Half marathon - train over 13 miles ?

Hi,, I'm training for a half , my first,  and I see in some schedules that long runs up to 16 miles are advocated, why is this?

if training for a marathon I understood that up to maybe 22miles are done in training.

i thought my longest training runs would be 11or 12miles.

im 54 years old and looking to do sub 1:30.



  • Depends on the runner and the plan, I think. If I'm running less than 30 miles a week, a 16-mile long run wouldn't be great as it's not a good idea to whack out over half your weekly mileage in one go. On the other hand, if I'm running 45 miles a week and already doing long runs of 12 or 13 miles, I'm more likely to benefit from a couple of 14 and 16 mile runs in my plan. What's your current running background and what made you choose sub 1:30 as your goal?

    As for marathon training, there's some debate about the point at which adding extra miles to the long run stops being beneficial, but that point probably hasn't been reached at HM distance. Plus 22 milers are more knackering and just take longer.

  • Recovery from a long slow run (LSR) of 16 miles is a different kettle of fish compared to 26+miles. Following a 16 mile LSR, I will be ready to do my next trainig session the day after. If I did 26+ physically it is very demanding, will wipe out your glycogen, and will then have a big impact on your training in the following days. It is a lot of impact miles to take on

    16 miles tends to feature in more advanced /ambitious training schedules. They really help to develop endurance. This may be too much for some new to the HM distance - if they can do 11 in training there is little doubt 13.1 on race day will be a problem. Its just that their endurance wont be as developed.

    Better to undertrain a little than overtrain and be injured on race day.

     Edit: X-post with Lit - she beat me to it again

  • Also-ran wrote (see)

     Edit: X-post with Lit - she beat me to it again

    It's like you're following me... image

  • Harp

    I agree with what the others have said, but there is something that surprises me in your opening gambit. You say you are 54 years old and are aiming to do your first half marathon in 1:30, yet you clearly come across as being new to the planned training regimes.

    Either you are a lot fitter than the majority, or you've got some sums wrong. I'd love you to prove me to be a wild assed guess monkey. Most people here find a 1:30 half marathon to be a significant achievement, having taken a couple of years of training to get in the ball park. More if you are our age. It represents something like the top 5-10% of entrants.

    (Wilmslow HM: top 7% af all entrants, they must be whippets up there)
    (Windsor HM: top 2.4% of all entrants, also 4th place in age 50 category, out of 282)
    (Ah no, I remember now, Windsor has some rolling countryside)

    If you achieve it, do come back and tell us the secret.

    Personally, when training for my first HM, at the age of 40, I did an 8 week programme but saved going the full 13.1 until the day, just to make it special. I did 1:58. I think that it took me 2 or 3 years to get a sub 1:30, and several attempts as well.
    Pushing at a hard pace during the race, you want to be sure aren't going to fade in the last mile or two. Yes I'd go over distance for HM training now, but it's not necessary for the first one, especially if your aim is to just cover the distance. If the aim is to blast it, you'll be needing lots of mileage and some savage speed work too, speed endurance, but most of all, a massive aerobic base from which to develop it all. As we age we also break more easily, and I'd be negligent if I suggested a high mileage or high speedwork focussed programme to anyone looking at their first HM and they are over 40. (From a sample size of n=1)


  • For my first HM I'd done 12 miles... and 13.1 was a long way.

    For my 3rd I'd done loads of 16/17/18 mile runs (part of marathon training) and 13.1 was a "short run".  It helped no end psychologically and I could push more in the race.  Knocked 20 mins off my PB from the first 2 years.

  • Harp If anyone is going to give you some realistic advice then we need to know a bit more background such as previous experience and when your planned HM is. Sub 1:30 as a debut does seem a bit ambitious but may be doable. I went from 1:35ish to sub 1:30 in 18 months on around 30 to 40 mpw.

  • If you go sub-1.30, I'd love to know how you did it !

    I'm the same age as you (54) and I really struggle to break 1.40 nowadays, despite regularly finishing between 1.25 and 1.30 in my early/mid  '40's.

    As it's your first Half, you should just "give it a go" and see what time you finish in. You can then set a realistic target for your next Half, without any preconceptions that may just lead to disappointment.

