So you want tips to run a half marathon? For this article, I guess you are new to the distance or run the half marathon distance before but want to refine your run and race plan to get a better time.
So with that in mind, let’s get going…
I have run numerous half marathons and love it as a race distance. It has enough challenge, but as you progress, the opportunity to finish fast is a great feeling.
However, it’s a distance that must not be underestimated, particularly if it’s your first half marathon training.
Have A Plan And A Goal To Run A Half Marathon
The first step is to have a plan and a goal. So, what is your goal for your half marathon training, and then you’re going to have to have a training plan supporting that goal.
What Is The Average Time To Run A Half Marathon?
So to give you a guide. The average male takes one hour 55 minutes to finish a half marathon, and the average female takes two hours, 11 minutes.
So let’s round it up and say that most people reading this article will be somewhere around the two-hour mark to finish a half marathon.
Be Aware Of Time On Feet
The first thing that you’ve got to be aware of, then, is it’s that’s a lot of time on your feet. So if you’ve come from, say, running a 10k, you’re going to be on your feet a lot longer.
So that’s the first thing to be aware of. So you’ve got to change your training from what you might have been doing for 10K’s or maybe even 5K’s and get a training plan that supports you in building up your endurance.
You Need A Half Marathon Training Plan That Builds Your Running Endurance
So what should your training plan look like? Well, it goes beyond the remit of this article because it will very much depend on your ability when you’re reading this. I can give you some broad strokes to focus on to successfully run a half marathon, which is to build your endurance.
This means longer and steadier runs that you may have been used to if you’ve been running, say 5 or 10k. So I would really encourage you that you would have to run a very minimum of 20 miles a week, and I think that really is the minimum. I think you would really need to be looking at nearer to 30 miles a week.
And, once a week, build up to having that long run on Sunday. What long means is getting used to 60 minutes plus on your feet. Depending on your ability, most plans will build the mileage/duration of the long runs week by week over a 13 week period.
Now, a tip I like to give which doesn’t apply to everybody. I think if you’re fit enough. It would help if you ran the distance half marathon distance or a bit further in your training plan.
Now not everybody agrees with this, but I find it really mentally strengthens you that if you’ve been managed to say run, for example, 14 miles. You feel good, then not only do you have the physical endurance to run the half marathon distance, but you also know that you also have the mental fortitude that you know you can run this distance.
However, I have to say this particular tip. It probably only applies to runners that feel particularly confident that they can do that. If not, at least trying to run 10 Miles regularly within your training plan once a week to get that endurance built up in your body.
I always say to people when they ask about running that most problems in the running come down to a lack of mileage for most people; most runners are trying to run beyond what their capabilities are at the point in time; in essence, they are running beyond their current level of training.
In running terms, that normally means not enough miles and time on their feet.
Of course, you have to balance this out with a steady adaption to minimize injury risk; this is why a plan should build week on week.
13 Week Half Marathon Training Plan
Most plans will be about 3 months long and enable time for your body to adapt.
Have Some B-Races To Keep Sharp
Throughout your training. It’s good to have perhaps some B races to do to really keep you sharp, so for example, seven or eight weeks into your training, doing a 10k can really keep your pace and speed and see your progression from your training and sharpen you up for the race day.
During this article, I spoke a lot about endurance. I’ve spoken a lot about endurance, with good reason, because I’ve assumed that many people reading this article are coming from perhaps a 10k; they are running their first half marathon.
So it is key that you get the foundations down for long-distance running, which is endurance. However, it is worth mentioning that doing some form of speed work when you start to get that endurance base down will really help you with your half marathon goals.
I normally work on about 80% of my runs being pretty easy runs, and about 20%, maybe two days a week, I have some form of speed work.
This will depend on your goal and your condition as a runner when you start your training. You do not want to start with speed work if you do not already have the endurance there as your foundation because this will leave you more open to potential injury.
However, if you already have good endurance when you start your training, and to know that you would have been running some distance in the past or, maybe you’ve already run a half marathon, then actually starting with some speed work in your training schedule is a really good idea.
So, you do get this slight contradiction, depending on your ability. So you will have to assess where you’re at when you start your training. If in doubt, start with getting used to running for longer and build endurance.
But for this article is worth pointing out that if your ability allows it to have some speed training involved in your training plan will definitely give you the different levels of gears that you can use in a race like a half marathon.
Rehearse Race Pace For Your Half Marathon.
I’ve spoken about running endurance, and I’ve spoken about utilising speed training. It will also be good at some point to actually rehearse the pace that you wish to run the half marathon, and now you’ll be able to do this by knowing your goal.
If your goal is a two-hour marathon, your race pace is 9.16. However, a lot of your easy runs will be slower than that. And a lot of your faster runs, you’ve guessed it will be faster than that for shorter periods of time.
This is what gives you the variation in your training. However, it’s good. At some point, either in a 10k race or training, to actually get used to consistently running at your race pace.
