How to Run a Faster Half Marathon

© Martinmark |

© Martinmark |

So now that you’ve run one or maybe even several half marathons, you want to improve your time.

Or perhaps you’ve run several around the same pace and are tired of being in a “plateau.”

Either way, you are now signed up for a half marathon with a specific time goal or to PR.

There is nothing wrong with that and who doesn’t want to race their best?

Instead of running more miles, there are plenty of ways to get faster at half marathons. Speed work and faster miles can help tremendously!

The easiest way to gain speed in any race distance is to do workouts designed for the race distance.

For instance, there is no need to do 20-mile training run for a 5k. While mileage and speed are important, it’s also just as important to focus on the distance you are racing.

Keep in mind these workouts are for runners with a time goal in mind. These workouts aren’t for someone looking to complete their first half marathon! If your goal is to complete your first half marathon or to finish, there is no need to add workouts!

4Workouts to Speed Up Your Pace

Mile repeats: This is the most traditional style workout. While many runners opt to run their repeats on the track, it is best to execute the workout on a measured road. You are training for a road race after all, and you want to simulate your race as much as possible.

If you are doing a track half marathon, then do your workouts on the track. Doing the workout anywhere is better than nowhere but doing the workout on the surface you are racing is the best case scenario.

You want to run your mile repeats at a pace about 30 seconds faster than your goal half marathon pace.
For instance, if your goal half marathon pace is 9 minutes, you want to run the miles each at 8:30.

Consistency is important, and it’s better to run 8:30 than an 8:00 followed by 8:45. You should run between 4-6 mile repeats with 2 minutes of recovery in between.

Negative split: A negative split run means you are focusing on starting your run easy and finishing fast. You want to drop each mile split between 10-15 seconds and finish at your goal 10k pace (which should be faster than your goal half marathon pace). This workout can be anywhere from 5-10 miles and is a tough workout!

Fast finish: A fast finish falls under a similar category as a “negative split” run. Start with your “usual” long run of 10-13 miles. Finish the last 3 miles at or below your goal half marathon pace. Finishing a run fast teaches your body to work hard on tired legs.

This workout can be used in substitution for your long run. Fast finishes are one of my personal favorite workouts because I always need to work more on my finishing kick. (If you see me in the final .1 mile, my bet is you will probably outkick me 10 out of 10 times).

Tempo runs: The best way to gain speed is to teach your body how to run a faster half marathon at your goal pace. A tempo run is great because it can be lengthened or shortened depending on the distance you are training for. They are one of the most useful training methods for any runner. I’ve used tempo runs for collegiate cross country, half marathons as well as full marathons.

Beginner runners: Start with 2-5 minutes at tempo pace. Recover with one mile of easy running and then repeat until you’ve reached 20-25 minutes of running.

Advanced runners: Advanced runners will run their goal tempo pace with no rest (Usually between 30-45 minutes).

Keep in mind, always warm up before starting a workout and cool down after. You can always tailor a workout to meet your individual needs and taking more rest is not a bad idea.

Hollie Sick is a New Jersey-based runner and blogger who has completed more than 30 half marathons. Learn more about Hollie at her blog, or follow her on Twitter.

2 comments… add one
  • marutz October 28, 2016, 8:46 am

    I usually run with SportMe, I love the features, especially the personal trainer and the run tracker.

  • Jacqueline boland October 22, 2016, 6:45 pm

    good article, except you didn’t explain what I tempo run is. I had to google it. found this article in competitor interesting, as it is seems many runners define it differently.

    thanks for the great site!

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