Running a sub 2 hour half marathon is a very popular goal for both men and women. This goal is relatively attainable for most middle of the pack runners. However – that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
What is the sub 2 hour half marathon pace?
Running a sub 2 hour half marathon requires a pace of 9:09 per mile or faster. This 9 minute, 9 second per mile pace will help you clock in just under two hours.
In order to set themselves up for success on race day, most runners training to run a sub 2-hour half marathon plan to run at least a few seconds per mile faster than this pace. While planning for consistency is crucial, allowing time for water stops, hills, course congestion, and the unexpected is key to success.
Is 2 hours a good half marathon time?
The average half marathon finish time for all ages and genders is 2:10 – meaning that any runner who finishes a half marathon in less than two hours is finishing above average. According to Run Repeat, the average half marathon finish time for men is 1:59, and for women it’s 2:14.
However, it’s important to remember that these statistics factor in all runners – elites and professionals too – which significantly decrease the average finish time.
Most recreational runners consider a sub 2 hour half marathon to be a solid half marathon finish time. Completing a half marathon in two hours or less means that you are able to maintain at least a moderate pace over a significant distance – 13.1 miles. To just about every non-runner, this sounds impossible.
10 Tips to Run a Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon
Regardless of whether a sub 2 hour half marathon is within a few seconds of your current PR or will require years of training, with consistency and strategy, a two hour half marathon just might be attainable.
Here are a few strategies to help you conquer your sub 2 hour goal. Implementing these tips to your training and sticking with them will help you nail your PR and set new records.
Practice running race pace
Practice makes perfect… or at least makes race pace more comfortable. Be sure to include some race pace miles on a weekly basis – either in your long runs or mid-week easy runs. Start with just 1 mile at a 9:09 pace, and gradually work your way up to running 6 miles at race pace during a peak long run.
Incorporate faster intervals
In order to run a 9:09 pace with confidence and comfort on race day, your body will need to get used to running even faster. While race pace miles are important, intervals and speed workouts play just as crucial of a role in training. Add 400 and 800 meter repeats each week during your speed workouts – aiming for an 8:00 minute/mile pace for the 400 meters and 8:20 minute/mile pace for the 800 meter repeats.
Try some hill runs
It’s been said that hill training is speed work in disguise – and many runners swear that this is true. Whether you believe it or not, it is helpful to incorporate hill running in some capacity. Try heading to a nearby hill at least twice a month to run some repeats. The grade of the hill will help strengthen the glutes and other muscles that can really help increase your power on the run.
Focus on quality over quantity
When training for a specific goal (such as a sub 2 hour half marathon) it’s important to prioritize quality miles versus quantity. While it might be tempting to run as many miles as possible to get “as fit” as possible, it actually creates unnecessary risk for injury and overtraining, which in turn can slow you down.
Be sure that every run you complete has a purpose. Whether it’s intervals, a tempo run, recovery run or long run, it’s important to know the goal for every single run. Junk miles can quickly accumulate and add up, increasing fatigue and decreasing your potential during key workouts and long runs.
It’s important to prioritize recovery just as much as running when training for a sub 2 hour half marathon. Regardless of whether the goal is a far stretch or just within your reach, your body is preparing to accomplish something new. Take the time to include stretching, foam rolling, yoga, ice baths and other forms of recovery into your training. And most importantly – don’t skip your rest days.
Evaluate your running form
Many beginner runners assume that form is something that will come naturally with time; however, running form is usually a learned skill. Improper running form can not only slow you down, but increase your risk of injury and create extra resistance.
Prioritize long runs
When it comes to long distance running, such as half marathon or marathon training, long runs are key. They become even more important when training for a specific goal, such as running a sub 2 hour half marathon.
If all else fails, you need to prioritize long runs. Be sure that nothing gets in your way of completing these weekly long distance runs. Gradually increase your distance, include race pace miles consistently, and use this time to practice your fueling, mental and race day strategies.
Develop a mental strategy
Running a sub 2 hour half marathon is certainly a physical challenge – but it is just as much of a mental challenge. At some point on the course, your energy and willpower will likely fatigue. As you approach the “wall”, you’ll need to use some mental tricks to keep your body going. Try reciting a mantra, using positive self-talk, or reminding yourself of your “why”.
Create a pacing plan
In order to achieve a sub 2 hour half marathon, you’ll need to run a 9:09 min/mile pace or faster – no ifs, ands or buts. However, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to clock in at exactly 9:09 every single mile on the course.
Plan to run slightly faster that 9:09, even up to 10 – 20 seconds faster per mile. Aiming to run a little faster than the required pace will create a buffer in case your shoe comes untied, there is congestion at the start of the course, you stop for water, or anything else unpredicted occurs.
Anticipate the unexpected
Running in a new location with a large group of people is bound to create some unexpected obstacles. It is impossible to plan for everything, so in order to be prepared, you’ll need to plan for the unexpected. Anticipate things that could potentially go wrong on race day, and create a plan to conquer them. Plan for an emergency bathroom stop, a delay at the start, and a few water stops.
How to Train for a Sub Two Hour Half Marathon
Training for a sub 2 hour half marathon is no different than training for any other half marathon – with the exception of having targeted paces for your speed workouts and intervals.
In general, mileage can remain the same as any other half marathon training plan. However, intervals, tempo runs and race pace miles will be much more intentional and focused. Here are a few things to prioritize during sub 2 half marathon training that might differ from regular training plans.
Race pace miles
Include race pace miles during your weekly long runs. Begin with just 1 mile at race pace in the middle of a long run, and work your way up to 6 miles at race pace during a 12 – 14 mile long run. These race pace miles should be run at a pace of 9:09 min/mile.
Complete weekly speed workouts that include a variety of different intervals. 400 meter intervals should be run at a pace of about 8:00 min/mile, and 800 meter intervals should be run at a pace of about 8:20 min/mile.
Tempo run pace
Alternate tempo runs with interval runs on a weekly basis. During a tempo run, you’ll want to sustain a pace that is slightly faster than race pace throughout the run. These runs should be shorter in duration, working your way up in mileage throughout training. Aim for a tempo pace of about 8:30 – 9:00 min/mile.
Recovery and easy runs should be completed at a pace that is significantly slower than race pace. Many runners underestimate just how slow these miles should be and mistakenly run them too fast – never giving their body the opportunity to recovery. Aim for an easy pace between 10:30 – 11:15 min/mile.
Two weeks prior to race day, begin to reduce your mileage. Continue to keep the same speed and interval workouts, but reduce their length. The final speed workout should be no more than 50% of your usual mileage.
Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Training Plan
Download this free Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Training Plan to set yourself up to conquer your next PR! Incorporate the paces listed above for all of the speed workouts, and follow the mileage as instructed.
With a little consistency, grit and willpower, you’ll be crossing that finish line in less than 2 hours before you know it!