1 mile at goal race pace + 3:00 jogging recoveries
5k tune up race
Performing a tune up race for the 5k or 10k can be a good indicator of fitness before your "A" race. These distances are short enough that they are are likely much easier than some of your actual workouts.
Examples of benchmark workouts include:
4x2k at goal pace + 1k at best daily effort with 3:00 recoveries
5x2k at goal pace with 3:00 recoveries
15x400m at goal 10k pace with :30 recoveries
The McMilan Running Calculator can be a useful tool for predicting race paces. For the half marathon, you could race a 10k the month before your half, and plug your time into the calculator to find the 13.1 equivalent to your 10k performance. It is very important to realize that this expects you to be properly trained for the half marathon distance as well as race conditions to be fairly similar between the two compared events.
A workout example would be:
Warm up + 15x1k at goal race pace with 2:00 recoveries + Cool down
Long runs that include time at goal pace can be used to prepare you for the race. If your goal is to simply finish and cover the distance, running 20-24 miles at a minute slower per mile than goal pace will be very adequate.
If you are shooting for a goal time, getting miles at goal pace during your long runs is crucial. If you can run a warm up and then 16 miles at a pace within 5-10% of goal race pace, you are in a very good position to meet your expectations on race day!
Another possible workout is an hour warm up followed by an 10+ miles built of repetitions at or slightly faster than goal pace, with recovery between. Could be at 1 mile at "fast" and half a mile "easy". This total workout should be at least 16 miles.
These are the types of workouts that can be performed every 10-14 days during your training. Each session can build upon the previous. For example, the 5x1k at goal pace with 2:00 jogging between reps could be preceded by 5x1k with 3:00 jogging between reps, or 6x800m at goal pace with 2:00 recovery.