Marathon Training

3 Half Marathon Workouts to Help You Master Pacing

Stepping up to the half marathon can be a daunting challenge. Here are three half marathon workouts to incorporate into your training plan that focus on the specific requirement of sustained and controlled pacing for this long-distance event. Be sure to include these workout types in your half marathon training to hit the start and finish line strong.

The Long Run (With a Twist)

The long run (i.e., an extended run designed to increase endurance) in half marathon training has a lot more flexibility than the long run for the marathon. Since the half marathon is less physiologically taxing, I like to be very creative with long runs. I believe through this creativity you can train good pacing. I have two main ways I like to mix up the long run:

  • Broken effort or “two-a-day”. Here you simply run twice a day with at least four hours between runs. You can break this up as a longer run in the morning followed by a shorter run later in the day, or as equal-distance runs. When starting out, keep the pace of these runs aerobic and stay in heart rate Zones 1-2. You are simply adapting to the pounding and getting trained on smart pacing. Examples may be five miles in the morning followed by three miles in the evening or four miles in the morning and evening.
  • Long run with a fast finish. Here we simulate race day fatigue and, again, pace awareness. In the first three-quarters of your run, you should be at an aerobic pace, so stay in Zone 1-2. In the last quarter, you will gradually build your pace every few minutes such that you simulate the “tired leg” feeling that is so common in the final miles of any long event. When you do this, think “light feet, fast feet” — relax your shoulders and breathe.

Tempo Efforts

The key to a good tempo-based run (i.e., a sustained run of higher intensity than long runs) is pacing. An effective tempo run is sustainable and controlled. There are many ways to execute a good tempo-based workout, and to start I suggest two forms:

  • Shorter 10K paced/tempo intervals. Examples include a 4-mile tempo at 10K pace/effort or 3-5 x 6-8 minutes at 10K pace with modest recovery (around a quarter of the work interval).
  • Longer sub-half race pace tempo. Start with approximately half of your race distance (6-7 miles) and run at slightly under goal race pace (10-ish minutes per mile). You can progress this by adding distance or increasing your pace slightly. Be careful not to turn this into a 10K race.

Progression Runs

If there is one workout that will teach you pacing, it is the progression run. The name of the run is a dead giveaway as to how it is set up — you simply progress your pace from start to finish. A well-executed progression run has each mile slightly faster than the last. To do this, you cannot start too fast and you have to be very aware of your effort and pace.

  • Start modestly with a 4-5 mile progression and build to make a long run into a progression run (but do not confuse this with a long run with a fast finish). The first mile should be a warm-up and the second is still a very gradual build into comfortable pacing. From this point on, make each mile a controlled effort to notch the pace up slightly. When you finish a progression run you should feel like you are finishing strong, almost like you could extend the run another mile or two without strain.

These workouts are foundational in nature — they make up the backbone of a good half marathon training plan. If you can effectively execute these workouts, you will have a heightened sense of proper pacing and confidence in your body’s capacity to shift gears when needed. Above all, your legs will be ready to tackle 13.1 miles with conviction!

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