How to Run a Faster Half Marathon

Photo Credit: Jason Q [syntheticj]

Photo Credit: Jason Q [syntheticj]

My first half marathon took 2:02 to finish. Afterwards my feet were too tender to walk back to the hotel. It felt like someone slapped them with a boat oar for two hours.

But alas! That was the young naive Trevor.

Two and a half years later my time has improved to 1:40 without post race soreness!

I attribute all my improvement to Angie’s coaching. I know it works and maybe if I wasn’t such a lazy runner I would follow her advice more completely.

If your goal is to run a faster half marathon next year (2013) I want to give you Angie’s 10 point plan for making it happen.

10 Point Plan for Running a Faster Half Marathon

  1. Build a solid running base. Make sure that you are comfortable with the half marathon distance before attempting to get faster. Here is the cardinal rule: Run first for distance, then for speed.

  3. Choose the course wisely. Make sure that you pick a fairly flat half marathon course or train specifically for the challenges the course will have. A hilly course or trail half marathon probably won’t be the best place to set a PR.

  5. Run a marathon. Building up to the marathon distance will make a half marathon seem much easier. Run a half marathon approximately 3-4 weeks after your full marathon to capitalize on the fitness you’ve build up.

  7. Use smart training techniques. Be sure to incorporate a rest day each week and at least 1-2 cross training (XT) days into your training schedule. Consider doing strength training as part of your XT because it can be a great tool for increasing muscle power and speed. Do one speed or hill session per week as well as 1-2 easy runs and a long run.

  9. Use quality fuels. Capitalize on the amount of glycogen your muscles store by refueling with a recovery drink within an hour after every workout.

  11. Focus on form. Speed work improves your system’s bio-mechanics. Think about form when you run fast. Visualize yourself running lightly, smoothly, and efficiently. Try to keep your running cadence at least 180 steps per minute.

  13. Find the fun. Faster running is a new kind of effort but it doesn’t have to be horrible. Reduce stress by playing speed games and enjoying the difference in pace. It just might be what you need to break out of a rut.

  15. Expect a little discomfort. Your body has probably adjusted to your normal pace and will feel the extra workload as you expect it to go faster. Your lungs and legs may burn and you’ll feel more short of breath. But you shouldn’t experience sharp or excruciating pain.

    As you work on increasing speed you may notice delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) 24-72 hours later. Don’t worry. Your muscles are just being challenged in a new way and this is the path to improvement.


  17. Incorporate a variety of speed training into your schedule. Your body will adapt to the demands you place upon it so be sure to change your speed work regularly. Try interval workouts, tempo runs, mile repeats, and fartleks. Keep some variety in your training so that your body continues to be challenged.

  19. Lose weight. The beginning of the year might be a good time to focus on tightening up your eating habits and trimming a few pounds before that spring race. A one pound weight loss will make you 2 seconds per mile faster (10 pounds= 1 minutes off your 5k time).


Time to Take Action

Marathon training is like investing. You win by making focused effort over time. The half marathon distance is easier but still respectable. Always make sure you have a solid plan and adequate time. There are many ways to screw it up.

You can be confident however that through taking the right steps you can and will run a faster half marathon.

What say ye?

3 Responses to How to Run a Faster Half Marathon

  1. Gwen Lingenfelter December 27, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Yes – your 10 Point Plan is just in time! My fastest Half to date is 2:25. I am running the New Orleans Rock n Roll Half in February, & my goal is to PR at 2:15. Your plan is the model I am using. I am being very intentional with each one of your 10 points, and feel like I should achieve the goal !!!!

  2. Gwen Lingenfelter December 27, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    PS – You & Angie ROCK !!!

  3. Trevor December 27, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Thanks for nice comment Gwen! I didn’t know you were training for New Orleans. Maybe we will see you there.

Leave a Reply