How should I pace my return-from-injury race?

It looks like I might be able to run – possibly the whole half marathon. Only a week ago I was telling myself that my goal now was just to finish. But wait! If I can run…

OH NO! The dilemma I feared has arrived!!

Some Background

  • I’ve run one half marathon 3 years ago
  • My half marathon PB (from said race) is 1:33:31
  • Six weeks ago I ran 15km in 1:01 at 4:01min/km pace
  • Four weeks ago I ran 5km in 18:11 at 3:44 min/km pace
  • Four weeks ago I tore my right calf and have been unable to run
  • Five days ago I did my first run without pain – 6km
  • Four days from now I run the Gold Coast Half Marathon!
  • Table of Half Marathon Pacing Times

    Half Marathon
    5:00 1 hr 45 min
    4:45 1 hr 40 min
    4:30 1 hr 35 min
    4:15 1 hr 30 min
    4:00 1 hr 24 min

    5:00 min/km used to be my easy, long run pace. So, if my calf holds up, 1:45 sounds like a doddle. But I don’t know what my easy, long run pace is anymore! I have no yardstick for where I’m at. Although I’ve been doing 2-3 x 40mins of Deep Water Running each week, my fitness has dropped. My run CTL has gone from 41 to 27 (see graph below). But I’ve maintained my overall fitness by cross-training (swimming and riding at high cadence).

    Run CTL vs Overall CTL

    Interestingly, my third calf tear seems to continue the pattern of -20 or worse Run TSB = Injury for me. Hmmm, perhaps there is a lesson for me here? I just can’t think what…

    This week I’ve done two runs, but they don’t tell me much:

    1. The first run, 9 days pre-race, was a 6km/30min run at 5:00 min/km. This was my first no-calf-pain run in 4 weeks. My nervous comeback run!
    2. The second run, 7 days pre-race, was an 11km/55min run at 4:50 min/km

    What to do…?

    Just aim to finish?
    This is the sensible approach – manage the injury, live to fight another war! But… there’s those nagging concerns: performing to your potential; selling yourself short. My kids are watching me – what lesson do I want to teach them? And, will I be disappointed if I don’t try?

    Go for a PB? (4:25 min/km will do it)
    What if I head out at PB pace and then play it by ear? I can back off if my fitness isn’t there or things start to tighten up. But… if I succeed, will I be disappointed that I didn’t give sub 1:30 a crack?

    Go for sub 1:30? (4:15 min/km required)
    This was my original goal at the start of the year. What if I head out at sub-1:30 pace and then play it by ear? I could follow the 1:30 balloon! This could lead to a spectacular blow-up! It could also, and far more worryingly, lead to an injury recurrence!

    To help with my decision, I’m planning a third and final run today, 4 days pre-race. This will be a 60min run with 20 mins at 5:00 min/km, 3 x 1km at 4:30 min/km and 3 x 1km at 4:15 min/km. Hopefully I’ll get an idea from this if any of these paces are sustainable.

    Now to work out how I can do this run whilst baby-sitting two kids…!

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