How to run a sub-2 hour half marathon
If you’ve set your sights on a sub-2 hour half marathon, here’s how to get there.
Do I have what it takes to run a sub-2:00 half marathon?
In order to run a sub-two-hour half marathon, you’ll probably need to be hitting the following running milestones:
Weekly mileage: 15-30 miles
Recent 10K time: 54:00 or under
Half marathons done: 1+
Half marathon PB (good conditions): 2:04 - 2:06
Half marathon PB (hills, heat or wind): 2:08 - 2:12
If this makes sub two seem too ambitious for you at the moment, take a look at these different half marathon training plans for every kind of runner.
How fit do you need to be to run a sub-2:00 half?
Ideally, you should be able to run 5K in around 25-26 minutes and a 10K in under 54 minutes. If you have prior experience and are returning after a break from running, chances are you’ll progress more quickly than a beginner, thanks to muscle memory.
'Regardless of whether you’re a newbie or an experienced runner, you need to condition yourself to feel comfortable running for two hours,' says Tait. 'You need to feel that when running for two hours at a slower pace than you will be on race day, you’re not left "broken".'
A casual runner might be able to run for 5K comfortably, but the effort starts to take its toll beyond that. That’s because neuromuscular adaptations need to take place for your body to operate efficiently at the intensity it takes to run at a certain pace. There’s also the mental side: you need to be confident your body can keep going for two hours.
What pace do I need to run for a sub-two half marathon?
You'll need to run an average pace of 9:09 per mile or 5:40 per kilometre.
Do I need to take on fuel to run a sub-2:00 hour half marathon?
You’ll need nutrition, and hydration, on the road, says nutritionist Pamela Nisevich Bede. 'Some runners think they can get through a half marathon without sports drinks or gels, but that can make for painful and slow final miles,' she says. Aim for 45-60g of carbs each hour you’re running and practise fuelling on long runs so there are no surprises on race day. Experiment with what works for you, whether it's gels, drinks or chews.
Whatever works for you during the run, you will also need to make sure you are well fuelled before your start. Again, practice what works for you in training rather than leaving it until race day, so you can find the perfect pre-race breakfast that's right for you.
I’m finding the training hard, how do I know when I need to back off?
If you are pushing the pace to get faster or adding distance to go further, your body will talk back to you. During training, learn to distinguish ‘good pain’ (discomfort from leaving your comfort zone) from ‘bad pain’ (something verging on injury).
'There is a difference between muscles that burn at the end of a workout and something that hurts every time you take a step,' says sports psychologist Jim Taylor. 'Part of training is learning body awareness. You also need to experience some discomfort so that when it occurs in a race, you know you can push through it.'
What kind of core-work should I be doing on?
Core exercises will help you maintain good form until the end of your race, so try and fit these into your weekly training plan:
Why: Works your lower abs with a dynamic exercise that mimics running.
How: Lie on your back. Bend your right knee and raise your leg so your right shin is parallel to the ground. Lift your left leg a few inches off the floor. Hold for two seconds, then switch legs. Alternate legs for 30-60 seconds.
2. Advanced plank
Why: Targets core muscles that keep your pelvis natural, works the glutes.
How: Get in a plank, forming a straight line from your head to feet. Brace your abs and life your left leg and right arm. Hold for two secs, squeezing your glutes, then return to start. Switch sides and alternate for 30-60 seconds.
3. Reverse plank with leg lifts
Why: Targets your erector spinae muscles (which keep your back straight) as well as your glutes.
How: Lie face up, weight on your elbows and heels. Lift your hips. Lift your right leg. Hold for several seconds. With hips raised, switch legs. Alternate legs for 30-60 seconds.
4. Marching bridge
Why: Strengthens the hips to keep the pelvis stable, activates the glutes.
How: Lie with your right foot on the ground, left leg extended. Lift your hips and your left leg. Hold for two seconds. Then, while keeping your hips in the air, switch legs. Alternate sides for 30-60 seconds.
5. Side plank with leg raises
Why: Strengthens the oblique muscles to keep your spine erect when you are running.
How: Get in a side plank, forming a line from head to feet. Raise and lower your top leg for 15-30 seconds. Then switch sides, and raise and lower your other leg for 15-30 seconds.
The sub-2 half marathon training plan:
This simple schedule gets you to 1:59:59 with two quality sessions per week – a long run and a goal-pace (or faster) workout and two shorter, easy runs.
What does the plan mean?
Rest/Cross-Train (XT) – Take a rest day, or do moderate cross-training with a no-impact activity such as yoga or swimming.
Tempo – Run easy for one mile to warm up. Then ease into the given pace for the distance show. Run easy for a mile to cool down. Tempo runs should feel challenging; on a scale of one to 10, your effort will feel like a seven or eight. You should be able to utter just a few words at a time. These runs train your body to sustain speed over distance.
Easy – Easy runs should be done at least 30 seconds to one minute per mile slower than half-marathon goal pace (9:09 per mile).
Long run – This is a long, slow distance run that will build your endurance. Run at an easy pace; you should be able to hold a conversation. This should be 30 seconds to one minute per mile slower than your goal pace.
Mile repeats – After a one-mile warm-up, run one mile at the given pace, then jog very slowly for half a mile to recover. Repeat cycles as directed. Cool down with one mile of easy running.
HMP (Half-marathon pace) – This is the pace that you hope to maintain in the race. Run one mile easy to warm up and one mile easy to cool down.
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