A good way to gauge how you are progressing against your marathon or half marathon goal is to utilize benchmark racing. We want to use racing to project how we are progressing towards our fall race goal. Whether you are doing the full or the half, it is a good idea to use 5k races throughout the first 10 weeks or your training to increase leg turnover and mental toughness. A 5k is a burnout race. By that we mean that a half mile into it you are already cranking pretty hard. The good news is you can recover quickly from the race. We use 5Ks to replace and not add to certain components of our training plan. If a 5k is on a Sunday, we take the Monday off. If the 5k is on a Saturday, we run the 5k distance and afterward tack on the distance needed to get us "whole" with the mileage needed for Saturday. If the training plan calls for 10 miles, run the 5K and tack on a slow 7 after, or split the 7 equal distance before/after the race. If the 5k is during the workweek you can simply use it to replace another workout.
Three 5Ks in the first 10 weeks of training is fine.
We get more detailed with longer benchmark races. Your coaches, Jenn, Jeff, Tim or Tina can help you. A straightforward example would be to say we are training for Columbus. We definitely need longer benchmark races over the course of the last 10 to 12 weeks of training. The Scioto 10 Miler and the Emerald City Half should be run with specific goal times that are "handicapped" for how far out in front of the marathon they fall. The net is that this type of benchmarking gets into some detail, but it provide a goal that should be attainable basis where the benchmark race falls, the level of your conditioning, and what your marathon goal is. Say you wish to go 3:45 at the Columbus Full. We devise your Emerald City goal (Emerald City is 8 weeks before Columbus) by taking the 3:45 and dividing it by 2.12 to come up with a time of 1:46 and change for Emerald. The 10 miler goal (11 weeks before Columbus) would be 3:45 divided by 2.82 in order to get to 1:19:45. Note that for both these benchmark races, we assume these are the times you would run them in IF the race was held on October 19th and IF you were in peak condition. Only the races are 8 and 11 weeks ahead of October 19th respectively. And when the benchmak race happens YOU ARE NOT IN PEAK condition. Therefore we handicap these times to account for these factors - i.e.: tack on some time. The handicapping is somewhat subjective, but Jeff, Tim and Tina can help especially if you have some recent 5Ks under your belt and if they have seen you at the Wednesday workouts.