Want to Run a Half Marathon in Less Than Two Hours

by Rebecca

want to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours

Love your website! Today I ran 5 km in my local race. My time was 25 minutes, 38 seconds. I am a 44 year old woman, average height and build (5'5" and 9 stone 2 lbs) and I have been running regularly for the past eight months.

This 5km was a mixed race and up one of the hills I pushed a wheelchair and also along the gravelly final stretch. Maybe that added a couple of minutes to my time, hard to say but so worth it to be able to help someone.

I did my first half marathon six months ago which was tough. I had a displaced kneecap by the end which I have now fixed with made-to-measure orthopaedic insoles. I finished in 2 hours 24 minutes which I was very disappointed with. It's a hard half, very hilly, very hot, but I was gutted to be so slow.

Goal 1. In a month there is a 12 km fundraiser I'd like to participate in, would be nice to finish in 1 hour. How far should I run while training for that and how many times a week? Bearing in mind I have 6 weeks to train.

Goal 2. I'm aiming to do another half in six months and want to finish in under 2 hours. Basically I want to nail it. Meanwhile I will put in the hours each week, running three to four times a week and will do some 10 km races to keep me revved up. What is the optimal distance that I should be doing in training please?

I eat healthy, am a non-smoker, drink very little and my other hobby is classical ballet, I take a class once a week.

I would be able/willing to do some kind of cross training if it will help me do better times in races, I am very motivated to improve; I have a strong competitive streak ;-)

Kind regards,

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Rebecca,

Thanks for reaching out with your questions about your running goals. It's always great to try help somebody get to better results. I'll break down my response into a few sections:

1. Running a 12k in under an hour
2. Running a half marathon in less than two hours

Running a 12k in under an hour

want to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours
The hardest thing about your question is that this 5k effort contained hills and you helped somebody else during the race. No doubt this impacted your time.

I went to my Race Conversion Calculator and I used your 12k goal of 1 hour to predict your 5k race time. It tells me what 5k time is equivalent to a 12k run in one hour. It is 23:43 min.

We are going to assume that without the difficulties on the course you would have been able to run this time.

Provided that is the case, what is needed to indeed hit the 1 hr goal? A few things:

1. Solid base - In order to be able to stick to 5 min/km speed the whole way you will need to do solid easy runs and long runs to build your endurance. My base running page tells you more about it.

Not sure how long your longest run is at the moment. To really nail a 12k race goal, it would be great if you are already doing a long run of 12k or more. Not there yet or a long way off? Build your mileage by slowly adding a little bit of distance to your runs every week. Also check out the Increasing Mileage Safely page.

2. Tempo running - Tempo running is done at approximately the pace you'd be able to hold for an hour. So for you that will be around that 5 min/km mark. Getting exposed to that pace a number of times during training will be very useful. It will teach you how to deal with discomfort during a run (tempo runs are moderately uncomfortable) and will get you used to your goal race pace. Check out the tempo running page for more information.

Keep in mind that in six weeks time we can get a little bit stronger and fitter, but we can't create miracles. Do your best, try your hardest and race that 12k like it is your last. Then take the result as useful input into your half marathon preparation.

Running a half marathon in less than two hours

want to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours
Six months is a really decent time to make solid improvement. Looking back at your running history, I am not surprised that your first half marathon was a little disappointing. If I understand correctly, you had done three months of consistent training going into this half marathon.

The half marathon is a big distance! Three months of training would generally not be enough to get really ready for racing a half marathon. Sure, you can finish one, but generally not race it with a time goal in mind.

So, it is good to see you are giving yourself a lot more time to prepare for this now. The training over the past six months and next six months will set you up nicely! Let's get into key ingredient for the half marathon:

Number of runs per week. - For a challenging half marathon goal I would recommend running four times per week at least. Three times per week is light on.

Long run. - For the half marathon to be successful, you really want to build that solid long run. For the half marathon it is not unusual to run an "over-distance long run", i.e. go further than the 21.1k / 13.1 mi in training. Not needed to finish a half, but to race it, more is generally better. Aim for a solid number of runs in the 18 to 22-24k range.

This is where the six months of time really helps! You can build up to that level for 3-4 months and then still get plenty of experience at that range for 1-2 months of training.

want to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours
Lots of easy runs, some quality. - When you are doing four runs per week, a good mix of easy, long runs and quality runs would be: one long run, two easy runs and one quality run. A quality run is anything faster than "easy". Check out the Running Workouts page for a summary of key quality sessions.

About cross-training - Cross training is not a bad idea. Especially if you have difficulties with the mileage and/or the number of runs per week. Rather than getting injured, focusing some of your training on cycling, elliptical, rowing, etc. can still provide you with your aerobic stimulus, without the strain on the body that running provides.

To build a stronger, fitter, faster, more injury-resilient body, I can highly recommend incorporating strength training into your routine. For any runner, but particularly for those of us over 40, this is almost unnegotiable.

This should give you all the information you need to prepare well for those races. Considering your dedication to improving and competitive spirit, you might benefit from a personalized running training plan. Check out my Running Coaching page for more information to help you reach your goals more effectively.

Hope this helps.
Best of luck with your upcoming races.
Kind regards,

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