Interval Work in Half Marathon Training - Yes or No?

by Matt

interval running yes or no

I ran my first half marathon in nine months ago and haven't been on a training routine since. I would go on spurts of trying to get back into it over summer, but it was just very sporadic. Some weeks- no running at all, and other weeks would run 3 or 4 days of the week.

My question is if I'm now starting training for a half in 3 months' time (the same one), should I classify myself as a "Beginner" and not do interval training? Or more of an intermediate runner, and do the speed work as a part of my training? Thanks!

Answer by Dominique:

Hello there,

Thanks for reaching out with your question about your half marathon training plans. It's a great question, and you're not alone in wondering how to progress your workouts.

I could provide you with a one-liner, but let's dissect it into different sections to provide you with a more comprehensive guideline and understanding:

1. Building a Base for Half Marathon Training
2. The Benefits of Interval Running in Half Marathon Training
3. More Important Faster Workouts - Tempo Running and Goal Pace Running

Building a Base for Half Marathon Training

interval running yes or no
First and foremost, it's crucial to construct a solid base, especially for half marathon training. But why is a base significant? Picture it this way - long-distance running is like constructing a house. The foundation, or 'base,' needs to be strong to hold up the rest of the building. If it's weak, the entire structure can collapse.

You've previously completed a half marathon and sporadically ran over the summer, which means you're definitely not a complete beginner. However, since your running hasn't been consistent, we can't classify you as an intermediate runner either.

That's okay, it just means you have to work on reinforcing that base. To do this, I'd recommend starting with consistent easy running 3-4 times a week for a good six weeks. This will provide a sturdy base and also get you into the routine of regular running.

Throughout your half marathon training, easy running is the most important type of running you can do. You want to build up that base and get used to spending time on your feet again.

Check out the page about building your base via the link.

The Benefits of Interval Running in Half Marathon Training

interval running yes or no
Now, you are curious about adding interval workouts to your half marathon. Going back to the analogy of the house: interval training is like adding good-quality bricks to your house to make it stronger and more resilient.

Intervals can be helpful. They allow you to develop your speed, get used to running quickly, become a more efficient runner and can also give your endurance a boost.

Start off easy, say with 30 seconds fast, 2 minutes slow. Or 1 minute fast and 3 minutes slow. As you get more comfortable, you can gradually increase the work:rest ratio to 1:1 (intervals as long as the rest periods).

Read up more on interval running here.

More Important Faster Workouts - Tempo Running and Goal Pace Running

While interval running is beneficial, optimal half marathon training is better served by focusing on tempo running and goal pace running.

Generally speaking, you want to get specific with your training. Now half marathon pace is somewhat slower than tempo running pace. And much slower than interval running pace.

interval running yes or no
It is good to do some running at all speeds and practice with a variety of paces. But as your half marathon gets nearer, you will want to make your training more specific to half marathon pace.

Tempo running pace is way closer to half marathon pace than interval running pace. Goal pace is equal to half marathon pace.

So, don't focus all your faster workouts on intervals. Do interval workouts sparingly after your base building period. Then move to more tempo running workouts and, closer to race day, goal pace workouts.

This type of approach will see you optimally prepared for race day.

Links with more information:

Tempo Running

Goal Pace

As a last bit of advice, be mindful about increasing mileage and building in faster workouts at the same time. Increasing length and speed at the same time can put an unwarranted strain on your body. We don't want you injured; we want you crossing the finish line, smiling and proud!

I hope this answers your question and provides a roadmap to help you enjoy your training and run your best half-marathon.

Enjoy your half marathon and best of luck with the training. Here's to you becoming a stronger, faster, and happier runner!

Best regards,

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