  • Thanks for all of the replies and advice, you are making me think that I have set myself too high a target, and maybe I have , but it will make me train harder.

    my background is running at lunchtime at work, I have maybe done 3 or 4 10ks but that was probably 20 years ago. I try and do 6miles each lunchtime 5days a week, I also cycle to and from work which is a round trip of 23 miles, so I have a bit of endurance, but it is speed I need.

    over the last 5 weeks I've picked the running miles up to about 40 a week an did my first interval session this week. Just ordered a garmin GPS watch so will be able to gauge how well I am doing from next week

    Thanks again for the comments and advice, will get some times for 6 and 10 mile sessions.

    it is the Glasgow half I'm going todo 6th October.



  • I remember changing my training patterns so I focused on 10kms, meaning going out for 10k daily and hammering it. After a few weeks that all fell into place. Then I did a HM. The first 10k was really easy 45 minutes. After 10 miles the wheels came off the wagon.

    It is going to be exactly the same next week for me. I think I'm a marathon runner, but I've not been doing enough. Shit hitting fan will be the order of the day.

  • Well, my training week has gone as follows ........

    Mon .... 6 miles rolling at brisk pace

    Tue .... 6.5 miles rolling at easy pace

    Wed .... 5.5 miles, 2 warm up , 3.5 intervals. and recoveries.

    Thurs .... 4 miles very easy

    Fri .... 8 miles steady

    Sat ..... 5 miles steady

    Sun .... 1.5 mile warm up, 11 miles at 6:43 pace .... This was on a running machine so I don't know how this pace would actually equate to the road.

    All in all a good training week of approx 47 miles, tomorrow is a rest day with hill sessions planned for Tuesday.

  • If you can do 11 miles at that pace in training you should be well under 1.30.

    Are you doing all of your long runs at "race pace"?
  • DT19DT19 ✭✭✭

    well 6.43 pace would give you a 1.28.05 ish, so you have some leeway. I never used to train beyond 12 miles and really found the last 3 miles of a half I was hanging on and gritting my teeth. I now train to 15 miles and find I don't have that pain. Instead of experiencing a drop off in pace in last 3 miles, they are now often my quickest.

  • Your week looks good but try swaping Wednesdays and Fridays sessions and resting Saturdays. For Sundays LSR try 10 miles easy followed by 5 miles at target HMP.

  • It's beginning to sound like I'm a wild assed guess monkey again.

  • I try and do my long runs at a pace I can maintain , so I suppose that is the fastest I can do on the day.

    i think I'll try and get longer runs in but will have to see how my knee holds up as it likes to complain if I use it too much.

    im now confident that I can do the hm but I knw it is different to running on the road compared to a machine so I'm still not sure of the pace I can manage on the road for 10 plus miles. When I try out my garmin forerunner10 next week that may be an eye opener for me.image.

    i will try next weeks long run at LSD pace and inject a bit of pace to finish it off up to maybe 13 or so

    i must admit I'm quite enjoying this competitive running rather than just running to keep the belly in shape !!

  • Harp wrote (see)

    11 miles at 6:43 pace .... This was on a running machine

    As far as I can see, this is the only quantitative indication of pace given so far in this thread. If correct then sub 90mins HM looks like a reasonable goal. However I fear that either
    (a) you are mistaking min/km pace for min/mile pace on the treadmill display;
    (b) the treadmill is wildly inaccurate;

    ...hopefully neither are the case though and the Garmin provides the reassurance that you are on course.

    For what it's worth, I did my first ever HM in 1:28:42 off of typically 30mile weeks with a handful of 13-14 mile long runs in 40mile weeks, so it is possible. However I had the relative advantage of being 'only' in my early thirties, and had spent several months getting down to sub-19 5K and sub-40 10K so I had some verifiable race times to suggest that a 1:30 HM was a reasonable goal.

    Others have already explained the point regarding training over-distance for HM but under-distance for a Marathon. I had covered the distance in training a few times and still ended up with a dodgy knee and dodgy ankle by the end of the race; being undertrained for that combination of pace+distance more than likely contributed to injury.

    Whether you hit your time goal or not, the main thing is that you are healthy and enjoying it!

  • My week so far is as below , today's 11 miler has made me realise that I have some serious work to do to beat the 1:30 HM ........

    Mon Rest

    Tue 5.7 miles stready with couple of intervals

    Wed 1m warm up , 6 x 0.5m efforts at 5:55 pace ave , 1 m warm down - 8 miles

    Thurs 6 miles easy - 7:15 pace

    Fri 11 miles at 6:57 pace, 1 mile warm down, this was about all I could manage.

