Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

How Fast Should I Run A Half Marathon to PR?

How fast should I run a half marathon is a common question I get asked often here at RDA. One of the best pieces of advice I can share is to focus on negative splitting. What this means is running the first half slower and your second half of your race faster. It is very easy and tempting to go out too fast in the early miles of any race.

The half marathon is long enough where you can make some mistakes. That being said said, short enough to still dramatically slow your time if you go out too fast. One of the key strategies I teach is to practice training far below your goal race pace. For example, if your goal is to maintain 8:30 miler pace for 13.1 miles you want to experience what 7.00 mile pace feels like. Why? Well, it will make 8.30 mile pace feel like a comfortable effort for one.

Secondly, you will improve your lactate tolerance. The key tip here is to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the bloodstream. This is why you see all the top runners making their efforts look so smooth and effortless.

How Fast Do I Need To Run A 13.1 Miler?

Well, you want to race at a pace that you feel confidence that you can sustain. If you train properly your race results will follow. What I don't want you to get caught up in is high mileage. Higher mileage is not always the answer to better results.

Furthermore, I got up to 142 miles a week and I didn't perform any better in the marathon. Also, I ran my marathon PR of 2.19.35 on 85 to 90 miles a week. So, quality over quantity is where I want your mind to be focused on. I cover this strategy in all of my training courses at the RunDreamAchieve Academy.

Remember, this is a 13.1 mile race, not a 5K or 10K. So, you have to be very smart in the early stages of the race. Why? There will be far too many athletes running too fast, too soon. That being said, also be wary of the athletes who will go out fast and can also sustain it.

I never went out 4.30 the first mile in a marathon with other elite marathoners. Why? Well, I knew my capabilities and I maxed out at 5.19 mile pace for the 26.2 mile distance. What would an opening mile in 4.30 done to my PR chances? You guessed it right, I would have went into oxygen debt and fell apart.

So, know your strengths and plan properly. It is always helpful to find some athletes prior to your half marathon that are aiming for a time you want to run. You can focus on running in that group and working with each other to get to that end-goal time.

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Should I Run The First Half of My 13.1 Miler Faster Than The Second Half?

Great question.

The common suggestion I pass on to runners is to try to negative split. What do I mean? Well, you want to run the second half of your half marathon faster than your first half. So, how fast should I run a half marathon can commonly be answered, smart.

That being said, this doesn't always occur. For example, I hit the first half of my 2.19.35 marathon in 1.07.09. Furthermore, I ran the second half slower in 1.12.26. Would I have run 2.19.35 had I went out in 1.12.26? Personally, I don't think so.

There are times where you are going to have to take some risks. I only advocate doing this if you are in superior shape. I went out the first half of my PR marathon (1.07.09) only three seconds slower than my half marathon PR of 1.07.06

Now, if you have train adequately you can take those risks. That being said, you had better be well-prepared to try this. It is always wiser to be somewhat more cautious in the early stages of your race. The reason is you don't want to pay for your fast pace later in the race. I hope that makes sense

Common Mistakes Runners Make Preparing For The Half Marathon

  • Running too many miles too slow
  • Overanalyzing their preparation and overthinking the process
  • Running too many miles too fast
  • Running their long runs too slow
  • Lack of knowledge about glutathione
  • Lack of patience. They want results too fast.
  • Not realizing how difficult the goal is and overestimating the amount of time it will take to achieve
  • Not developing their speed or doing sufficient strides often enough

Remember, training will work if you work it. If you want instant results you are in the wrong sport. The best runners will always produce great results if they train in a specific way.

We are athletes who are seeking to run at a specific pace for this distance. That being said, you also have to train in a specific way. You will not run a sub 2 hour half marathon doing 90 percent of your mileage at 11 minute mile pace.

How To Run Faster For The Half Marathon Distance

Focus on running your long runs at faster paces. Also, vary the pace of your long runs. You don't want to run slow for 15 to 22 milers every weekend. Yes, it will make you incredibly strong and improve your endurance. What it will not do is make race pace feel easier.

Here is two examples of the types of long runs I was doing prior to breaking the sub-2.20.00 marathon barrier.

20 miles: 4 mile warm-up@140-50BPM (6.10.25 mile pace when I was fit), 4 miles@160BPM (5.25-5.35 mile pace), 2 miles easy@140-50BPM, 1 mile in 4.50, 4 miles@160BPM, 4 miles easy@140-50BPM, 1 mile in 4.50, 3 miles@14-50BPM, 1 mile cool-down

24 miler: first 10 miles@160BPM (5.25-5.35 mile pace), 2 miles easy@140-50BPM, 4 miles@goal race pace (5.20 mile pace), 2 miles easy@140-50BPM, 6 miles@160BPM

Closing Thoughts

So, you have to continue to focus on training in such a way as to get the goal. The only way to make race pace feel comfortable is by training at speeds that far exceed your goal race pace. Unfortunately, this is very painful and takes a great deal of patience.

The good news is you can achieve this. Success in the half marathon distance is all about delayed gratification. How badly do you want it? Also, how long are you willing to persist in order to get what you want out of this sport. The best runners will never lose enthusiasm no matter how many ebbs and flows they will encounter.

Make sure to visit the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create video there to help athletes such as yourself to get the best out of themselves. You can also visit our courses and shop page as there are resources there as well you may be interested in.