You know the half marathon is my sweet spot right? Just enough time to warm up my legs, not so long my brain can interfere! Over the years I’ve dropped my time, but a new PR is on my goal list and so today I bring you a stud of a runner, an amazing triathlete, mom, writer, person, Allie.
In a sport that is measured in milliseconds, 10 minutes is an eternity.
Most runners only see such huge time improvements when they first begin running and racing, since their mind and body are still trying to figure it all out.
I’m here to tell you how, at 39 years old, and after more then a decade of running and racing, I cut my half marathon PR (personal record) from 1:38 to 1:28. It can be done at any age and at any time during your running life.
And before we go any farther, just know that a good half marathon time is personal! It’s about your training, your body, your life and what progress looks like in your running.Whether you are trying to break the Sub Two Hour half marathon or crank it down to 1:28, here is everything you need to know to run a faster half marathon.
1. Know it will be hard.
I want you to really read that and understand it.
Setting a goal as big as subtracting 10 minutes off your overall half marathon time will at first, make you feel like a badass and can scare you in the best way possible. By the middle of training, those “good” scary feelings may be replaced with just plain scared, tired, doubtful and can have you on the verge of quitting.
You will be doing more speed work and more mileage than you have in the past to achieve your lofty goal, and every fiber of your being will feel it. You will also be adding in more strength training, foam rolling and stretching to ensure you have almost no free time whatsoever.
If this still sounds like something you want to tackle, you are my kind of people, so read on.
Takeaway: Be sure of how badly you want to achieve this goal and then remind yourself every single day.
2. Get Outside Help
If you dare to dream this big, you may want to consider hiring a coach. I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this post you already know a good one.
When I was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon way back in 2006, and had to take a whopping 20 minutes off of my time, I hired a coach for the first time. The result? A 3:30 marathon PR and 10 minutes to spare for my BQ.
Of course there are countless ways to get information and training plans without paying for a coach, just be careful of why you choose a certain plan, and also that it fits into your lifestyle as well as aligns with your ultimate goal. And once you’ve picked a plan, stick to it! Hoping around from idea to idea, won’t get you results.
Takeaway: With a goal this big, consider hiring a coach to keep you on track and injury free.Can you really take 10 minutes off your half marathon time? YES!! Checkout these tips from @vitatrain4life @runtothefinish Click To Tweet
3. Be Smart Enough to Slow Down
This may be the hardest lesson I’ve learned. I used to be of the mindset that harder, faster, longer would equal better. I was astonishingly wrong. Elite runners often talk about having the confidence to run slowly on your easy days, and that is truly what it comes down to.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Your body needs to run both at top speed and very slowly to achieve your desired pace for race day.
If you don’t run your easy days as easy as possible, your body will not be able to recover as it should, and that can lead to the most dreaded of all outcomes: injury. If you want to know how to run faster and longer, a big part of it is slowing down. Counter intuitive initially, but not long term.
Takeaway: Run your easy days easy. My half-marathon pace is 6:43 and I run my easy days between 8:30 and 9:00.
4. Listen to Your Body Signals
There is a fine line between fatigue and injury and you need to know the difference. Just like having the confidence to run slower on your easy days, have the assurance in your training to take some unscheduled rest days or even time off if you feel an injury coming on.
At first I was scared that the miles on the elliptical and in the pool would not translate to real running miles. But, I trusted my coach; I worked hard, let my body heal and then, this past spring, ran a 3:28 marathon PR and won my age group.
Sometimes rest is the best training you can give your body. Learn how to maximize your training without running yourself in to the ground.
Takeaway: You don’t always have to run on the road or treadmill to reap the same benefits of running. If you have a manageable injury, rehab it on the elliptical and/or in the water for as long as it takes.
5. Surround Yourself with Support
While half marathon training may not be as time intensive as marathon training, when you’re working hard to hit all your long runs, speed workouts and all those recovery sessions it can mentally add up.
There will be days when your entire body is just saying “no.”
There will be days when your mind is saying “I can’t”.
It’s key to surround yourself with people who understand why this goal is so important to you and who will help you achieve it, no matter what.
A friend who is training for her first New York City marathon recently wrote about a really horrible long run. She was close to being finished but felt she couldn’t run another step. She called her husband and said she was done and to please come and get her. He said no. He knew she wasn’t in danger and also knew what she needed to hear. She finished the run and was so grateful he gave her the pep talk she needed to finish strong.
Takeaway: Know who you can turn to for motivation and support when the going gets tough.
6. Be Prepared to Change
Running has this fantastically magical way of changing your entire life for the better.
Somewhere in all those miles and in all of that sweat comes a change. It may start slowly at first but everything from your friends to your wardrobe will morph into something better and different from when you started out.
If you could see the intangibles like spirit, determination, confidence and resolve, running “before” and “after” pictures would be more mind blowing then any body transformation.
Takeaway: Get ready for big changes in every aspect of your life. That’s what achieving a big racing goal can do for you.
7. Fix Your Mental Blocks
When I first set my sights on breaking the 1:30 mark in the half marathon, I had plenty of people ready to see me fail. A so-called friend, when I told her the 6:45ish pace I would need to hold to attain it, pretty much laughed at me. It only fueled my fire.
As hard as it can be, if you put in the work, you have to block out what everyone else around you has to say about your goal. Especially if you write and/or read a lot of running blogs you can fall into the comparison trap. Stay focused on your goal and your training. Forget the rest and get past your own internal negative thoughts!
Takeaway: On race day you need to have nothing but confidence. Remind yourself of all the hard work you put in to make it to the start line and then let nothing stop you from achieving your goal.Once I crossed the finish in 1:29 in 2013 I wasn’t sure I could ever do it again. And then I crossed in 1:28 in 2014.
The great thing about achieving a big bad scary goal is the confidence you gain to do it again and again, and in every aspect of your life, not just running.Dream big. Achieve. Repeat.
Allie is happiest when sweating or writing. She is a competitive athlete on Oiselle Team Voleé and has represented Team USA in duathlon competition.
When she’s not running, swimming or biking she’s writing her health and fitness blog VITA – Train for Life. Allie lives in the Northeast with her husband and twin boys, desperately trying to make gentlemen out of them all!
What’s your current race goal?
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