Half marathon advanced running guide

This training guide will get you improving your half marathon time in 12 weeks.

For those who have finished numerous half marathons and who want to push themselves even further, the half marathon ‘Personal best’ training guide is designed to help you achieve your personal best (PB).

To achieve your PB you need to improve both your endurance and your speed. The best way to do this is by increasing the length of your runs, the pace you’re running at and by combining distance and speed training sessions. This training guide incorporates these principles to improve your endurance and speed so that you can run your PB on race day. 

Download your half marathon 12-week training guide as a pdf

Training days explained

Easy runs: The runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and sometimes Fridays or Saturdays are designed to be done at a comfortable pace.

Stretch + strengthen: After your long Sunday run, Mondays are for stretching (this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch on other days) and Mondays and Wednesdays are for strength training. Strength training, particularly for your core muscles, is an important focus of this training guide. Bodyweight-based activities like push-ups, chin-ups or dips are beneficial or light weights with high reps at your local gym.

Distance: The training guide has distances, from 5.0km to two hours. The time-based run, scheduled for Sundays, may see you running further than your half marathon distance but the aim is to forget about the kms and to find rhythm in your running.

Rest: Your muscles need time to recover and rebuild, so ensuring adequate rest is just as important as the runs in this guide. In particular, taking the time to rest before and after your long run will help reduce your risk of injury. Be realistic about your fatigue level, especially in the closing weeks of the program, and don’t be afraid to take an extra day off now and then.

Hills: Hill training helps strengthen your quads and build speed. This guide has three hill sessions, all in the first half of the program. If you find these sessions work for you, you can substitute hill sessions with any of the interval runs.

Speed sessions: To increase your speed to achieve your PB you need to train at an increased pace a couple of sessions per week. This guide alternates interval running with tempo runs. An interval workout usually consists of fast runs separated by walking or jogging. The guide begins with 5 x 400m and reaches 10 x 400m the week before your half marathon. Walk or jog between each. Medium pace is around your 10km best time pace and fast pace is around your 5km best time pace.

Tempo runs: This is a continuous run with a buildup of pace in the middle. A tempo run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to 15-20 minutes at medium pace near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual. A tempo run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it.

Warm-up: A good guide for a warm-up is to jog 1-2km, sit down and stretch for 5-10 minutes, then run some easy strides (100m at near race pace). Cool down afterwards by doing half the warm-up distance.

Pace: In the guide some workouts are designed as pace runs to get you used to running the pace you will run to achieve your PB. For example in week 10 you run a session of 8.0km at PB race pace. Remember to do a short warm-up before starting each of these pace runs.

Long runs: Run at a comfortable, conversational pace, except on those days where a negative split run is prescribed. A negative split run is one in which you run the first half of the run at a comfortable pace and the second half at an increased pace i.e. you cover more distance in the second half of the run than you do in the first.

Cross-training: Even though you are focused on achieving a PB, cross-training is still an effective session as it helps with active recovery and injury prevention. It could be swimming, cycling, walking, rowing, or a combination that includes strength training.

Flexibility: You need to make the guide work for you. Over a 12-week program, it is important to be flexible and mix up days and runs when you need to. If you miss a run you can make it up. The real aim is to be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter.

Test: The idea with the test runs is to measure your time, progress and fitness, if it suits you. Another option is to find local fun-runs at these distances so you can time your race and get used to running with other competitors.

Download the full guide here.

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