How to Run your Fastest Half Marathon

We all want to go faster. There’s something in our DNA that causes us to push our bodies to their limits. When we run a race and set one personal record (PR), we can’t help but try for another… and another… and another. The joy of simply finishing isn’t enough. Completing any race is a privilege, but there comes a time when you’ll want to set a stretch goal and work hard to nail it.

Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon

Yesterday was the Lake Minnetonka Half marathon. As part of the Minnesota Running Series, this is one of the premiere half marathons in the state. It’s a hilly, windy, challenging course that gives runners stunning views of Lake Minnetonka fron Wayzata to Commons Park in Excelsior. Nearly 2,500 runner lined up on a beautiful May day.

In January, I set my sights on running a 1:30 at this race. I ran 1:35:44 in 2012, and by October, ran a faster Monster Dash half at 1:34:06. 1:30 was going to be tough, but after a better training cycle, I hit 1:30:50 – a new PR.

How’d I do it? While I’m certainly not an expert, I’ve been getting coached by one (a friend and former professional runner). Looking back at this training cycle, I can point to three main things that contributed, and may help you run your fastest half marathon.

More Weekly Miles

Before this, I hadn’t run more then 35 weekly miles while training for a half. This time, my training topped out at 65. I built a much stronger base from which to launch my speed training from. The base phase is primarily focused on building your aerobic capacity. It’s slow and takes time. The process by which your muscles get oxygen from your blood is being upgraded. This is important if you want to go to that next level and get faster.

Higher Quality Speed Work

As part of the training, I was doing one workout per week. A workout was 1 – 2 miles of warmup and cool down, then typically 6 – 8 miles of speed. This involved some variation of tempo runs (6 miles @ 7:10 pace), intervals (3×1 mile at 6:30 pace), or progression runs (30 minutes at 9 min, 30 at 8, 30 at 7, 30 cool down). It will be different for everyone, but you need to spend more miles near your desired goal pace. This will help you convert all of those base miles into a much faster overall pace.

Train With A Group

I had the privilege of training with an amazing group of guys this cycle. We had different, yet complimenting goals. We ran together once or twice a week, and tracked all of our run stats in a shared Google spreadsheet (yes, we’re nerds). We also had a weekly conference call with our coach, which had the added benefit of hearing different training plans.

Running with a group is incredibly motivating. The accountability, friendly competition and desire to see each succeed is amazing. Yesterday, shortly before mile 12, as I was about ready to throw in the towel, one of the guys from the group popped out of the crowd and ran with me the final 1.5 miles.

Set Your PR

If you want to improve your PR, set a challenging goal. Build your base mileage, get quality speed work in and find other runners to motivate you. If you don’t know who to run with, drop us a line and we’ll try to get you connected with a group.

What’s your next speed goal?

Nathan Freeburg
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Nathan Freeburg

Editor in Chief at Minneapolis Running
Nathan started running when he was 14. 20+ years later, he's still going. When he's not running, he enjoys exploring the city with his son, finding new restaurants with his wife, traveling, or backpacking. He loves dark beer, dark chocolate and dark coffee.

Nathan currently lives in Portland, but works in Minneapolis and runs wherever he is. Favorite Minnesota running route is anything that takes him along the Mississippi River.
Race Results.

Nathan's day job is as a senior consultant with Leadership Vision Consulting in Downtown Minneapolis.
Nathan Freeburg
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