Mental Tips for Running a Half Marathon
Your training will also have to support the building up of your confidence and mental game. I like to call this call the inner game of running.
There’s no doubt that if you’ve run 10k Or even further, that takes some level of mental strength, but now you’re moving up to 13.1 miles.
So building up your mental strength is key. I’ll leave a link to an article I did recently around mental strength that may help you have little tips and hints that will help you become mentally
However, a lot of it does come down to your training; your training is not only physical your body, but it’s also mentally, making you more resilient, so your training plan should support that.
Pacing Your Half Marathon
So let’s assume that you’ve done the training. So what should your pacing be for a half marathon?
Yet again, I can only give you broad stroke answers. A lot will depend on you as a runner, fitness level, and goals that we spoke about right at the beginning of this article.
But as a broad stroke. I like to break my race into three sections.
Section One. First Five Miles
Early in a race, the first five-mile is key. You must be really aware of not going off too fast. How do you know you’re going off too fast. Well, yet again, you’ve done the training, you know what your goal is, you should have a running watch.
Check your watch to see what your average pace is required and what pace you’re actually running. Most runners will find that they’re going way faster than they need to be going in that first five miles. And often, they keep going at that pace because they feel great at that point. Unfortunately, many runners pay for that in the last three to four miles.
I think the best way to run an event like this is if you’ve done the training even splits.
However, this is not always the case because you’ve got the adrenaline running through your body at the start. So what I tend to look at is perhaps that first mile or two going a bit slower than my average pace, just so that I can get myself into the run, get my breathing correct, relax, and start to ignore all the people around me, because they don’t matter. They’re just distractions.
All you want to focus on is what your body feels like, what you feel like, and what is related on your watch to the pace you’re doing then.
As you get into mile 2/3, you can start moving up to your target average pace. So, for example, if it were a two-hour race, your average pace would be nine minutes and 16 seconds. So you may have started at nine and a half minutes, for example, just easing into it, but now you’re into your nine minutes and 16 seconds. You start to keep that pace up until you get to six miles.
Section Two. Six Miles To Ten Miles
Now, nothing really needs to change here; it’s just you checking in with yourself. Suppose you’re managing to go on your average pace quite comfortably, for this example, nine minutes and 16 seconds.
You have a decision to make. You’re at the six-mile mark, many people; How do you feel? Could you go faster? It’s a tough decision and particularly if you don’t have a lot of experience.
My advice to you would be to keep with the average pace at this point. From six miles to 10 miles.
Section Three Eleven Miles To Finish
When you get to 11 miles, you’ve got 2.1 miles to go.
This is where you can decide that if you feel good that you might decide, for example, instead of going 9.16 pace, you might do eight and a half minute miles, till the end, you have to judge.
Unfortunately, no plan can make up for the reality of running a plan is the map; it’s not the territory. You have to become very aware of yourself and your body when you are running an event. This is where training is essential.
Why Breaking Your Half Marathon Into Sections Is Important
I find is that breaking it up like this enables you to check in with yourself regularly to adapt. So, let’s say, for example, perhaps one day, the weathers are really hot on a race day, and you decided you wanted to go to a certain pace. You get to six miles, and you realise it’s not in you today. You know you might have to adapt; you might have to go slower and see how you are at that 10th mile and then decide.
Still, it enables you to run with a plan but not become a slave to the plan so that you are a runner that can adapt to the conditions of how you physically feel.
These are all things that will mean that you have a better chance of not only completing the half marathon but completing it in a time that’s what you aim for, or in some cases, even better than you expected.
Finish Your Half Marathon Fast
I thought I would finish the article and mention negative splits.
Now a lot of people get really confused about negative splits. Negative splits in themselves mean that you run the last half of your race faster than your first.
What confuses many runners is they think that means the moment they hit the halfway point of a race, they have to speed up.
This is not the case.
I am actually a fan of running at a more consistent pace. So like I’ve mentioned earlier, your goal was two hours for a half marathon to try and maintain a two-hour pace, 9.16.
A negative split can be achieved, by keeping say the 9.16 pace. And if you feel strong enough, In the last three to four miles, increasing your pace for the last three to four miles.
So the change of pace does not have to be exactly half.
Actually, you could speed up in the last mile, and if you have maintained your target pace constantly through the race, you will achieve a negative split.
So you can see why running at an even pace is so important because it gives you so many choices near the end of the race.
If, as I’ve mentioned earlier you’re feeling tired, you maintain that pace, you get an even split, you get your target time.
However, if you’re feeling good in the last two to three miles, you can pick up the pace and achieve a negative split. And by definition, you will have gone quicker than even your target time.
So that you can see how a negative split can be used very effectively. However this is not mean that you have to run the whole second half of a race faster; you can do a couple of miles, at the end. And if you ran pretty evenly throughout that race, Then you will achieve your negative split.