A question re half marathon training (looking for some advice)

OK folks, am training for my first half marathon (Great North Run) next month and am trying to mix long runs (1 per week 8-12 miles) and shorter, quicker runs.

Aiming to run the race in under 2 hours (hence 9 minute mile pace) but under 1.55 would be even better. On my shorter runs I am aiming to run about  8 minute pace but after doing a half distance run at just under this pace I found myself knackered on my long run (12 miles) the following day. Should I be taking a rest day between runs always or was the first faster run simply too hard for a training run (I rran it about as quick as is humanly possible for me at the moment) ?

Also is the policy of one long run and a couple of 4-6 milers a good one in general for me?
And finally, a mate of mine said I shouldn't do much training in the final 2 weeks before the race to freshen up for the race. Good advice?

Thanks for all help, much appreciated




  • MTV,
    Are you using a training plan from somewhere or have you put a plan together yourself? If the former then it should give you an idea of how hard you should be training.

    I'd be tempted to run at an easy pace the day prior to your long run so that you've recovered as much as possible from your last hard session, for me 6 miles at 8 minute pace would be an extremely hard session, from what you said it sounds like this might have been a hard session for you too.

    The plan I'm using at the moment has a long run and 3 shorter (about 4 mile) runs a week. How often and how far you run is going to be down to you but I'd suggest that you need to ensure that you're recovering enough after a session so that you make the most of the next one.

    Your mate is right about the last 2 weeks before the race, a lot of plans reduce the amount your running in the last week or two before you race so that you can recover from the training and be in the best condition possible. You might just need to taper for one week, do your last long run the week before the race and then reduce your mileage for the last week and certainly as you get closer to race day.

    Hope that helps.

  • Hi JvR, thanks for replying.

    I don't have a training plan as such, have just been using what I have picked up from other people I know who run regularly and been told I should do one long run and a couple of shorter ones.

    The 6.5 miler was a hard session (I aimed for 52 minutes just to see if I could do it - clocked 51.33 but I felt totally ironed after it and maybe it wasn't the best idea in hindsight. I think 3 runs a week would suit me better than 4 so if I make the shorter runs more like 5 miles that would help to compensate hopefully?

    I will schedule my final long run for the Sunday before the GNR to give me a full week to recover and will not try and run it at race pace. Originally I had planned to do a 12-13 miler the week before and really push myself but I think instead I will listen to those who know what they are doing and make it an 8-miler or so and run it slower than race pace. I was initially worried about losing stamina by easing off the last 2 weeks but having tried to run with tired legs I now know that doesn't work for me!


  • Snap!Snap! ✭✭✭
    I'm always fastest after a week's rest.
  • Is that a full rest, or just a couple of light runs, Snap?


  • Hi MTViking, I did my first HM last June and had all these questions too. I'm obvs no expert but your training plan sounds pretty good to me, one long run and 2 - 3 shorter runs.

    It sounds like your pace might be too fast though, esp on your long run? Use the RW pace calculator to see what your training paces should be. You might be surprised like I was. All my training was too fast!

    For my next HM I'm really dropping the long run pace (feels lazy and silly at first but it's sustainable even up to 12 miles and I'm not getting so knackered and no ITB problems so far, yey). Long runs are about getting miles in your legs NOT speed. You can throw in a few fast spurts at the end if you feel like it - these are supposed to help with endurance and fatigue, but after 10 miles I don't bother! Have a day off after your long run.

    I'm doing a 3 mile tempo run midweek (just below the "OMG I can't keep this up for 3 miles" pace). These are supposed to get you faster on race day. I also do a 30-min hilly run, some hill repeats or intervals. These speed/hill runs tend to knacker me so I always have a day off after. I would never do a speed session and a long run on consecutive days. 

    My other run is a 5-6 mile easy run. No speeding, no racing, no nothing. 70% HR kind of thing.

    I got a few knee problems in my last training for a HM, so I dropped to 3 runs a week (drop one of the speed sessions) in the last month. My longest run was a couple of 10 milers - not really enough but I got round the HM ok. I was also totally knackered all the time during trtaining, so I've tried to sort my nutrition out properly this time. In your last week before the HM I would do a couple of short easy runs, nothing for the last 3 days. Your legs will be champing at the bit! Good luck. 

  • Cheers Ros, that is very informative and helpful. I suspect I am training too fast. I think I have it in my head that it is a good thing to do this because I am improving my fitness more quickly than if I eased the pace back but on the other hand I don't want to risk getting injured.

    Over next couple of weeks I will look at doing a Sunday run which will be my long run, a 10 milers this week and a 13-14 miler (to build up stamina) the week after, a quick run (I have a largely flat 4-mile canal run that I can guarantee few interruptions) and an easy run. This is the one I find it hard to get my head round, I have it at the back of my mind that I have to finish tired on I haven't trained properly so I tend not to do any run short of 8 miles where I don't push myself against the clock. But everyone says I will benefit from taking in some easier runs so I will try it!

    Been lucky with injury so far but felt a few twinges when I ran down a steep cobbled hill on a recent run, so won't be doing that again.


  • Snap! wrote (see)
    I'm always fastest after a week's rest.

    Me to!

  • How often and how far you run is going to be down to you but I'd suggest that you need to ensure that you're recovering enough after a session so that you make the most of the next one.



