Category Archives: Hal Higdon Marathon Training Program

5 Mental Tricks to Tackle Tough Runs

We know how hard it can be to stick to your training program. Even though all our training programs are designed to gradually increase the effort needed, long runs are always tough and exhausting. And not only physically. Long-distance running can be as much a mental challenge as it is a physical test of strength and fitness.

When you find yourself struggling during a longer run, try some of these mental tricks to help win the mental battle while running:

Break it up


A very effective mental running trick for longer training runs is splitting the distance into smaller mileage, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by thinking about how far it is to the finish. For example, you might mentally break a 12 mile run into three 4-mile runs, a much more do-able and not so overwhelming distance.

One easy way to do it is by planning specific destinations into your route: 4 miles to the park, other 4 miles to the church and the last 4 will be logged on the route back to your house or starting point.

Talk to yourself

The person running next to you might think you’re crazy, but who cares? Giving yourself a pep talk can make the difference when you are struggling to keep going. Say to yourself things like, “I can do this!”, “I’m staying strong” or even “I’ll have some water in five minutes – that will make me feel better.”

Picking a mantra, such as “You’re stronger than you think you are.” or “One step at a time” can also be your inner motivation when you need it most and will definitely help you stay focused and centered.

Recruit a friend


Most runners prefer to do their long runs by themselves. But doing it with a running buddy might be the solution for your boredom and lack of enthusiasm during longer distances. Having a buddy to run with can distract you from the mileage and give you the motivation you need to get through the hardest miles.

Play games

Taking your mind off your running and placing it elsewhere is a tried and very effective mental running trick. And what better than playing a game to keep your brain busy while your body does its work? Here are two examples:

  • Counting cars: pick out a specific car color to look for during your run. Then count how many cars you see with that specific color. You can also do this with specific articles of clothing, houses, types of trees, etc.
  • Go fishing: if you’re running on a track with other runners, focus on someone in front of you who you think you can catch. Then picture yourself reeling that person in, as you keep getting closer and closer to him. When you pass that runner, pick out another person and continue the fishing game.

Imagine yourself on race day


Whenever you’re having a tough time with your long run, picture yourself on race day, running the course and crossing the finish line. During a race, you have to be mentally strong and do whatever you can to keep going. You don’t want to disappoint yourself or all those spectators watching you. So, toughen up and push yourself, while you imagine how it will feel to see your loved ones at the finish line cheering for you.

Do you have your own tricks to tackle your long run? Share them in the comments below!

8 Bucket-List Marathons in the United States

Many of you probably have “running a marathon” on your bucket lists. But here comes the tough question: Which one should you run? With more than 1,100 marathons taking place in the U.S. each year, we understand that choosing a race can be as hard as finding a needle in a haystack.

If you are looking for a unique experience or a fabulous destination, we’ve done the groundwork for you and identified 8 top races that happen from January to December.

While a few of the most popular races are already sold out this year, it’s never too early to mark your calendar and make your way to a starting line in 2016! For extra help, download one of Hal Higdon’s marathon training plans!

LA Marathon


When: The 2016 race will happen on the 14th of February 14. The race is typically in March.
Where: Los Angeles, California

Why you should race it: the City of Angels’ signature marathon debuted in 1986, but it has seen a resurgence in popularity in the most recent years. The point-to-point course starts outside Dodger Stadium and wind its way down to a finish on the Santa Monica coastline, taking runners through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and more.

Boston Marathon


When: Patriots’ Day, the third Monday in April. The 2016 race will happen on April 18th.
Where: Boston, Massachusetts

Why you should race it: Boston Marathon is the ultimate “bucket list” race for many runners around the world. Not only this is the world’s oldest annual marathon – the Boston Marathon was first run in 1897 – it is also one of the toughest to get into. But once you’ve secured a spot, you’ll conquer the historic course and challenging Heartbreak Hill in front of crowds of more than 500,000 spectators.

Big Sur International Marathon


When: Last Sunday in April. The 2016 race will take place on the 24th of April.
Where: Carmel, California

Why you should race it: Big Sur International Marathon is quite possibly the most scenic marathon in the U.S. Now in its 30th year, this point-to-point Marathon runs along the famous Pacific Coast Highway and seven California State Parks. The signature landmark of the race is at the halfway point, when runners cross the iconic Bixby Bridge.

Twin Cities Marathon


When: First Sunday in October. The 2015 race will take place on the 4th of October.
Where: St. Paul, Minnesota

Why you should race it: The Twin Cities Marathon is a great way to tour two cities for the price of one! The race starts in downtown Minneapolis, passes four of the state’s many lakes, then crosses the Mississippi River into St. Paul, where you’ll finish at the State Capitol Grounds. No wonder it is dubbed “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America”.

