/ Yasin Emir Akbas + Sebastian Kaczorowski

Half marathons are perfect ways to push a few boundaries, to run further or faster than before. Yet they’re also a realistic and achievable goal to work towards.

Why bother with a half?

For marathon runners, it’ll do you good to drop down a distance, reduce your mileage and up your speed. Being in PB half marathon shape also represents a great springboard to catapult you into your best marathon build-up ever.

For regular 10K racers, stepping up to the half marathon will help to develop your strength, stamina and running efficiency. This means when you drop down a distance again, you’ll be stronger for longer and be able to crank up the intensity.

You’ve got to put in some serious training miles and deliver some key workouts to achieve a better half marathon. Let’s look at what it takes.

5 key pointers to smash your half marathon PB

  1. An established running routine. Regular running develops a strong aerobic foundation, stamina, strength and staying power. These are the fundamentals of a better half marathon.Regular running gives you the confidence, both physically and mentally, that you can complete the half marathon distance and achieve your personal aspirations.
  2.  Brilliant running economy. You need to be efficient. You need a great respiratory system to suck in air and a strong heart to pump oxygenated blood around your body to your working muscles.
  3.  A consistent routine. Think about the structure of your current routine. What do you already do that works? What can you do in your routine to create more space and time for training? What can you do to change and improve what you already do?
  4. Dominate the distance. You’ll need a tolerance for racking up the miles, be motivated, and have an efficient running style that conserves energy and allows you to tick along at a high intensity for a sustained amount of time.
  5.  An understanding of how to run at different paces. How to control these for different distances and how to hit your target race pace.

Golden Training Runs

These are the different types of run that will help you reach your PB

  • Long runs. These are the stamina-building runs required to go the distance. They are done at a controlled, steady intensity and should be in the region of 8 miles progressing to 16 miles.
  •  Long paced runs. These build on long runs and include sections of a longer run done at a predetermined faster pace.
  • Steady runs. These are bread and butter miles performed at 50-60 per cent effort.
  • Tempo runs. These are sustained-pace efforts (30-60mins) completed at around 70-75 per cent of maximum effort. It’s this intensity that is likely to be close to half marathon race pace. These runs are your golden ticket to running
    a better half.
  • Threshold runs. A step up from tempo runs, these runs are completed ‘on the edge of comfort’ or in controlled discomfort. Threshold runs are done at 80 per cent effort level and can be done effectively as a part of an interval session.
  • Speed intervals. These are workouts with periods of higher (85%+) intensity running interspersed with periods of rest/ recovery to ensure the quality of the effort is maintained.
  • Half marathon race pace. It’s the pace you want to race at. This may change. You may get faster (or slower) throughout the plan and so targets need to be adjusted accordingly.

Final Tips

  •  Get to know your race pace. If your goal is to run sub-2hrs for the half marathon, it’s crucial to know what running 9:09min/ miles feels like. Don’t spring any surprises on your body on race day.
  • Develop the mindset. Confidence to run fast in a race comes from confident training. Give yourself race-day confidence by completing workouts in training that prove your goal is attainable.
  • Love the taper. Ten to 14 days before the event you will want to ‘ease down’ or ‘taper’. This involves a reduction in the volume of your running in the week leading up to the race. Don’t be tempted to ‘test yourself out’ in the final few days before you race.
  • Race Day Strategy.  You should feel like you are running strongly from the start, but at a controlled effort that you can sustain for the full race distance. As the miles tick away, your goal is to hold an even pace.
  •  Nail your nutrition. You certainly won’t need to over-eat before the race and you definitely shouldn’t over-hydrate. Just stick to your regular diet and don’t deviate from what you know works.