Half Marathon Training Mastery

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10k personal bestHalf marathon training

Half Marathon training isn’t really that much different than training for a marathon.

You need to sharpen both your stamina and endurance to run both.

Speed kills but unless you are running sub 6, sub 5 pace speed isn’t the key ingredient for this race.

Train faster

It is less an anaerobic (without oxygen) as it is an aerobic (with oxygen) race.

Half marathon training is a very important tool to prepare you better to run a faster marathon.

I have been hearing this term being used ‘Crush It’ so I am going to go one step further and give you a few guidelines to not only run your first half-marathon, but super-crush it in the process.

This goes way beyond the ordinary crush factor.I have been a big supporter of heart rate training ever since my collegiate coach, Jack Hazen, got me hooked on the devices for my own half marathon training.

Yeah, people may make fun of you for wearing them but if your cool, which I already know you are, and train at proper heart rate zones, they will simply gauze in amazement when you run by crushing the competition in your very first half-marathon and looking ridiculously smooth in the process.

Heart rate training

Heart rate monitors are the best way to ensure you are training at the heart rate zone and not going overboard on what you think are easy days.

I wear the Garmin 610.

The biggest hiccup for runners, of all levels, is just going out and winging it unknowingly running at too high of a heart rate on those crucial recovery days

You could have went out on a monday and done a track workout and two days later you are still not recovered from it.

One cause of this could be your running at a heart rate of 160BPM (beats per minute) when your easy pace should be 130BPM.

What trips many runners up is they think the pace they are running at is easy, and it may feel easy, but their body has has not had adequate time to adapt to the stress placed on it and thus, you feel like crap the next hard effort.

So, you have run shorter distances.

You ran the mile in high school or ran a 5K in one of your local neighborhoods and want to give the 13.1 mile distance a shot.

How can a beginner go from a shorter distance to taking the term crush it to a new level?

Here are some helpful tips.

Half-Marathon Training Heart Rates

These were the heart rate guidelines I was given years ago from coach hazen and vigil

Easy Pace

130-50 beats per minute…anything below you are really only burning carbohydrates

Moderate Pace

150-160 beats per minute


160-170 beats per minute

Anerobic Threshold

170-175 beats per minute….this is basically a term we use to describe when lactic acid begins to build up to a larger extent within your body.

It shuts down muscle function and is main reason for having to slow down when you run too fast or at a pace you are not accustomed to.

Half-marathon training success revolves around building a good, solid mileage base but learning to train your body in the anaerobic zone.

You want to get to a point where you have trained your body to clear lactic acid quicker than it is building up and that is what training in the AT zone does.

Aerobic Capacity – 175-195 beats per minute. This is extremely fast running. AC training is half-marathon training at your body’s maximum oxygen capacity.

To run a great half-marathon, especially if the farthest you have run is a 5K or you are training for your first race and want to give the half-marathon a shot, training that proper intensity, without red-lining your efforts, is your quickest way to getting a home run effort.

Do not look at athletes who are running faster than you as being more talented or they were simply born that way.  I like Arthur Lydiards analogy,

Champions are everywhere, you just have to train them correctly

Runners who run faster times have taught themselves to handle lactic acid accumulation during sub-maximum efforts.

Here is a very simple 4-week training plan to get you started in your half-marathon training quest. This is for a total beginner who has never run anything father than a 5K

Week 1

Mon – easy 2 miles@easy effort

Tues – walk or run 3 miles@easy effort

Wed – 2 miles with last 5 minutes at moderate effort

Thurs – 2 miles@ easy effort

Fri – 3 miles with 3x100m strides (strides are a very short sprint that you gradually ease into)

Sat -Off

Sun-4 miles (long run) at easy effort

Do not be in a rush to crush. Ok, my low-key personality is coming out in this post, but the truth is far too many runners rush into wanting to crush their runs and their long-term efforts suffer

You are obviously on another realm and never would, so perhaps I am preaching to the choir here, but you have to work intelligently to build the strength necessary to go from running a 3.1 to a 13.1 mile race. Big difference.

Your friend who likes to run fast everyday may get away with it training for a 1 mile to 5K distance but the half-marathon is a different animal altogether. run a half marathon in 2 hoursPatience is key and early on most workouts should be simple, easy runs sprinkled with very light efforts.

Week 2

Mon – 2 miles@easy effort

Tues – 1 mile warmup, 2 mile@moderate effort, 1 mile cooldown

Wed- 2 miles@easy effort

Thurs -4 miles@easy effort with last 5 minutes@moderate effort

Fri – 2 miles@easy effort

Sat – Off

Sun – 5 miles (long run)@easy effort with 3x100m strides post run

Week 3

Mon-2 miles@easy effort…VERY easy (jog if you have to…recovery is what counts)

Tues – 2 miles @easy effort with 4x100m strides post-run

Wed – 4 miles – 2 miles@easy effort with last 2 miles@moderate effort

Thurs – 3 miles@easy effort

Fri – 3 miles@easy effort with 3x100m strides

Sat – Off

Sun – 6 miles (long run)@easy effort with last 2 miles@moderate effort

Week 4

Mon – 2 miles@EASY effort

Tues – 3 miles@easy effort with 4x100m strides post-run

Wed – 1 mile warmup, 10x1min@moderate effort followed with 1 min@easy effort, 1 mile cooldown

Thurs – 4 miles@EASY effort

Fri – 4 miles@easy effort

Sat – Off

Sun – 8 miles (long run)@easy effort with last 5 minutes@hard effortworking professionals

What are a few things you notice from this 4-week plan?

There is a very gradual increase in mileage.

The first 4 weeks you should be focused soley on laying the foundation to crush the heck out of your half-marathon 8 to 12 weeks down the road.

Do you have to train 12 weeks for a half-marathon?


This is individual.

Some runners may get the best benefit from an 8 week build up whereas other may need as much as 16 weeks to build the strength up to complete the 13.1 mile event. Half-marathon training success depends on these 7 factors

  • patience
  • a long-term approach to building your base
  • not being in a rush to crush
  • a gentle introduction of moderate and fartlek efforts
  • a 4 week section focusing on speed and speed endurance
  • a 4 week taper phase where intensity goes up, volume drops and lastly,
  • a 2 week taper

Don’t be in a rush to crush, have fun, think ahead and relax. You are well on your way to super-crushing half-marathon training and the distance.

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