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The Anatomy of a Half Marathon Race

A half-marathon race is run at 50% of your maximal speed. That recruits 100% of your slow-twitch, 52% intermediate fast-twitch, and 2% super fast-twitch muscle fibers.
That requires 85% of your VO2max (maximal aerobic capacity) which is with 3.5mmol blood lactate/liter slightly below your lactate threshold.
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Training for a Half Marathon Race

In my opinion, the most suitable training periodization for competitive road runners is funnel periodization (see graphic above). Since its short cycles continually train (or at least maintain) the full spectrum of physiological skills, it allows for multiple peaks within one season and seamless transitions to different race distances. After all, racing multiple distances is the best strategy for long-term progress. Here’s my suggestion for plotting a half marathon PR with 12 weeks of training:

 

1. Foundation

This is the ‘base + speed phase’ which is characterized by extreme polarization. Here 90% of the training is carried out below your lactate threshold. On the other end of the intensity-spectrum are supramaximal efforts (above VO2max) to develop your maximal speed. Middle-intensities are left out. The reason being: Without a strong base of general endurance and maximal speed you won’t be able to maximize your VO2max and lactate threshold.


Suggested training modes (intensities):

General endurance = easy pace

Aerobic support = steady pace

Direct endurance support = marathon pace

General speed = 1500m – 400m pace

 

2. Pre-Competition

This is the ‘fitness phase’ with a strong focus on VO2max and lactate threshold. Here 85% of the weekly training mileage continues to be comprised of easy runs and increasingly longer long runs while the other 15% is made up of VO2max intervals and threshold runs. As a result, you’ll get noticeably faster across all your training runs. This is also a good time to throw in a tune-up race to acquire the necessary mental toughness.


Suggested training modes (intensities):

General endurance = easy pace

Direct speed support = 15K – 10K pace

Anaerobic support = 5K – 3K pace

 

3. Race-Specific

This is the ‘sharpening phase’ where your race-fitness is brought to a peak. Here 80% of your weekly mileage is run at an easy pace to buffer the rather demanding tempo and cruise interval efforts. These race-specific runs resemble the demands of the half marathon. 2 weeks out from your peak race the overall volume will be reduced to ensure fresh legs on race day. Since HM-pace is significantly slower than VO2max pace, 10K-paced efforts are maintained.


Suggested training modes (intensities):

General endurance = easy pace

Race-specific = half-marathon pace

Direct speed support = 15K – 10K pace

 

“Just because running is a simple activity doesn’t mean running training can be simplistic. The physiology that powers your running is incredibly complex. Therefore, improvements in athletic performance beyond the ordinary necessitate a science-based, experience-tested, 21st century training program.”

Hi! I'm Sandro Sket, a NSCA-Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and coach to competitive runners. Having studied the philosophies and methods of all the great coaches (past and present), I’m here to help you achieve faster race results with my 4SPEED™ Method.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCSs) are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance. They design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs.

HM Training Plans

Extraordinary half marathon race results are the outcome of comprehensive, systematic training. Run faster than you thought possible with the 4SPEED™ Method that maximizes your general endurance, lactate threshold, VO2max, and neuromuscular power through funnel periodization within 12 weeks.

Train more effectively (and efficiently!) to achieve new personal records.

Advance your general endurance
Elevate your lactate threshold/tolerance
Boost your aerobic capacity (VO2max)
Increase your neuromuscular power

HM Novice

12-week plan
3 running days/week
20 miles/week (32 km/week)

HM Intermediate

12-week plan
4 running days/week
30 miles/week (48 km/week)

HM Advanced

12-week plan
4 - 6 running days/week
45 miles/week (72 km/week)

HM Pre-Elite

12-week plan
5 - 7 running days/week
60 miles/week (96 km/week)
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