Chicago Marathon


When: Second Sunday in October. The 2015 race will take place on the 11th of October.
Where: Chicago, Illinois

Why you should race it: the Chicago Marathon is known for its flat-and-fast course that starts and finishes in Grant Park, winding through downtown Chicago and 29 of its neighborhoods. Along the 26.2 course, there’s not a single spot without spectators, as more than 1 million of them line Chicago’s streets to encourage runners.

Marine Corps Marathon


When: Fourth Sunday in October. The 2015 race takes place on Oct. 25.
Where: Arlington, Virginia

Why you should race it: Also known as the “Marathon of the Monuments”, this popular race starts at Potomac River in Arlington, Va. and offers a comprehensive tour of Washington, D.C.’s most famous landmarks, including Georgetown, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial before heading back to Virginia. The MCM has also adopted a lottery system in recent years, due to its increasing popularity.

New York City Marathon


When: First Sunday in November. The 2015 race will take place on November 1st.
Where: New York, New York

Why you should race it: the NYC Marathon is the largest in the world and runners seem to adore the route! The course provides a tour of all five boroughs of New York City, from Staten Island to Manhattan’s Central Park, where you can expect more than a million spectators to cheer you through the finish. To register you’ll have to sign up for a lottery, but the odds might not be in your favour: in 2015, there was only room for 18 percent of the applicants.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon


When: The 2015 race will take place on Nov. 15.
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

Why you should race it: even though the concept of Rock’n’Roll marathons was created in San Diego, Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas is a runner’s party, where you’ll find a vibrant, enthusiast atmosphere unlike any race in the country. Plus, this is the only opportunity to run the famous Las Vegas Strip at night!

5 Myths of the Marathon by Hal Higdon

Are some of the assumptions about our favorite race flat-out false?

Several weeks before this year’s Boston Marathon, an editor at a large East Coast newspaper approached me with an assignment to contribute to the paper’s weekly “Five Myths” feature: Five Myths About Easter; Five Myths About Mount Everest; Five Myths About The Oscars, etc. The editor wanted me to write: Five Myths About the Boston Marathon Bombings.

The assignment would have provided good exposure for my latest book, 4:09:43but I did not feel enough legitimate myths existed around the bombings to justify a “Five Myths” feature. The Oscars have been around forever, but the bombings happened only last year, too recently to develop a mythology. And quite frankly, focusing only on the horror of 2013 bothered me. I suggested to the editor that he broaden our approach to include all marathons. The editor said, no, and assigned the article to another writer.

Fair enough, but given the opportunity to select five myths about the marathon, not merely about the bombings, here is what I might have written:

  1. Pheidippides was the first marathon runner. Despite the popularity of the story of a single warrior/messenger running into Athens after the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC with news of the Greek victory—then dying—it never happened. The story only appeared in history books several hundred years after the battle. Pheidippides is part of a legend, albeit one that runners now happily embrace.
  2. 26 miles 385 yards was the length of the first Olympic marathon. The Greek shepherd Spiridon Loues probably ran around 24.5 miles, or 40 kilometers, in winning the first Olympic marathon in 1896. Three Olympiads later at London in 1908, organizers moved the starting line back to Windsor Castle so the Queen’s grandchildren could see the race. That odd 26.2-mile distance somehow became the accepted standard.
  3. Boston is the oldest and biggest marathon race in the world. Technically, the Olympic Marathon is one year older, but is only held every fourth year and in different cities. In the fall of 1896, New York hosted a “first” marathon, but that event failed to survive. Boston is the oldest continuously held marathon, although eight other marathons, including New York and Chicago are bigger.
  4. Women will never be able to run 26.miles. A long since disproven myth, but rules once prevented women from running more than 2.5 miles. Then in 1966, Roberta Gibb ran the full distance at Boston followed in 1967 by Kathrine Switzer. Today, women dominate many long distance races. According to Running USA, in 2013 61 percent of the 2 million finishers in half marathons were women.
  5. The Boston Marathon bombings were a hoax, never happened. Yes, this myth seems ridiculous, but conspiracy theories abound around many major events. The Moon landing was staged in a TV studio, right? Within a week after the bombings, a “book” appeared on Kindle suggesting that the Boston Marathon bombings were a hoax staged by the Federal Government.

While all the questions about the terrorists have not yet been answered—and may never be answered even after the trial—this is the saddest marathon myth of all. I was happy to have turned down the assignment from the newspaper editor. The marathon has enough legitimate myths without making up others linked to the bombings.

