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Training for a Half Marathon PR

If you want to run a faster HM you need to train your endurance, lactate threshold, VO2max, and neuromuscular power – in the right amounts, at the right time. In my opinion, the optimal training progression is Renato Canova's funnel periodization. (See graphic below.)
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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 rationale: 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 (HM):

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 (HM):

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 (HM):

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, NSCA-Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and coach to competitive runners. I'm an advocate of Renato Canova's funnel periodization, which builds a base of speed and endurance first before transitioning to race-specific abilities.
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.

"Funnel periodization - the preferred method of elite level athletes and coaches."

Develop your general/high-end endurance
Elevate your lactate threshold/tolerance
Boost your aerobic capacity (VO2max)
Increase your neuromuscular power

HM Beginner

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)