Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Training: Tips To Help Break The Barrier

Sub 2 hour half marathon training involves one key fundamental that far too many runners miss. It doesn’t matter if you are a 5K specialist, marathoner or debut runner.

sub 2 hour half marathon training

The secret to running better race performances, as they pertain to specific time goals, is training at the specific goal pace you are wanting to hold.

We all train differently. There is no one on the planet like you. Remember, it doesn’t matter what nationality you are or how old you are. In addition, where you are from, the body will super compensate and adapt to the stresses you place on it.

Is Sub 2 Hours Good for a Half Marathon?

Yes, a sub 2 hour half marathon is a very good time. I have created training resources here that will help you break this barrier. In addition, created the Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Domination course. So, be sure to check it out.

Remember, same adaptations occur to everyone with sub 2 hour half marathon training. The good news is that the body will always adapt to the stressors we place on it. That being said, you need to ensure you are jogging during your recovery days.

It takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt. So, be sure to give yourself at least 2 days of recovery between each hard workout that you do.

Your patience and willingness to endure will help bring you the new personal best you are seeking.

How Fast is a Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon?

So how does someone break the sub 2 hour half marathon? You have to have a training plan that will guide you into the direction of that specific goal pace.

9.09 per mile. That is the pace you need to run 1.59.59 for the 13.1 mile distance. The athlete seeking to break the sub 2 hour barrier needs to sustain 5:41 per kilometer for 21.1 kilometers.

Where do many runners go wrong?

It surely is not for a lack of ability or confidence. The problem often times is improper pacing. In addition, they have run too much of their weekly mileage too slow. Also, their tempo runs have been too short.

How far have your tempo runs been in the past training for your half marathon races? 2 miles? 4 miles? I would work to extend this out to around 8 to 10 miles in length.

How Do You Run a Sub 2 Hour Marathon?

Focus on a longer build up. I highly recommend training for a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks for your next half marathon. In addition, consider investing in a heart rate monitor. Heart rate monitors like the Garmin 245 will ensure you are not over training.

Remember, the end goal with sub 2 hour half marathon training is to improve your body’s lactate tolerance. So, we have to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Yes, easy running is important. That being said, too much easy running will only make you a superior long, slow runner.

A sub 2 hour half marathon training plan should also mention mental training. Mental rehearsal is very important. The world’s top runners train both the mind as well as the body.

So, start spending at least 10 minutes daily visualizing yourself succeeding. Also, crossing the finish line with 1:59:59 on the clock. In addition, running relaxed and passing people in the race.

What is a Respectable Half Marathon Time?

I think anyone who can start and finish a half marathon is to be respected. It is not an easy task to try to race 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers. Of course, the faster you wish to cover this distance the more is going to be required out of you.

The misconception runners face when they miss their time is that they simply do not have what it takes.

They are not as genetically gifted as the next runner. They lose confidence in themselves. This negative self talk only makes us depressed, unconfident and increases our willingness to quit.

The positives are we are in control of how we handle those disappointments and like you, I have had many of them. I have endured a few DNFs at the marathon distance.

It humbled me to say the least. I have also experienced how it feels to outrun elite Kenyan marathoners who had times far better than mine.

It took me years to understand why I wasn’t improving my half-marathon and marathon times. I was trying to race at a specific time but I wasn’t training long enough at the proper pace.

The sooner you realize this, the faster you will be on your way to getting under the sub 2 hour half marathon.

 at home businessWhat Percentage of People Can Run a Half Marathon?

Statistics state that only about 1 percent of the American population run half marathons or marathons each year. Of course, anyone can start and finish one of these races with some training.

What are the causes of runners missing the sub 2 half marathon barrier?

1. Not running long enough at 9.09 mile pace. You will not gain the ability to run at that pace in control unless you practice running at paces equal to or faster then 9.09 pace

2. Running too many miles at slower than goal race pace. If your goal is to run 9.09 per mile pace to break the sub 2 hour half marathon time, then how will running 90% of your miles at 11 minute mile pace get you there?

Your heart and soul is there, otherwise you would not be out on the roads putting in the miles.

What is missing is the time you are spending at speeds at or exceeding that specific pace.

3. Intervals are too slow with too much rest.

Remember, there are no rest breaks in a half marathon. So, you have to have the patience to wait for physiological adaptations to occur within the body.

Has Someone Ran a Sub 2 Hour Marathon?

Yes, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya ran a time of 1:59:40 in Vienna, Austria. Kipchoge’s time did not count as a world record though. He had pacers, a pace car and other support. That being said, I do feel it should be considering he still had to cover the distance.

Is your goal to run at 9.09 per mile pace for a half marathon? Well, intervals should not only be aggressive in pace but rest periods should gradually lesson as you gain fitness.

For example, doing 6×1 mile repeats on the track at 8.55 pace with 10 minute breaks. How will this aid you in running 13 miles? There are no breaks in a race. 

Will you gain fitness from workouts like this? Absolutely, but the stress load you are placing on the body is not sufficient enough to produce the result you want.

It takes times to get fit.  

The physiological adaptations occur not from the workout, but in the rest.


The workout is painful.

If you are aiming for a big goal such as a sub 2 hour half marathon, then it is to be expected that it is going to hurt, but after that comes the adaptation to that stress you placed on yourself.

The body supercompensates, meaning it weakens from the workout, then grows exponentially stronger from the stress you placed on it.