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for Runner’s World. His most recent book is 4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners, available in bookstores, online and (autographed) through

Reality check. How far do you want to go this summer?

It’s May.  Summer will be here before we know it and it’s time to make things happen if you’d like to look back on a summer running season that will make you proud.  It doesn’t matter if you’re getting ready to take a crack at your first marathon or still trying to work up the courage to start running for the first time in decades, there’s no time like the present to get started.

We’ve developed a number of training plans to help runners of all abilities reach a variety of training goals — from that first 5k to a full marathon.  Here are the programs you can start right now, along with some not-too-far-off completion dates that should get you excited about how soon you could be reaching your goals.

Couch potato to power walker by the middle of August.  Even if you consider yourself completely out of shape at this very moment, you could be completing a 60-minute power walk with confidence in less time than you think.  Starting Power Walk before June will have you finishing the program the week of August 12.

From beginner to 5k racer by the middle of July.  If you can run a few minutes at a time, we can get you running a full 5k without walking in just eight weeks.  Starting Ease into 5k before June will have your ready to race by the week of July 16.  (To set your sights on a longer distance, Ease into 10k will have you running a 10k in just two weeks more.)

From 5k runner to 10k runner before the fireworks.  Ease into 5k graduates can build progressively to a 10k distance in just six weeks.  Starting Bridge to 10k before June will have you running the full 10k distance before July 4.

Putting a “13.1” sticker on your car before summer is over.  If you’ve done any of our shorter programs, you know that the plans work.  Starting the Hal Higdon Half Marathon (Novice 1) program this week will have you running a half marathon by mid-August.  For a slightly different approach, consider Hal Higdon Half Marathon (Novice 2).

Celebrate Fall with a full marathon.  For most runners, 26.2 miles is a crowning achievement.  Getting there is just a matter of laying out your plan and executing on it.  Get started now with Hal Higdon’s Marathon (Novice 1) and you could ring in the first week of Autumn marathon-ready.  And again, for a slightly different approach, check out Hal Higdon’s Marathon (Novice 2).

 It’s pretty exciting.  Pick any of those timeframes above and imagine yourself finishing your last workout of the program on that triumphant final week.  All you have to do is pick your plan and get started!

Getting back on the horse?  

If you’ve started a Bluefin program in the past but didn’t finish, you can always start fresh with a clean slate.  Just open up Settings and select “Reset on next start.”  The next time you launch the app, you’ll be ready to begin.   

Hal Higdon heads to Egypt (Where are *you* headed?)

This week Bluefin mentor and all-around inspiration Hal Higdon and his wife Rose are hopping on a plane to Cairo for a once-in-a-lifetime trip across Egypt and Israel as part of an alumni event for alma mater Carleton College.  Hal will be covering their adventures over on the Training Peaks blog, where he contributes regularly through the weekly Q&A with Hal Higdon.

As an elite athlete and all-around adventuresome fellow, Hal has had a life filled with chances to travel and explore.  Even when he was young, running opened the door to many opportunities, with championship races held in major cities all over the world. Continue Reading

Bob Anderson interviews Hal Higdon

“I just ran because I liked to.” — Hal Higdon

Image Credit: UjENA FIT CLUB

Hal Higdon has been an inspiration to countless runners and is the architect of Bluefin’s full and half-marathon programs.  This week Bob Anderson, founder of Runner’s World, published an interview with Hal on his blog UjENA FIT Club as part of their ongoing series featuring 100 iconic athletes.

At Bluefin we credit Hal with giving runners of all ability levels the motivation, inspiration, and training tools they need to be successful.  We’re honored to have his experience and training plans (not to mention voice!) as part of our running apps.

This great in-depth interview is well worth a look.  Let us know what you think!

New apps! Do you have a marathon in you? (We bet you do.)

Bluefin programs are designed to get you from here to there — here being whatever your fitness level happens to be and there being the goal distance you want to run.

The idea is to make our programs flexible enough that they are more or less accessible to everybody, but we also recognize that not everyone is in the same boat in terms of fitness and comfort level.

That’s why we are excited to announce two brand new programs designed to meet users where they are. The new Hal Higdon Marathon Training Program – Novice 2 and the Hal Higdon 1/2 Marathon Training Program – Novice 2 are variations on our previous 1/2 and full marathon training programs, giving you more flexibility to choose the program that’s right for you.

Programs are 18 weeks for the full marathon and just 12 for the half.  (For those New Year’s Resolution runners keeping score that puts you marathon-ready right around spring-time — not too shabby a goal coming out of the middle of winter.)

