Training — Help me Improve my Half-marathon Performance

running-advice-bugJulie from the UK writes in with the following question about improving her half-marathon performance:


“I would really like to beat my previous half marathon time and hope to do it in 2hrs 10mins or less. Distance wise my current long run is 10-12 miles once a week. I have no idea what to do to get more strength in my legs to help me get through this race as, on my long runs, it’s always my legs that quit first. The micoach tells me to do a couple of 30 min slow recovery runs a week, a long run and speed training (which I am particularly bad at as I don’t enjoy it). Is there anything else that you could advise me to do to help strengthen my legs?”

I can help you out here.

Unfortunately, you aren’t going to like my answer very much. The way to get faster is through a combination of that speed work that you dread and faster, shorter, runs. You see, if you are running 10-12 miles training for a half-marathon, then you have the endurance to do the race. The way to get faster now is to break down the distance in smaller chunks and run those smaller chunks faster. In other words, you can’t just decide to run 10 miles at a faster, but you can go out and run 2 miles faster. You need to start with shorter distances and build from there.
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Training: Understanding the taper; peaking for your next big race

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

Many runners are in the last few weeks of their preparation for their Fall marathons right now, so we’ve started to see an uptick of questions about tapering. Everyone has heard the word “taper”, but they want to better understand how to do it and why they should do it. As I looked around the site, I found that this is a subject that I hadn’t spent much time discussing, so here’s a new article aimed at understanding tapering.

Tapering: The Art and Science of Peaking

Tapering: The Art and Science of Peaking

In the run-up to a major event, everyone wants the same thing: to come into the event well rested, focused and ready to perform well. The final stage of a well structured training program will include a phase that is designed to help do those things. This phase of the program is sometimes called “tapering”, but can also be called “peaking”, which is a more informational name for what’s actually happening in this phase of training.

The word taper means “to cut back” or “to narrow” if you were to look it up in the dictionary. One aspect of the final phase of athletic race preparation is indeed to cut back the volume of training to allow the body to recover. But that’s only half of the story. If an athlete simply cuts back on their training for awhile, they risk losing hard gained fitness at the same time.

Instead, what we want to happen is to “peak” or come up to a new a level of performance. So how does one reach a new peak by backing off of their training volume? It happens by combining the recovery of the taper with the continuation of shorter, quicker, and perhaps more intense workouts to maintain fitness in those final days or weeks.

Tapering
Tapering seems like the easiest part of the marathon preparation process — and it would be if one’s job in that period was to just laze around and wait for race day to come.
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Training: How do I get faster at the half-marathon?

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert

Here is an inquiry if from a reader named Leslie B:

I have run five half-marathons and done five triathlons. I recently did a Half-Ironman. I’m doing half-marathons in mid-October and late November. I’m up to the distance. What would you suggest I do for my long runs until then? I would also like to start running faster. What suggestions do you have on interval training? My PR half-marathon is 2:11. The last one that i ran was 2:17. I guess my goal would be between 2:05-2:10. What would you suggest I do for that??

Leslie, congratulations on all you’ve done. It looks like you’re ready to take the next step in development and get faster. So, let’s analyze what you’ve done and where you need to go.
You have conditioned yourself for endurance. You can continuously move for long periods of time – in fact far longer than your current goal distance of the half-marathon. So, more endurance training is not your key to improvement, a conclusion you also have obviously come to.

The key to running faster is: running faster. (Funny how that works huh?)

The first element is targeting your goal pace. Take your goal time (2:05) and you establish your goal pace (9:32/mile). This pace plus or minus about 10 seconds (9:22-9:42/mile) must be practiced to become efficient at that pace. Efficiency is pace specific. Lots of slow running will not make you efficient at this pace.
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