If you’ve completed a half marathon and are preparing for your next one (perhaps the Hackney Half?) you’re probably chasing one goal – to improve your half marathon time. Whether it’s your second or tenth half marathon, from novice to advanced, here are some tips that’ll get you round that course in personal best time:
Tips To Improve A Half Marathon Time
Fartlek – keep it simple
Nothing to do with wind-assisted runs, Fartlek is a simple Scandinavian training method of introducing random sprints into your steady pace runs.
Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish and is simply defined as periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running. For some, it could be a mix of jogging and sprinting. A simple example of what you could do during a fartlek run is “sprint all out from one lamp post to the next, jog to a corner, give a medium effort for a couple of hundred metres, jog between four lamp posts and sprint to a particular tree”.
If you’re running somewhere like Victoria Park in Hackney, swap lamp posts for evenly spaced trees. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both your aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Fartlek differs from traditional interval training in that it is unstructured; intensity and/or speed varies, as the runner wishes.
Hard:Easy Interval Run: 3:1
Warm-up – easy pace (1-2 miles)
Main run – race pace (hard) for 1 to 3 minutes (depending on fitness level) then easy pace for 3 to 1 minutes (reduce time as your training progresses).
Cool-down – easy pace (1-2 miles)
After your warm up (1-2 mile run), drop the pace and run “hard” for one to three minutes. Adjust the duration of this hard effort time based on your current fitness level. You can begin with one minute and gradually increase it to three minutes as your fitness improves. After the hard segment, run easy to recover from this effort for three minutes. As you gain fitness, reduce the recovery time from three minutes to two minutes to one minute. Your ultimate goal: Run hard for three minutes and easy for one minute for a tempo run of six to eight miles, plus warm up and cool down.
Ultimate goal: To run your 6-8 mile training run alternating between 3 minutes hard and 1 minute recovery (i.e. 3:1). Include warm up and cool down sections.
In your personal training sessions, if you are training for a half marathon time we can mimic this 3:1 pattern with interval training using cardio and weights ( 3 minutes of cardio, followed by 1 minute of ‘recovery’ strength or core work such as a plank).
Start with a 5 to 10 minute warm-up of easy running and then find a gradual slope which you can run up for 1 minute ( Springfield Park in Hackney is the best local spot for this where we take clients who are training for full or half marathons).
Run uphill for 1 minute at tempo pace (10-20 second slower than race pace), then turn and run down at the same level. One full repeat includes going up and down, so 10 repeats is 10 uphills and 10 downhills. All levels should finish with at least a 5-minute cool-down of easy running or walking. Advanced can increase the length of their warm-up or cool-down if they want a longer workout.
Beginners: Try this workout once a week. Start with five repeats and add another one or two repeats each week, working your way up to 10 repeats.
Mid-level: Begin with 10 repeats and add another one or two each week, working your way up to 15 repeats.
Advanced: Start with 15 repeats and add another one or two repeats each week, working your way up to 20 repeats.
Strength Training To Improve Your Half Marathon Time
“Strength work accomplishes three big goals for runners,” says Jason Fitzgerald, USATF-certified running coach, founder of Strength Running in Denver, Colorado. “It prevents injuries by strengthening muscles and connective tissues; it helps you run faster by improving neuromuscular coordination and power; and it improves running economy by encouraging coordination and stride efficiency.”
Weighted walking lunges
Clean and press
Forward and reverse lunges
Agility training for half marathon training
We often have clients who are preparing for a full or half marathon. One way of incorporating personal training into your running plan is to substitute one or two of your hourly runs for an hour of combined strength and agility work. In these sessions we focus on the lower body (of course!) using some weightlifting techniques as described above but also some agility work to keep a cardio element in there: hurdles; speed ladder; cone drills.