  • Sounds good. I think we are like-minded impatient people and like to actually see results asap! I'm beginning to think finishing just short of tired on long/easy runs is more sustainable. Most injuries come from over-training in general, (as well as steep cobbled downhills!) so deffo ease up on the pace. Also they say not to increase weekly mileage by more than 10% week to week. Too big a step up and you're prone to problems. I missed a week's training last HM and tried to catch up all at once going from 15 to 18 miles in a week - Hello ITB pain! image

    Apparently you are getting fitter on the easy/slow runs, just in ways that you can't really see. Not your lungs/VO2 but your ligaments, joints and muscles are slowly building making you a better, more efficient runner, not to mention your mental stamina. I find listening to music/podcasts helps me slow down on long runs, otherwise I get bored and leg it back home too fast! Look at other runners too, you might see a lot going fast but many will be doing a good old plod and you'll know they're on their easy sessions, not just lazy ********s! 

    I got 2h22 on my first HM but didn't go all out for a time, just to finish, as it was my first there are so many unknowns. In Oct I'm hoping for 2h10 or less. Feeling my way really. I hope someone with 20 years experience can add to the advice on this thread for both of our sakes! Good luck!

  • Hi MTViking, 

    I am also currently training for a half marathon at the moment and the process I'm using is gradually building myself up so I started on 4 2 mile runs a week for 2 weeks then moved up to 4-6 mile runs 3 times per week and then onto 7-9 mile runs. So just steadily increasing the distance making it easier on the legs. With a month to go I would just focus on endurance so between 5-7 mile run at a steady pace for the first 2 weeks and then see if you can go further before the race. As the above comment says don't overdue it because that will increase the risk of you injuring yourself.

    Hope this helps



  • Hi MTViking,

    I've got my 5th half marathon coming up and I also use the 1 long run a week strategy. 

    What works for me is 4 runs a week incl. 1 long run 8/9+ miles following a full rest day and the others I split between 5 & 10K's at a good to sligtly above my intended race pace and short, sharp interval sprint sessions as I find this helps with my overall speed and pushes the fitness levels nice and high. 

    It might not be for everyone but mixing it up is the best way in my eyes.

  • Thanks for all the advice, have tried to incorporate bits and bobs of it in varying my runs.

    My schedule for this week is longish run yesterday (8 miles at average 8.30-8.40 pace) - completed

    Today - shorter run at varied pace (would normally be a Tuesday or Wednesday run but have a busy schedule away from running this weekend). Completed as below

    approx 1mile jog

    1 mile at 8.00 (largely downhill)

    2 miles at approx 9 (comfortable pace)

    1 mile at 7.45ish (pushing myself, an effort mile)

    1 mile at 9.35 (mostly uphill)

    just under a mile at 8.30ish to finish

    Friday I will do a 6-miler at approx 9-minute pace, as I have a mate who wants me to pace him to break 55 mins for his 6-mile course.

    Sunday long run - looking at 12/13 miles

    Following week similar, then taper off next 2 weeks.

    What do you reckon?


  • I think you are being far to conservative on your target pace for the GNR. You have effectively been running a half marathon race every week. Most runners could just about run another half marathon at full race pace two weeks later.

    You're running 8 miles at 8:30? Most people would struggle to keep to their half marathon pace for 4 miles in training.

    You should easily hit your target on the GNR. Afterwards you should reassess your true half marathon pace by doing a few more halfs and work out a proper taylored structured plan.
  • It was closer to 8.40 than 8.30 (8.38 average to be precise) Tim, but I take your point.

    What I don't get is how if people don't find it hard to run their half marathon pace for 4 miles in training, how do they do it for 13 miles on the day? I struggle to see myself running vastly quicker than I do in training.

    I set my 2 hour target with no experience to call on as it seemed a good time to aim for, but maybe I should be looking to go quicker but I would be gutted if I didn't break two hours and maybe that is putting myself off trying to go much quicker and getting it wrong as a result.


  • All these thoughts are perfectly normal for your first half marathon. Setting an acheivable goal is a good thing. A worse thing to do waould be set off too fast and have to walk the last 5 miles or ride them in an ambulance image

    If you find you still have plently left in the tank at 9-10miles then step up the pace a bit.

    There are a whole host of reasons why you can run faster in a race. Crowd, adrenalin, other runners to pace against/beat. Be very careful not to get pulled along at the start. I've done a fair few halfs, but ended up doing my first mile in 8:00 at a recent one and was feeling great, it all went wrong at about mile 5 though.

    Don't rush to try to get a fast time in your first half. You can always do one a couple of weeks later if you think you finished with loads in the tank. 2 hours is a respectable time and will be a PB.

  • JoolskaJoolska ✭✭✭

    How fast you train does depend in part on your mileage (and thus recovery between sessions).  When I started out I did about 25mpw training for a half-marathon.  Most of it was probably about 8-8.15m/m which was then my race pace.  These days I generally peak at 60-70mpw for a marathon and race marathons at about 7m/m (and correspondingly faster for HM/10k/5k, etc); most of my training (80-90%) is 8m/m or slower.  If I'm only doing 40mpw I find the pace picks up a bit and my easy runs might come out around 7.45m/m. 

  • Tim, think not going too quick early will be my biggest challenge (that or the uphill stretch late on in the race) The first couple of miles are slightly downhill so if I go 8.20-8.30ish I won't be too concerned but I don't want to get dragged into going quicker than that. I get the impression that there will be plenty of people in my pen (Orange D) with quicker target times than me so I will just have to find my rhythm and check my garmin regularly! Am hoping the sheer number of runners won't make it too hard to find the correct race pace.

    Interesting Joolska, so maybe training around my race pace is OK when I am running 20-30 miles per week? I find that it the pace I naturually run at if I don't push myself to go quicker or concentrate on going slower.


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