Get Faster for Your Next Half Marathon

Marc asks: I ran my first half marathon, and I’ve registered for another one. Now my goal is to improve my time. I’d like to start doing some speed workouts, maybe even hit the track. Any suggestions for workouts I can do to get faster at this distance?

With one half marathon under your belt, you have established a running base ready for speed training. But adding intensity can increase the risk of injury, making it important to increase run intensity gradually.

Try beginning your speedwork with one tempo run a week. This allows for some adaptation time to this increased intensity. Include a 1,600 to 3,000 metre warmup period before picking up the pace for the tempo or speed part of your workout. Keep the tempo portion of this run to four to six miles for the first few weeks. As you adjust to this new intensity, then you can increase the tempo distance of these runs to nine to 13 kilometres.

Here are some suggestions for tempo runs to get you started:

Hard/Easy Run: After your warmup, 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 warmup and cooldown.

Negative Split Run: Start with an easy pace and gradually drop your run pace by 5 to 10 seconds each kilometre. Your ultimate goal: Hit the last 1,600 metres of the tempo portion of this run at your 10K race pace. Total distance of this tempo run is  ten to 13 kilometres, plus warmup and cooldown.

1,600 Metre Repeats: Measure out 1,600 metres on a flat, lightly travelled road. Do a warmup first and then begin 1,600 metre repeats. For pace, use a recent 10K time or about 30 seconds faster than your previous half marathon race pace. Try to keep all 1,600 metre times within five seconds.

When you can hit all the 1,600 metres at the same time, you can drop the goal time by 10 seconds. Your ultimate goal: Run four to six 1,600 metre repeats 30 seconds faster than your goal half marathon race pace with two minutes for recovery between each 1,600 metres.

After completing several weeks of tempo runs, you can hit the track for some sharpening workouts about 10 to 12 weeks out from your targeted race. The purpose of the track is to run faster in shorter, measured segments, but not to run all out. Remember, you are training for distance, not sprinting. Here are some track workouts to try:

Broken Kilometre Workout: Do three to four sets of 1200 + 400 runs. Run 1,200 metres (or three laps of the track) at approximately your 10K pace. Jog 200 metres easy for recovery, then run 400 metres at approximately your 5K pace. Take four minutes between sets.

Yasso 800s: Do four to eight 800-metre runs (or two laps of a track) at 10K pace. Jog 200 metres easy for recovery. Begin doing this workout with four repeats and gradually increase that number as your fitness improves.

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