    Sat proposed easy 5

    Sun proposed 6 ish with 400m efforts        

  • Harp

    it seems like you are running things a bit too hard. 7:15m/m as an easy pace for someone targeting 6:50m/m seems way to quick, and you are racing your long run.

    Have a look at Mcmillan Running Calculator for some suggested paces so that you start to run at the right sort of intensity

  • Hi Harp,

    only you know how you feel at those paces, but if it was me I'd want to slow quite a lot of those runs down - I can run a sub-1:30 half but would run 'easy' miles including my long runs at about 8:00 pace, not 7:15. For example, I could do your Thursday run and it might feel fine, but I'd probably be less fresh for my actual quality sessions. Also if I tried to run 11 miles at my target half marathon pace I'd be knackered too. I suppose this takes us back to your original question about the over-distance runs - I'll be running 14 miles on Sunday but I won't be doing it at race pace.

    Anyway, in brief, I don't think today's run means you've got 'serious work to do' if by that you mean trying to smash all your long runs even harder - I wouldn't expect to be able to run 11 miles at sub-1:30 pace by myself as a training run but I would expect to run sub 1:30 comfortably on race day.

  • Haha, cross post with Also-ran again but you got there first this time!

  • image

    I like the way we always say the same thing though. The winner is whoever manages to be less long-winded and get it in first!

  • Harp,

    I definitely agree regarding the easy runs, I am aiming for a 1:20 HM in a month or so and my easy runs are all in the 7:30-7:45 region, I would definitely feel like I am pushing it slightly at 7:15 or below.

    So as a guide my easy runs are about 90 seconds slower than my half marathon race pace.


  • Thanks guys , I appreciate your comments.

    I'm going take your advice and target two hard days next week, probably Tuesday and Thursday with a Wednesday easy run of say 7:45 pace and do my longer run at 8 pace.

    But if I'm to do my long runs at easy pace how do I know that I am getting faster and on target for sub 1:30 ? Should I be trying to do 6 or 7 miles in X time as a guide ?

  • You won't know - but you will know that you're not wasting all your training by exhausting yourself before race day!

    What's difficult is that we all have a good idea of what paces we need to train at because we've got previous race times to work from, whereas this is your first. Could you go and do a parkrun or something to get an 'official' time on a measured course in race conditions? If there is a nice flat one near you it could be a good guide.

  • DT19DT19 ✭✭✭

    Harp- Sorry, but 7.45 is still too fast as essentially a recovery run between two quality session. If I was doing quality runs on a tues and thurs I would want to maximise my performance in them. If I did anything on the wednesday it would be 4/5 miles at about 8.30 mm. Like the others, I am running comfortably sub 90 mins halfs and pushing towards 1.25.

  • Thanks , slower it is then for my recovery / easy runs.

    Just checked out Parkruns , going to Aberdeen this weekend ,there is one there tomorrow at 09:30 on the Esplanade , but maybe my legs will be goosed from today's effort .. or should I go for it anyway ?

  • Tomorrow probably wouldn't give you the best indicator of current level after today's efforts... maybe next week would be better? And I was going to say the same as DT19 about the easy pace. Of course it might turn out you're just naturally way faster than all of us and that really is easy for you, but probably best to err on the side of caution (and injury prevention) for now.

  • I agree with what literatin has said regarding easy pace and using other race/parkrun times for reference.

    Either you're running your 'easy' training runs too hard for the level you're at (and you'll end up exhausted by race day), or your HM goal is too easy for the level you're at and you're already capable of significantly faster than a 90min HM. Unfortunately there is little way of knowing which is true without any recent race effort times to guage it against.

    To back up what literatin said, I am comfortably under 90 minutes on a HM road race, but my 'easy' runs are at around 7:45 to 8:00 min/mile pace.

    The only time I do any training further than a parkrun whilst maintaining 7:15 pace, would be the occasional 10 mile marathon-pace session during marathon training, and that is probably the hardest continuous pace run all year outside of a paid race entry. That feels far from easy now and if I'd tried to do that back when I was training for my first HM then I would have suffered for days. Intervals and hill reps may be faster and harder but they include recoveries.

  • Did the park run this morning, legs were kinda  tired from yesterday's 12 but managed about 19:20 ish , don't have the exact time as i stopped my watch a few seconds over the line at 19:29. Was tough return leg into s stiff breeze and I slowed up but still hung on for 14th place.

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