How to Improve Half Marathon Time – Training For A Half Marathon
When it comes to success or improvement in the half marathon, runners often think short-term and view the half marathon as an all-or-nothing proposition.
Runners want to take the time of their half marathon now and some even yesterday. This leads them to think about how much they can improve their half marathon time in the quickest possible way.
But most athletes do this without actually thinking about long-term progression and think more about instant gratification.
If you are looking to improve your time over the half distance, look towards a long-term plan that can give you a steady progression.
Taking this approach will result in a higher chance of improving your half marathon time. You will also be less likely to end up injured or burned out and will see your time drop year-on-year.
Training for A Half Marathon – What You Should Know?
Before training for a half marathon event, you should have an idea of what your approximate time for the distance should be. From there you can aim to make modest improvements throughout a training cycle.
Newer runners will make larger improvements in their first few races than more experienced runners. These improvements come faster for newer runners because of the lack of structure in their training and overall fitness. Remember experience also teaches us how to avoid common mistakes that might have added to a slower half marathon time.
If you have an ambitious goal like running 10 minutes faster and have a little half marathon experience, aim to make consistent progress with each race.
Eventually, your personal best time will become the realistic goal from the progression you made over time.
When the training for your event is over, the work you put in is not suddenly gone. It is now part of your foundation for the next event or training period – but only if you don’t step away for several months.
Many runners will train hard for several months before a goal half marathon and then not run for several months afterward. Usually coinciding with the start of winter and the holidays.
Although, it is healthy to take a couple of weeks off following am event. Often people are scared to take time off. In reality, you won’t lose your fitness in that amount of time, as long as it doesn’t turn into months.
You don’t need to train at a high-level year-round nor is it advised for most runners. However, you should maintain your base so that you can keep a majority of your fitness before you start your next training cycle.
It is far easier and effective to maintain your running fitness than to spend time rebuilding it each season.
If you have been in a training cycle for a half marathon for several years or focused exclusively on these distances. Consider stepping back to shorter distances. Getting better at shorter distances helps you at longer distances.
The approach you take to training for shorter races is fundamentally different from longer events. Shorter events are run closer to your maximal speed compared to long-distance events such as the half marathon.
Training for short races (3 km or 5 km) will not only give you some variety to your training but help develop core competencies. Which are essential in distance events, such as leg speed, turnover, and good form.
You’ll also build a base of faster running at shorter distances that can lead to sustaining such paces for longer workouts in distance training.
How to Improve Half Marathon Time?
So now you are probably wondering how you can improve your half marathon time.
The most important component to improving your half marathon time is progression. All of your half marathon training is cumulative, meaning it builds upon itself, and it requires a lot of patience.
Here are some ways to put progression into practice for your half marathon training.
Stick to the training plan – This doesn’t mean you can’t modify it from time to time.
Resist temptation – Try to resist the temptation to add mileage or increase paces of runs. Progression takes time for each performance gain you specifically target.
Training – Start your training at the appropriate level of difficulty based on your ability and not harder, longer, or faster.
Overload – Progressively overload your body with the same or similar stress over 3 weeks. Research shows that after 3-4 weeks the bulk of performance gains are made for a given training focus.
Training Cycles – Your body will physically and mentally adapt to the training and it will become less difficult to perform. At this point, you can move to the next level and repeat this cycle.
Training harder than your body can handle will not help you progress faster over the distance. Training too hard is a recipe for overtraining and injury. So, remember there are no shortcuts to improving your half marathon time – just consistent, hard work.
How to Improve Half Marathon Time in 6 Weeks?
If you are looking to improve your half marathon time in 6 or 8 weeks and have a decent base of running behind you, you can start adding quality sessions to your training. These sessions can help increase your speed over the 21.1 km distance and increase your threshold running speed.
Some common sessions you can add during this period are:
5K Pace Interval Run – Warm up with 10 to 15-minutes of easy running. Then complete 5-8×1 km intervals at your 5-10k race pace. As you get closer to the event you can increase the speed from 10k race pace to 5 k race pace. Take 90 seconds recovery between each interval and cool down with 10-minute easy jogging.
Hill Repeats – Hill repeats for half marathon training should ideally be included earlier in your plan. But they can be used later in the training plan if you haven’t implemented them yet. Warm-up with a 10 to a 15-minute easy run. Then find a hill that is at least 6 percent gradient and run at 80-90% max effort for 90-120 seconds. After each interval jog back to the start. Cool down with a 10-minute easy jog.
Tempo Run – Warm up with a 10 to 15-minute easy and run 20 minutes at 10 km race pace. You can also closer to the event implement 2×20 intervals with a 5-minute recovery between. But make sure you have at least two intervals behind you. After the session warm down with a 10-minute easy run.
If you have a good solid month of running behind you, you can also implement a half marathon micro block of training or overcompensation. This means for 1 week you overload the body through mileage, intensity and lower the amount of recovery. But it is important that you fully recover from a week like this. The overcompensation week should ideally be placed around 3 weeks out from your goal half marathon.