If you’re thinking through your next training move, definitely give each of these a look (click here to see all of the Bluefin programs in iTunes).  We can’t wait to hear what you think of the new Hal Higdon programs!

Check out the updated Workout Journal!

As you know, we’ve recently rolled out a pretty significant update to our 5K app.  Part of that update was a redesigned Workout Journal, which will help you get even better insights into each of your workouts.

These updates have something for everyone, but will definitely do the most for those who have activated the GPS feature.  Here’s a quick rundown of the new features.

Cumulative distance.  Now you’ll be able to track how many miles you’ve logged in total with an ongoing record of all the distance you cover while using the app.  (Also a great way to keep track of how much wear you’re putting on your shoes!)

Fastest mile.  Beginning when you download the update, you can start tracking your best miles, giving you a great benchmark to compete against from week to week.

Easier treadmill integration.  If you do some or all of your workouts on a treadmill, you’ll now have an easier time manually entering your workouts.  Simply enter your speed setting and the app will automatically calculate minutes per mile or minutes per kilometer.

Better split tracking.  You can now track your splits directly from the journal screen, allowing at-a-glance access to exactly how you’re performing.

Improved ease of use overall.  You’ll also notice that the journal screens themselves are simplified, with larger fields for easier data entry.  You can also more easily add workouts to the journal that you do without the app.

We can’t emphasize enough how valuable the journal functionality can be.  By keeping track of your workouts you’ll be able to hold yourself accountable for the work you’re putting in and keep a good handle on just how much you’re doing.  It doesn’t matter if your goal is to get faster, increase distance, lose weight, or just have good, solid runs.  The journal screens give you everything you need to track your performance and figure out how to get where you want to be.

If you haven’t been using the journal so far, please give it a shot for a week and see what you think.  We expect you’ll want to stick with it.

From 5K Newbie to Marathon Man: Guest Post by Zach Sharp

Editor’s Note: Sometimes, you guys really take it all the way.  Zach Sharp started off using his phone to guide him through training for his first 5K and ended up working his way through one Bluefin app after another, upping his distance from 5K to 10K to a half marathon to the full 26.2.  We’re blown away and hope his story can be an inspiration to everyone who reads this.  Zach’s story is below.    

Most of my life I had been an active, outdoors type of person.  I graduated high school in okay shape. Continue reading

Keeping Resolutions (New Year’s or Not)

We’ve been talking a lot about resolutions lately.  The rubber is hitting the road for our New Year’s group, who are right now in the midst of Week One in a push that will have them 5k-ready by January 1.

But regardless of whether you’re joining us in the New Year’s push, there’s still plenty to be said for making a commitment to yourself and seeing it through.  Read on for tips on how you can stick to your training resolutions, New Year or otherwise.

Get started.  Do you know the undisputed, number one reason that people fail to complete a training program like Ease into 5k?  They never start.  Don’t worry about how many weeks are in the program or how many workouts you need to get through in the first week.  Just start.  Start with the first workout of the first week.  Each of our programs are designed to build you up and prepare you for the workouts ahead.  Trust the program and get that first workout behind you.

Roll with it. Eventually, something is going to interrupt your training. You’ll have to work late, take care of a sick kid, get derailed by a family get-together — sooner or later it’s going to happen.  Or maybe you just fall a little short in the motivation department one week.  Whatever interrupts your program, don’t let it be the end of the line.  Just jump back in.  Pick up where you left off, rewind to an earlier week in the program, do a no-pressure 15-minute fun run; whatever it takes to get you back on the horse, make it happen.

Don’t stress.  Getting fit is supposed to be good for your mental health, not another thing to worry about.  Let your training program be your refuge from day-to-day stress and anxiety.  If a particular workout is causing you grief or you’re worried about your performance day-to-day, take a deep breath.  You don’t need to set any records, you just need to get out there and run.  Take the pressure off and make your goal simply to get out there and make it happen…the rest tends to take care of itself.

Find a buddy.  Nothing creates accountability like a running partner.  If your running style and your lifestyle will accomodate a running partner (or a group of them), there’s no better way to keep yourself honest.  It’s easy to stay in bed and skip a solo morning run.  It’s much harder to leave your buddy hanging on the corner.

Be social.  Don’t have a running buddy?  Sure you do.  Social media provides unprecedented  access to like-minded runners all over the world.  Our apps will even let you post your workouts to Facebook and Twitter right after you finish them (automatically if you like), making it easier than ever to share your progress.  If you’re looking for a great community of runners to start meeting online, check us out on Twitter and Facebook.  We’re proud to say we have some awesome fans and followers.