RADJournals: Alec Scheerer gives his training tips to set you up for a new half marathon PR
The half marathon distance is one that is very popular amongst distance runners of all levels whether you are just wanting to complete your first half marathon all the way to the elite level. I am here to talk about ways and key training sessions in order to improve your half marathon time to get to that next level you are aiming for.
First, a little about myself. I am a 1:10:25 half marathoner and 2:29:36 marathoner. I start in elite fields in major city half and full marathons with multiple top 10 and top 20 overall placements, but I didn't get there over night as it takes time, patience, and the right preparation in accomplishing those goals.
The biggest question in improving your half marathon time is "what are the key workouts and background you need?" There are 3 key major components that you'll need in order to keep improving your performance in the half marathon and those are lactate threshold, speed, and vo2max workouts. Lactate threshold is the pace you can sustain for about an hour. Your lactate threshold is the level at which the intensity of exercise causes lactate to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed, making it an effort between low and high intensity work. Training at this intensity teaches your body to be more efficient and is a key workout for half marathon training to get familiar with a pace slightly faster than half marathon pace. Vo2max is your maximum rate of oxygen consumption during incremental exercise. Speed is always important because it is the foundation in building your overall base.
Let's start off with speed, which is a very important foundation that anyone looking to improve their half marathon time must have. Having a good speed foundation is essential because it builds not only a high running cadence and better efficiency, but also allows you to cope with discomfort that much better and allows the body and mind to handle the longer slower paces even better. Some key training sessions to improve your overall speed foundation can be sessions such as reps of 400m (anywhere from 8-16 reps depending on experience) 200m jog recovery. Another great session to do can be reps of 200 and 300m repeats with about 200m jog recovery as well.
Next, lets talk about vo2max training sessions. The higher your vo2max, the more efficient and better performed you will be. There are 2 key training sessions that are vo2max focused. One is doing reps of 800m (4-10 repeats depending on experience) and 600m repeats (6-12 repeats depending on experience). The rest time in between should be individual, but figure something in the 400m range for the 800m reps and 1:30 or 2:00 minute rest time for the 600m reps.Lastly, we have the lactate threshold, which is your most important pace to train at. Since this is just slightly faster than your half marathon pace it is essential to train at this pace in lactate threshold sessions (train at your current fitness or goal race pace). There are a number of important sessions we can do to elevate your lactate threshold, but I like to focus on a few of the best ones. First is a straight lactate threshold tempo in which it should be anywhere from 20-30 minutes in length running at your pace. We can also make it a bit more complex and do what's called a lactate threshold wave tempo in which also lasts 20-30 minutes in duration, but this time you are alternating pace segments every half mile at a comfortably hard pace (think marathon pace) and mile repeat pace the next half mile and just alternating the paces in that same way each half mile. Lastly, we can do lactate threshold repeats which can be anywhere from 2-4 sets of 1.5-2 miles in length or 9-12 minutes in length with about 2-3 minutes jog recovery while still at your lactate threshold pace or slightly faster.
Start incorporating some workouts in your training, and you'll be ready to set a new PR at your next half marathon!