Average Pace for Half Marathon | Tips to PR FAST

Are you seeking how to take your average pace for half marathon races and turn it into greatness? If so, I am glad you have made it here to RunDreamAchieve. The half-marathon is a highly aerobic event. So, you definitely need to build endurance. That being said, you also need to focus on your speed development as well. Pace sustainment is the biggest challenge for many runners. How can we get that fast half marathon time you are aiming at to become reality?

The key tactic here is to become more effective at clearing lactic acid faster than it is building up. No, running easy will not produce this physiological effect. Fast running will. The problem is many runners are running far too easy too often during the week. The best middle to long distance runners are running at very high intensities during the week. In fact, about 40 percent of their weekly volume is spent at this type of effort.

So, why do they make it look so easy? Well, they have spent more time at or below their goal half marathon pace longer than you have. One great way to make sure you are running at the proper intensities is to invest in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 and highly recommend it. Heart rate monitor training will help you to focus on heart rate instead of pace.

What is a Good Pace for Half Marathon?

I believe anything under the sub 2 hour half marathon is a very good half-marathon time. I created a course called the Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Domination course to help speed up athletes progress, if interested. Remember, as you get fitter your splits will take care of themselves. So, be strategic in the way you set up your training and you will start to see significant results.

It takes between 3 to 4 weeks for your body to adapt to the stresses you are placing on it. I highly recommend focusing on a build up of between 12 to 20 weeks. The longer, the better. Of course, you need to start off slow and build upon your workouts from there. I would focus on a 4-week aerobic base-building phase first. The athlete needs to be in descent shape before he or she starts doing specific half-marathon training.

So, you want to strengthen your tendons, ligaments and muscles. The training plans and running courses I have created here focus on this strategy. The athlete that believes in delayed gratification and is not in a rush will see the biggest results. Fitness cannot be rushed. I have seen far too many runners doubt and second guess themselves when quick results are sought out.

Should You Run 13 Miles Before a Half Marathon?

Yes. What has been the longest long run you have done leading into your previous half-marathons? 12 miles? 13? 14? How much more confidence would you have if you work your way toward runs of 15 to 20 miles in length? The 13.1-mile half marathon distance would be that much easier for you. Of course, it will take time to work your way up to running this far.

So, we focus on periodization and gradually increasing distance and pace as the athlete gets in better shape. What I would not do is run long and slow every single weekend. I see a lot of runners making this mistake. Yes, you will build a great deal of endurance doing long runs. That being said, you need to start increasing a portion of your long runs at much faster paces.

I used this tactic to lower my average pace for half marathon races from 1.10.29 to 1.07.06. In addition, my marathon PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. Remember, always alternate a faster, varied paced long run with an easy relaxed long run the following week. The benefits of your hard training are going to come in the hours after that hard workout. You are 2 to 3 times weaker after a hard workout. Go and google the word “Supercompensation” and read over the specifics.

How Many Days a Week Should I Train for a Half Marathon?

The average runner is running anywhere from 2 to 3 times per week. The late Joe Newton said it best

You have three choices in this life, be average, good or great

So, what is that you have in mind for this event? Are you seeking to break the sub 2 hour half marathon? Are you training to get faster in this event to be better prepared to race the full marathon distance? If so, you need to be thinking bigger than 2 to 3 times a week. Yes, you can still get legitimate results off of this time frame.

Remember, others have done and do can you. The world’s top runners run between 6 to 7 days a week. That being said, always focus on leverage. So, it isn’t just about the mileage you are doing but that quality of that mileage. Again, the goal here is to improve up your average pace for half marathon races. Also, to get that goal half marathon pace to feel easier and more like marathon pace instead.

How Many Miles Should I Run the Week Before a Half Marathon?

I believe in a 10-day taper. What I see a lot of runners do is start dropping their intensity and volume too far out from their main event. The result is they go in feeling tired and fatigued instead of energized and fully rested. You would think dropping mileage 3 weeks out would give you plenty of rest. Of course, a 3-week taper does work many athletes.

3 hour marathon pace
Coach Pennington running 2:19:35 at the 2007 California International Marathon to finish in 4th overall and top American

All I am saying is you should consider a 10-day taper instead. I PR’d from every distance from the 5K to the 50K using a 10-day taper. I think it is good to continue to remind your legs of what you are training them to do up until 10 days out from your main half marathon. The last workout we do is a 3 mile run at goal half marathon race pace 4 days out from the main race the athlete is focused on.

How many miles should you run the week before you half marathon? No more than 10. Again, we want to go into that final race feeling 100 percent rested and ready to go all-out.

Is 3 Runs a Week Enough for Half Marathon?

I think so especially if you are strategic about it. There are many runners out there who have very limited time to train. So, you have to do the best you can with the allotted time that you have. No, it will not be easy at all to fully prepare to improve your average pace for half marathon races off of 3 runs a week though. Again, I recommend 16 to 20 weeks to fully prepare for this race.