This is where the magic occurs in preparing to hit that 9.09 per mile pace.

You decide to give this whole specific pace training a go. You go out for a planned 3-mile run at 9.09 per mile pace. It is hard at first.

You try again in week 5, 9.09 pace for three miles feels like a moderate run. You feel in control so you go 5 miles instead.

What Happened?

For one, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard as it once had to. It, too, is a muscle and will adapt to the stress you place on it.

You have built up a lactate tolerance that was not present during week 3.

Lactate tolerance is why you see so many Kenyan runners look as if they are jogging, totally in control.

They have trained extensively with high levels of lactic acid in their muscles for long periods of time.

If you do the same, similar results will occur. These adaptations do not occur via easy running but only through high end anaerobic (without oxygen) efforts.

The trick to breaking the sub 2 hour half marathon is to gradually, over time, extend the amount of time you are spending at 9.09 per mile pace. I do mean gradually because it normally takes 21 days for the body to adapt to any stress you place on it.

Break Training into Segments

Jack Hazen, my collegiate coach, would have us do mile repeats starting at 85% of our best mile time.

My best high school mile was 4.20 so I started at 5.05 per mile rep.

We would spend 3 weeks doing 6x1mile on the grass with 3 minutes rest. Then and only then would we move to 88%, spend three weeks there and move to the next intensity.

The same reasoning holds true to training at specific paces. You have to be a believer in delayed gratification. You do not jump into doing 8-milers at 9.09 pace in your first week of a half marathon training block.

This is a quick way to disappointment so you have to be patient and allow your body time to adapt to the stress you place on it.

Have I done 6 miles at the pace I need to run at for 13.1 miles? 8 miles? 10 miles?

how to avoid hitting the wallVarying options

1. Lay a strong mileage foundation. I see it all the time in the military. Soldiers wonder why they can’t break 16 minutes for two miles.

There are a few reasons for this. 1) They are not running often enough 2) They are not training long enough at 8 minute pace or faster 3) No foundation has been built

It isn’t that they are not good runners. I hear ‘I am not a runner’, ‘I was never good at running’, etc. We all can create the results we want, regardless of the subject area, if we find more joy, rather than pain, in what we are doing.

Place your thoughts on taking each day as it comes and getting out the door for a few miles.

Build onto the mileage foundation first.

These daily runs will build your fitness and confidence up with every run you do. Dr. Joe Vigil said it best,

training is a journey

2. Incorporate strides into your weekly routine. What do I mean? Strides are no more then short high-end efforts, sprints, if you will.

They can be anywhere from 50 to 100 meters in length. The idea is to gradually increase your sprint speed, especially in the last 30 meters of the stride.

How will this help me run 9.09 per mile pace for 13.1 miles?

For example, do 6×100 meter strides at the end of your runs, Mon-Wed-Fri at sprinting speeds. This could be well under 6-minute mile pace over a period of weeks and months. How much easier will 9.09 per mile pace feel?

Think of how much running at speeds FASTER than goal race pace you will have done on top of your sub 2 hour half marathon training plan.

View our coaching services if you or your friends are seeking to a dedicated running coach

You are talking about several miles at sprint speed.

What Happens to Your Body after Running a Half Marathon?

Below are a few damages that occur

  • Increase in acute inflammation (i.e. cytokines, white blood cells and creatine kinase)
  • Lowered immunity
  • Skeletal damage

Below are a few additional sub 2 hour half marathon training tips to keep in mind.

3. Place emphasis on doing your long runs at a higher anaerobic effort.

Your goal is to sustain 13.1 miles at a 9.09 mile pace. So, you must see the importance (after your foundation has been laid) in doing long runs, faster.

4. Increment sections of your long runs for specific paces.

What do I mean? Break up your long runs into sections. So, run various sections of it at faster paces.

For example, do the first 5 miles easy with the the next 5 miles at fast (at least 85% of your max heart rate). Lastly, run 5 miles easy, 2 miles very fast (95% of max heart rate) with a 3-mile cool down.

how to train for a marathon

Follow that 20 miler with an easy 20 miler the next week.

Then, do the mixed pace long run again the next week.

What happens is your are teaching your body to run with high levels of lactic acid accumulation.

There is simply no way to do this by running easy miles.

Can an Untrained Person Run a Half Marathon?

Yes, but I would not recommend it.

Easy miles are important and vital but they should be for recovery days.

A 20-mile run at 11 minute pace will build endurance but will it produce the ability to sustain 13 miles at 9.09 pace?

More often than not, it will not, so you have to be smart in how you balance running hard and the attention you give to your easy recovery days.

Far too often runners will follow their hard sessions with runs that are too fast when their bodies have not recovered from the previous days effort.

They find it hard to finish the next hard session. You have to take your easy days just as serious as your hard days.

Closing Thoughts

5. Do longer intervals.

This could be 3x3miles at 9.09 per mile pace or 2x4miles at sub 2 hour half marathon training effort. In addition, over time, you want to focus on lessening the amount of time you are resting between these sets.

You could start off by running 3×3 miles at 9.09 pace with full recovery between each. 

The trick isn’t necessarily running faster paces during the intervals. Why?

The strength comes in running the same paces with less rest.

You will then have the confidence in breaking the sub 2 hour half marathon barrier.

I hope this post on sub 2 hour half marathon training has been helpful to you. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new content there each week to help runners like you get to the next level in their training and racing.

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