Top 5 techniques to run your best half marathon

As the autumn race season fast approaches, now is the time to embrace your half marathon training. Our resident running coach Tom Craggs from RunningWithUs offers his expert tips on nailing the 13.1 mile distance.

Top 5 techniques to run your best half marathon

With more and more runners tackling multiple half marathon races each year, our top five training sessions for progressing your half marathon PB will stand you in good stead come race day.

The split threshold

Threshold training simply means running the top end, or ‘threshold’ of your aerobic energy system. Training in this zone helps to improve how well you take in, transport, and use oxygen, so it's pretty important. We recommend fitting in a threshold session each week in your half marathon prep. 

Try this: Head out for a 45-60 minute run, start with an easy 10-15 minute warm up and then run 4 x 6 minutes at an effort where you could only speak 3-4 words at a time or alternatively use a heart rate monitor and run at 85 per cent of your max. Have a 75-90 second jogged recovery between each. Aim to build this session as the weeks go by to 5 x 5 minutes, 5 x 6, 3 x 10 minutes etc.

The straight tempo

Tempo running is crucial to get you used to running a bit faster than your goal half marathon pace for sustained blocks. These runs should be used regularly in your plan (once every 10 days or so), especially in the final 5-6 weeks before your half. Ultimately you need to have trained at the pace you intend to run in your race.

Try this: Head out for a 45 minute run and run the first 20 minutes easy and the final 25 minutes at pace that would equate to 10 mile - half marathon race pace.

The kenyan hill

Hill running builds the strength you need to hold your pace and posture in the final 5K of a half marathon. ‘Kenyan’ or continuous hills are a great way to build strength endurance because they involve both running up AND down hill at an effort close to half marathon intensity. This ensures that a better range of muscles are develop rather than just sprinting up and walking back down a hill as many runners will tend to do. This session is particularly effective in the first 6-7 weeks of a 12-16 week training plan

Try this: Find a hill with a steady gradient between 6-8% incline. Don’t sprint up…instead run up at a controlled effort where you could speak 3-4 words at a time. After 60-75 seconds turn and run back down but still running at 3-4 word answer effort. Keep repeating up and down the same stretch of hill for 3 x 8-10 minutes with a 2-3 minutes recovery between each set.  

The sandwich intervals

Getting used to what half marathon pace feels like on tired legs is crucial to your race prep. A ‘sandwich’ session can be a really effective way of doing that by adding a sustained block of 10 mile - half marathon paced running either side of shorter, faster intervals.

Try this: A great session to add to the final few weeks of your rep would be 10-15 minutes of race pace running + 5-6 sets of 3 minutes at 5km pace + 10-15 minutes back to your race pace effort. Take 2 minutes jogged recovery between the half marathon and 5km paced efforts and 75-90 seconds rest between the 3 minute efforts.

The progressive long run

A hard, fast long run can be one of the most effective sessions in the book for developing your fitness. The more experienced you get the more important adding ‘quality’ into your longer runs becomes and in particular runs that see you running faster towards the end of the run really tests your ability to sustain your goal race pace. 

Try this: If you are still new to this type of run simple sessions such as 1 hour 45 minutes - 2 hours with the final 60 minutes to include 3 x 15 minutes of half marathon pace can be really effective. For the experience half marathon racer a more structured session of 25K run as 5K easy, 5K half marathon pace, 5K easy, 5K half marathon pace, 2K hard, 3K easy is a fantastic, challenging peak long run.

For further race day advice read everything you need to know about running a half marathon

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