Shaving 8 Minutes off the Half-Marathon Time - Under Two Hours

by Leslie
(Columbus, OH)

shaving 8 minutes off half marathon

I just ran my first half marathon and did it in 2:07:46. The month prior to the half I could not run at all due to a calf tear. I saw a physical therapist and worked hard at cross-training but only ran 3 miles before I decided to try to walk/jog the race. I was thrilled with even being able to complete the run, but now would like to go for my original goal, an under 2 hour half for my next race in six, seven months time.

I'm trying to determine how many slow miles I should work on over the next few months and how much I should increase tempo runs, etc.

The PT told me to avoid a lot of hill work until my calves are stronger.

I am 47 years old and in pretty good shape. My fastest 5K last year was 26:16 and I have been averaging 9:30 to 10:00 min/mile in my longer runs.

Answer by Dominique:
Hi there,

Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing your half marathon journey. First and foremost, huge congratulations on completing your first half marathon, especially considering the setback you had with your calf tear. That's truly commendable, and you should be very proud!

Given your current situation and future goals, let's break down a strategic plan that will help you achieve that sub-two-hour goal for your next half marathon in about six to seven months:

1. Race Analysis
2. Increasing your mileage
3. Length of the long run
4. Speed work and tempo runs
5. Plan in a practice race

Race Analysis

shaving 8 minutes off half marathon
First thing I always do when people give me previous race times, is to plug these into the race conversion calculator.

The equivalent to your 26:16 5k is about a 2 hour half marathon.

That's positive news, it means that that 2 hour half is within your reach. And who knows, without that month of not running, how close you would have already gotten to the 2 hour mark?

You now need to work on getting a bit fitter and faster. You are setting yourself an achievable goal by not wanting to do this in one month, but in 6-7 months time.

Increasing Your Mileage

shaving 8 minutes off half marathon
Another thing I noticed is that your long run is on average 9:30-10:00 min/mile. 13 of those miles at long run pace already get you to 2:05-2:10 for a half. It is good to do long runs at that pace, but it makes me wonder whether they are a little too fast? It wouldn't hurt to go a little slower given where you are at.

I'd first focus on building mileage over speed. The half marathon is (almost) all about endurance. And the best way to increase endurance is by doing plenty of long and easy runs. And the way to make them sustainable is really do them at easy pace. Taking it easy, lower heart rate, you hardly feel like you are working at all. This is the key to building a base without getting injured.

Check out my page about increasing mileage safely to learn how to do this well, without hurting yourself.

Length of the Long Run

I am going to guess that for your first half marathon, your longest long run would have been 10, maybe 11 miles. That's fine to get to the finish line. Now that you want to race your next half marathon with more intensity, I can highly recommend increasing the length of your maximum long run to 13-14 miles.

When you do that, you will do a bunch of runs around the 10-14 miles mark. And you will get really comfortable with the half marathon distance in training. This will then allow you to really put the foot on the pedal on race day.

Speed Work and Tempo Runs

shaving 8 minutes off half marathon
In addition to building the additional endurance, I'd recommend one weekly faster run. This can be an interval workout at times, but I'd prioritise tempo running.

Magical things happen when you combine running slightly faster than goal pace (tempo running) with running slightly slower than goal pace (easy runs).

The links I provided, give you ideas about different types of workouts you can do. Closer to race day, I'd also recommend a bit of goal pace running. This will really help you get used to the pace you want to hit on race day.

Plan in a Practice Race

shaving 8 minutes off half marathon
It would be great if closer to race day, say about 3-4 weeks out, you could do a test race, maybe a 5k, preferably a 10k. Then use the results from that race to work out your estimated half marathon time via the race conversion calculator that I shared at the start of my answer.

A rough rule of thumb is that your half marathon time is twice your 10k time + 10 minutes (but the calculator helps you calculate this as well), so when you can do a 10k in sub-54, then you'd be about ready for your two hour challenge.

My guess is that with 6-7 months of dedicated training, you will smash your next half marathon!

Best of luck with the preparations.
Hope the calf doesn't play up too much.
Kind regards,

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