Also, running a minimum of 5 days a week. The training plans here at RunDreamAchieve to have one day off allotted. Of course, I am fine with athletes taking an additional day off in the place of an easy day if need be. That being said, most athletes are going after a time goal. So, high emphasis on highly intense training is key. Remember, to get half marathon race pace to feel more like marathon pace you have to train fast.

Jogging on easy days is also essential. There is only so many times you can stress the energy systems of the body. What you don’t want is diminished returns. Athletes that allow sufficient time to rest between hard anaerobic efforts will recover faster and see better results.

20 Week Half Marathon Training

Athletes that really want to get take their racing to the next level should focus on 16 to 20 week build ups. The biggest reason is you allow sufficient time to get in the best possible shape. I have created training plans from 8 to 20 weeks here. That being said, the longer you can prepare the better off you are going to be.

It takes time to get in superior shape and 4 to 5 months is sufficient time to do exactly that. As mentioned above, 4 weeks should be devoted to running easy, relaxed mileage. We then start focusing on the 4 key areas of RunDreamAchieve training plans which are…

  • Base training phase
  • Half marathon specific training phase
  • Speed development phase
  • Taper phase

Below are some of my top recommendations in order to run a faster half marathon.

Faster, Varied Paced Long Runs

As mentioned above, running long and slow every weekend will not prepare you to race 13.1 miles. Yes, you will gain significant endurance strength running long. That being said, running varied paces during your long runs will help you drop legitimate times off of your current half marathon pace. Again, this is a different style of running. I have had a lot of runners respond to my training plans and courses in positive ways.

For example, one runner purchased by Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course. He had a PR of 3:46 going in and finished the 16-week course running 2:58. You can view his statement on the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course page. Below are some examples of the type of varied paced long runs I was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon. Of course, our paces may vary but wanted you to see some examples.

  • 2 mile jog, 8 miles@5:25 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 4:55, 5 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 2 miles@5:20 mile pace, 2 mile jog (24 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 10 miles@5:45 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 5:00, 3 miles@5:50 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 2 miles@5:30 mile pace, 1 mile jog (22 miles)

Remember, faster long runs are always followed the following weekend with a relaxed, jog long run. Again, recovery is critical. It was not uncommon for me to jog 2 to 3 days after a harder long run like this.

Longer Tempo Runs

What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past preparing for your half marathons? Tempo runs are spent at slightly faster than your average pace for half marathon races. You are running between 85 to 88 percent of your maximum heart rate running at your anaerobic threshold. So, the longer you can spend training at this intensity the better you are going to be prepared.

how to pace a half marathon
Coach Pennington setting his half-marathon PR of 1:07:06 at the 2007 Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon (formerly known as thePhiladelphia Distance Classic)

Of course, we don’t start off running 7 to 10 mile tempo runs. You need to first be able to handle 2 to 3 miles at tempo effort before you can extend time. Remember, it takes between 21 days to 4 weeks to adapt to the stresses you are placing on the body. So, be patient during your build up.

Jog on Easy Days

Take it easy during your recovery days. The training we do within these courses and our training plans will test your mental and physical limits. So, cherish the easy days so that you can adapt to the hard training you will be doing. Again, I want to see you hit a new personal best. You have to have the same amount of discipline on your easy days as you have for your hard days.

There are still far too many runners getting too hyped up about what pace they are running on easy days. I have trained with sub 2:10 marathoners who would run 9 to 9:30 mile pace on their easy days. Remember, these are men that can run under 5:00 mile pace for 26.2 miles. So, if they can have the discipline to slow down and relax on their easy days why can’t you and I?

Work On Your Leg Speed

You definitely want to do 1, vo2 max workout per week. Your vo2 max is your body’s maximum oxygen uptake. So, you are running at speeds between 95 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate at this effort. In fact, much faster than your average pace for half marathon races. Again, the goal here is to get that goal half marathon race pace to feel more manageable.

Examples of vo2 max workouts we focus on are as follows:

  • 200-300m hill repetitions
  • Fartlek workouts i.e. 20-60min of 1 minute hard followed by 1 min easy or variations of this or longer intervals
  • Track and road intervals ranging from 100m to 5K repetitions
  • Strides (sprinkled into the training plans and done twice per week) – 50-100m in length (4-6×50-100m strides)

Closing Thoughts

There are many other factors that go into preparing for your half marathon. You need to be ensuring your are getting enough sleep. In addition, paying attention to your hydration practices. You should be sitting water bottles out every 3 miles during those long runs. What do the best middle to long distance runners do? They are drinking in their races, not just sipping.

You should not expect to run a fast half marathon time without taking in calories and fluids during the race. So, be cognizant of this in your training and do a better job of hydrating. Mental training is huge. Spend 10 to 15 minutes daily during your next race build up seeing yourself succeeding. For example, getting across the finish line with that goal time of yours on the clock.

The best time to do this is when you first get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I make new videos there each week to help runners such as yourself get new personal bests and grow in their confidence. Keep me posted on your progress. You are more than welcome to visit the about page if you would like to know more about my racing background if you wish.

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