Half Marathon Workouts to Run a Faster Half Marathon Time

Runners training for half marathon
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Are you hoping to shave some time off your half marathon personal record? The following workouts can help you improve your strength, stamina, and speed, as well as build your confidence to break through a racing plateau. All of the workouts can be done on the road, treadmills, or track, and are adaptable for any level of runner.

The beginner workouts are ideal for those running less 20 miles per week.

Those following the intermediate workouts should be running 20 to 30 miles per week, and advanced should be doing 30+. If advanced runners are looking to add more mileage, they can always increase the distance of their warm-ups or cool-downs.  

800-Meter Repeats

Adding some speedwork will not only build your strength and speed, you’ll also get a lot of practice running at a very specific pace for a certain distance, which will help sharpen your pacing skills. Repeating this workout once a week will also build your confidence because the first few repeats will start to feel easier as you progress through the weeks.

You'll want to start doing 800-meter repeats once a week, about 8 to 10 weeks before your race. Here's how to do them:

1. This workout is best done on a track, where you can run a measured 800 meters. You'll need a running watch, or some other timing device. Most tracks are 400 meters, so two laps would equal 800 meters (about a half-mile).

If you don't have access to a track, measure out an 800m (or a half-mile) stretch on a road or running path using an app such as MapMyRun or RunKeeper. You can also do this workout on a treadmill.

2. Warm-up with two laps (800m) of slow running or walking. Then, run an 800m interval at about 10 seconds faster than your realistic goal half-marathon pace.

3. Recover (at an easy pace) for 400m (1 lap of the track) in between repeats. Make sure your breathing and heart rate have recovered before you start your next repeat. Beginners should start with two 800m repeats and advanced should start with four.

4. Add another 800m repeat the following week. Try to maintain that same pace (10 seconds faster than your realistic goal half marathon pace) for each one. If you couldn’t maintain the pace for the last repeat, stick to the same number of repeats the following week, rather than bumping up.

Beginners:  Max out at four 800m repeats.

Intermediate: Top out at six 800m repeats.

Advanced: Work your way up to eight 800m repeats.

Progression Runs

Many half-marathoners stay steady with their pace until the final few miles of the race, where they crash and burn. Progression runs force you to practice holding back a little because you need to finish strong. They’ll also improve your mental strength to push through discomfort toward the end of a race. You can incorporate progression runs into your weekly long runs, so they can easily be added to any half marathon training schedule.

Beginner: You should be doing your weekly long runs at a comfortable pace, ideally about one to two minutes slower than your goal race pace.

Once you have about eight weeks left to go in your training, you can introduce progression runs. During every other long run (so, every two weeks), try picking up the pace to your anticipated half marathon pace for the final mile.

Intermediate: Run at your easy long run pace (one minute to 90 seconds slower than goal race pace). When you have two miles left to go, pick up the pace to race pace. You can do this type of progression run for every other long run.

Advanced: Run at your easy long run pace (one minute to 90 seconds slower than goal race pace) for the first two-thirds of your mileage. Then increase your speed to race pace for the final third of your long run.

If you can pick it up to faster than race pace for the final mile, go for it. (But don’t forget to cool down with a slow jog for a few minutes once you’re done.) You shouldn’t do progression runs for every long run, since they’re obviously a bit harder on your body than long runs at your easy pace. You can do them for every third long run for the first half of your training season, and then every other long run for the second half.

Hill Repeats at Tempo Pace

Tempo runs are a staple for faster half marathon training because they help runners develop their anaerobic threshold, which is critical for faster racing. They should be done at your 10K race pace or pace that feels "comfortably hard." You shouldn’t be able to easily carry on a conversation when doing tempo runs! Doing them on a hill adds an additional challenge that will help improve your strength and confidence.

Here’s what to do:

Start with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up of easy running and then find a gradual slope. Run uphill for one minute at your tempo pace, then turn around and run down at the same effort level (keep in mind that the same effort on the downhill will translate into a faster pace). One complete repeat includes an uphill and downhill, so 10 repeats would be 10 uphills and 10 downhills. All levels should finish with at least a 5-minute cool-down of easy running or walking. Advanced can increase the length of their warm-up or cool-down if they want a longer workout.

Beginners: Try this workout once a week. Start with five repeats and add another one or two repeats each week, working your way up to 10 repeats.

Intermediate: Start with 10 repeats and add another one or two repeats each week, working your way up to 15 repeats.

Advanced:  Start with 15 repeats and add another one or two repeats each week, working your way up to 20 repeats.

 

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