If you have been stuck running close to the same race times in the half-marathon season after season you may be close to having a breakthrough race. This is when you see a huge jump in your race time or a significant PR that you have been working towards. There are some ways to set yourself up for a breakthrough half-marathon race to increase your chances of reaching your goals.
How To Set Yourself Up For a Breakthrough Half-Marathon Race
Work on your goal half-marathon race pace
As you progress through your training cycle it’s important to include race pace miles in your training. Not only do these runs help you get faster, but they also help teach you what it feels like to run at that pace. The key is to do enough without overdoing it. For example, you might start with a 2 x 2 mile workout at HMP, and eventually do 4-5 consecutive miles at that pace. It can also be helpful to do a few HMP miles at the end of your long run.
Slow down your easy runs
When you are training hard and doing challenging workouts, it’s important to run your easy runs easy. There are many benefits to easy running but when you are training they allow your legs to recover so you can challenge yourself on your next hard run. Many runners do 1 speed workout and 1 long run throughout the week, with the rest of their runs being at an easy pace. The day after a long run or speed workout can also be referred to as a recovery run and should be very easy.
Master the taper before a breakthrough half-marathon
Once you have put in all the hard work throughout your training cycle it’s important to allow your body to recover during the taper period. You will still do some workouts to fine tune your training and keep you feeling sharp, but your mileage will be lower and the volume of hard running should be less.
Include the right amount of strength training throughout your training cycle
Including strength training in your training cycle can help to improve your running and may be the key to a breakthrough race. Usually 2 strength workouts per week is a good amount while training for a half so you can still fit in all your runs. If possible it’s great to do your strength training the same day as a hard workout (you can do a workout in the morning and lift in the afternoon). If this isn’t possible due to your schedule there are other ways to fit it in, but you may need to play around to see what works for you. I usually lift the day after a hard workout and also do an easy run, and then give myself at least one day before my next hard run.
Adjust your fueling plan
Small adjustments to your fueling plan can make a big difference on race day and may lead to a breakthrough half-marathon. You can try different things throughout your training cycle or consider working with a registered dietician who can give you personalized advice about how to fuel your runs.
Run the right amount of mileage leading up to the half-marathon
Mileage can be a factor in how much your running improves throughout your training cycle. Usually you want to run as much volume as your body can handle without getting injured or overtrained. However, there is a point of diminishing returns where as you run more mileage the risks outweigh the benefits. If you usually peak at 40 miles per week during half-marathon training and haven’t had any issues, maybe you can try running a little bit more during your next training cycle. However, if you notice that you always get some sort of niggle or injury when you hit 40 miles you can lower your mileage and peak at 35 miles per week instead. Also consider whether training by time or mileage is right for you!
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Include a variety of workouts to improve your speed
Other than HMP miles, there are other workouts you can do to improve your half-marathon performance. Ideally, you want to be a well-rounded runner and improve your overall speed, but during half-marathon training most of your workouts will be specific towards the half-marathon. Early in a training cycle I like to focus on shorter workouts like 400s and 800s or even just fartlek runs. Later in the cycle your workouts should be more specific to the half, focusing more on threshold runs and HMP runs, but you can also sprinkle in some faster intervals as well. For example, you could run a 20 minute threshold run and then spend a few minutes running easy to recover, followed by 4-6 x 1 minute at 5k pace.
Work on your mental strategies to have a breakthrough half-marathon
Sometimes the final piece of the puzzle for a breakthrough half-marathon is mastering your mental strategies. Leading up to your race work on visualization, positive self-talk, and come up with some race mantras.
Focus on other distances when you’ve hit a plateau in the half-marathon
If you have been trying to PR in the half-marathon for several seasons or years, it might be time to take a break from that distance. Try focusing on the 5k or 10k for a bit, and come back to the half-marathon later.
Train on the right terrain
Consider the elevation of the race you are training for (hilly or flat) and the type of terrain (road or trails) and include similar terrain in your training. Try not to do all your runs on the treadmill; you want to be comfortable holding your race pace outside which can feel different than having the treadmill set your pace for you.
Work with a coach or training group for a breakthrough half-marathon
Having support or guidance from a coach or training group can sometimes help you to reach your running goals and have a breakthrough race. Sometimes you just need to try something different to make a huge improvement in your running!
You might also find this helpful: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Improving in the Half-Marathon
Have you ever had a breakthrough half-marathon?
What has helped you to significantly improve your race time?
You may also like:
7 Things You Need To Know Before Running Your First Half-Marathon
How to Adjust Your Training Plan When You Miss a Run or Workout
How to Determine an Appropriate Race Goal Before Beginning Your Training Cycle
Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner and Runs with Pugs to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.