I love the half marathon distance, currently above all other race distances. The half marathon workouts are challenging without being exhausting, there’s dozens of local half marathons year-round in the Seattle area, and the half marathon is perhaps the most fun of any distance to race.
I also enjoy training runners in the half marathon distance. Half marathon training demands a balance of both speed and endurance, so as a coach I can have some fun with the workouts. Long runs, tempo runs, and fartleks all have their place in a balanced and well thought out half marathon training schedule.
So today I want to share with you some of my favorite half marathon workouts. Since the half marathon is the most popular race distance in the country, particularly amongst women, I am including variations for all levels of runners, from beginner half marathon to experienced racer.
The beginner workouts are ideal for runners logging under 25 miles per week. Experienced athletes can add additional miles to the warm up and cool down segments if desired.
Half Marathon Workouts for Beginner and Experienced Runners
Progression Long Run:
What it does: If you tend to start out fast and then crash and burn in your races, progression long runs will instill a smart pacing strategy in you. There are endless variations of progression long runs, and they can be run based on perceived effort or pace.
You can do progression long runs at any point of your half marathon training. Ideally, if you do them in the first half of your training cycle, run them according to effort; in the second half of training, when you have a better awareness of your fitness and race goal, run them according to pace.
Beginner: 10 mile progression run. Begin at a very easy pace (1 to 2 minutes per mile slower than goal race pace) for the first 9 miles. With one mile left to go, gradually increase your pace to a moderate effort or until you are running goal race pace.
Experienced: 14 mile progression run. Run at an easy pace (60-90 seconds slower than goal race pace) for the first 10 miles. Run the last 4 miles at goal race pace or slightly faster (tempo pace). If desired, add on cool down mile or cool down walk.
Goal Pace Tempo Intervals:
What it does: A tempo interval run is similar to a traditional tempo run, except it features a brief recovery period that permits you to lengthen the duration of your tempo run. Tempo intervals also prepare you for race day by teaching you to consistently pace yourself (do you see a theme here?): if you go out too fast, you will unnecessarily struggle through this workout, just as you will at a race.
Since half marathon pace is so close to tempo pace, tempo runs are one of the most important workouts for
Tempo intervals are ideal during the final 4 weeks of half marathon training. You don’t want to run too many goal pace miles too far out from the race, otherwise you risk peaking too early, mentally burning yourself out, or overtraining.
Beginner: 3 x 10 minutes at half marathon pace. Warm up with 1 mile of easy running. Run for 10 minutes at your half marathon pace. Run easy for 3 minutes. Repeat the 10 minutes of hard running two more times (with 3 minutes easy running between each intervals) for a total of three tempo intervals. Cool down with one mile of easy running.
Experienced: 5 x 1.25 miles at half marathon pace. This workout is inspired by one I recently tried from Brad Hudson’s Run Faster from the 5K to Marathon. While you could obviously run these at 10K pace or faster, avoid the temptation. Focus on running them at a controlled and comfortably hard pace. Warm up with 2-3 miles of easy running. Run 1.25 miles at goal half marathon pace and recover with ¼ mile of easy jogging; repeat the interval and recovery period four more times for a total of 5 intervals. Cool down with 1-2 miles of easy running.
Short Fartlek Intervals:
What It Does: Fast repeats are not just reserved for 5K runners; distance runners need to run fast also! You don’t need to cover more than 2-3 miles of fast running to reap the benefits, especially if your weekly mileage is less than 50 miles. Focus on maintaining a fast turnover of your feet and an upright posture during these intervals. They’ll help you develop a finishing kick for the last mile of your half marathon!
Beginner: 8 x 1 minute fartlek. Warm up with 10 minutes of easy running. Run 8 repeats of 1 minute hard (but not all out) and 2 minutes easy. Try to consistently pace yourself with each interval rather than starting out too hard and slowing down. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of easy running.
Experienced: Descending fartleks. Warm up with 2-3 miles of easy running, followed by drills (high knees, butt kicks, etc.), 4-6 strides, and dynamic stretching. Run 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and 1 minute hard (approximately 5K pace or slightly faster) with 1 minute recovery jogs between each interval. Recover with 5 minutes of easy running. Repeat two more times (with 5 minutes easy running again between sets). Cool down with 1-2 miles of easy running.
Of course, if you are working with a coach, consult him/her before adding any new workouts to your schedule. Need a running coach? Learn more about my coaching services here!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:
How to Run a Sub 1:45 Half Marathon
Half Marathon Long Run Workout
How Far Should You Run Before a Half Marathon or Marathon?
What are your favorite half marathon workouts?
If you could only race one distance, what would it be?