Half Marathon Pace | Pro Tips to Master 13.1 Miles

Are you seeking better ways to manage your goal half marathon pace? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. The key strategy here is to improve your body’s lactate tolerance. Running easy will build endurance but not recruit fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these you can recruit the more economical (efficient) you are going to race.

What is your goal half-marathon pace? Is it to break a sub 2 hour half marathon. Well, you know that you have to sustain 5:41 per kilometer or 9:09 per mile to run a 1:59:59 time. The key way to make half marathon pace feel more manageable is to train significantly faster. Of course, this won’t happen overnight. That being said, if you are consistent and patient enough you will start to see big results.

My aim with this post is to provide some tips to endure that you do exactly that. I have run 1:07:06 for the half marathon and 2:19:35 for the marathon. Yes, many runners out there, much faster than I. I didn’t have a lot of talent so had to make up for that with my work ethic. My goal here is to share with you some strategies that worked for me and I hope will work for you too.

What is the Average Run Time for a Half Marathon?

I wrote a post about what is the average run time for a half marathon you may want to check out. Times are going to vary from athlete to athlete. Average doesn’t take a whole lot of work. Good and great performances do. My top recommendation is to spend about 4 weeks of your build up running easier, relaxed aerobic mileage first. The reason for this is you want to lay that foundational mileage first before moving into anaerobic training.

3 hour marathon pace
Coach Pennington finishing as the top America (4th place overall) at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35

In addition, you need to strengthen your ligaments, tendons and muscles. I would recommend you starting to implement strides into your routine. I have these build into all of the running courses I teach and training plans I have created here at RunDreamAchieve. Strides are short, 50 to 100 meter long acceleration drills. They help you to warm up and focus on your form at sub-maximal efforts.

What is a Good Half Marathon Pace for a Beginner?

Athletes that are more advanced may run closer to 2 hours. A good half marathon pace for beginners could range between 2:35 to 3:10. Of course, there are many runners who could debut with a time faster than 1:30. So, it all depends on the ability level of the runner. Yes, there are some runners who have better genetics than others. Also, athletes who can run fast without building up a great deal of lactic acid.

In comparison, there are other athletes who have to work much harder to get the same results as the talented athlete. That being said, talented athletes that don’t work will get outrun by less talented athletes that do. So, just because you have some genetic talent doesn’t guarantee you results. Running involves a great deal of time, patience and determination to master.

Again, you have to train at paces significantly faster than your goal half marathon pace to sustain pace longer. I recommend training a minimum of 12 and preferably 20 weeks for your next half marathon. It takes between 3 to 4 weeks for your body to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it. So, the longer your build up the better off you are going to be.

Is 2/20 A Good Time for a Half Marathon?

Yes, a half marathon between 2 hours and 20 minutes to 3 hours is a legitimate first attempt for a beginner. The stronger you get and the more time you put into this the more time you are going to drop. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past for this distance? 5 miles? 6? A 5 to 6 mile tempo run is great for a 5k or 10k.

That being said, I would focus on extending that anaerobic threshold run out more toward 7 to 10 miles. We are running between 85 to 88 percent of our maximum heart rate at this effort. So, tempo runs are not a leisurely stroll through your neighborhood. Tempo runs will help to make half marathon pace to feel more sustainable. Again, we want to slow down less than our competition.

In addition, sustain our goal race pace longer. The only way to do this is to train longer at your anaerobic threshold. In addition, do 1 vo2 max workout per week. You are running at between 95 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate running at your vo2 max.

Is a 90 Minute Half Marathon Good?

Yes, a time of 1 hour and 30 minutes or faster for this distance is an elite time. Of course, other runners may consider a time under 1 hour as an elite time. There is such a small percentage of male runners who can run this fast. I consider a time of 1:29:59 or faster an elite time. You need to sustain a minimum of 6:52 per mile or 4:16 per kilometer in order to run a time like this.

The athletes who run these types of times have been at it for many years. Yes, there are some outliers out there that can do it in a matter of months too. Remember, the longer you prepare the better. Again, a 4 to 5 month build up for your next race is optimal time to see a legitimate result. The reason is you won’t be in a big rush to get into great anaerobic shape.

Yes, results will come and the body always adapts. That being said, it won’t occur quickly or overnight. Below are some top strategies to help you master your goal half marathon pace.

Run Longer Runs

How much more confident will you be knowing you have done 15 to 20-milers preparing for your half marathon? The key tactic here is to run further than your goal race distance. One, you will build an enormous amount of endurance by doing this. In addition, you will burn fat and help your body to utilize that fuel source more effectively.

Remember, we only have between 1700 to 1800 calories of carbohydrate (glycogen) stored up at any give time. So, we want to call on what we have much more of, fat storage, during the race. Also, to conserve what we have much less of, carbs, for the latter stages of the race. Again, the goal is to sustain race pace longer than our competition. In addition, slow down less than our competitors during the race.

Faster Long Runs

Running long, slow and easy every single weekend will make you a superior long, slow easy runner. What is your goal? Is it to run the half marathon in a specific time? I figured so. So, you have to train at significantly faster paces to make sure that goal half marathon pace feels easier for you. Faster, varied paced long runs helped me lower my half-marathon PR from 1:10.29 to 1:07:06. In addition, lower my marathon PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35.

No, these workouts are not fun. You may need between 2 to 3 days to recover from them. In fact, faster long runs were the hardest workouts I did during my professional racing career. Below are some examples of faster long runs I was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon.

  • 2 mile jog, 10 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 4:55, 6 miles@6:00 mile pace, 1 mile jog (22 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 5 miles@5:50 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 4 miles@5:25 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 5:00, 6 miles@5:50 mile pace (21 miles)

Remember, the following week’s long run is always conduced relaxed and easy. The benefits of your hard training come from within the rest period, not from the workout itself. Google the word “Supercompensation”. I highly recommend researching that topic. You will be much more well-versed in resting after learning more about what occurs during the hours after a hard workout.

Speed Development

Yes, the half marathon is highly aerobic. That being said, speed training will help make your goal half marathon pace feel that much easier. You should be doing 1, vo2 max workout per week. I have built these into the training plans and running courses that I teach here at RunDreamAchieve. Again, the goal is to stress the body adequately. In addition, build up the energy systems of the body so that you sustain race pace longer.

Below are all examples of vo2 max workouts you should be focusing on…

  • Track intervals ranging from 50m to repeat 2-miles
  • Fartlek workouts such as 30x1min hard followed by 1 minute easy (or longer)
  • Hill repetitions
  • Strength training (once per week focusing on highly explosive type workouts like box jumps or weighted sled sprints)

All of these types of activities will help you recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Remember, the more of these you can recruit the more effective you are going to be at sustain goal race pace.

Closing Thoughts

I hope this post on how to sustain your goal half marathon pace has been helpful to you. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new vlog content there weekly for athletes such as yourself. My goal with the channel is to share my top tips to help you set new PRs from the 800m to the 50K distances for beginner to elite-level athletes.

Remember, pay attention to what you are doing the hours after those workouts are completed. For example, getting adequate sleep, focusing on mental training and watching your nutrition. The top middle to long distance runners pay attention to all the fundamentals. In addition, are not focused on just physical training. They know to perform at high levels you must focus on all the variables that go into running a fast half marathon time.

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