Dropping 9 minutes from my Half Marathon Time

From September until January, I’ve managed to drop about 9 minutes from my half marathon time.  I’ve run five half marathons and progressed in each.  Training has had highs and lows, but every training plan and training cycle does.

September: RnR Virginia Beach (1:31.48)
October 17: Runners World Half (1:28.13)
October 31: RnR Philadelphia half (1:25.45)
November 17: Philadelphia half (1:25.00)
January 17: Carlsbad half (1:22.57)

Before recently my half marathon PR was a 1:23.23 (from April 2014). It was on an easy course on a beautiful day.  The April Fools half in 2014 was a race everything clicked.  After that race, I never had one that came close.  I was injured, focused on a full marathon and by the time I knew it, it was over a year later.

After beginning to train this previous May, I started to build my base.  I was coming off of an injury as well as hadn’t run a lot.  It wasn’t smart for me to add speed, mileage and race a half.

From May until July, I added mileage and raced once a week.  I saw slow progression in races but not a lot of racing progress, I was running between 20-20:30, 5ks.  I raced most weekends and kept my mileage between 55-65.  I saw improvements, but it wasn’t as fast as I would have liked.

In July, I began adding one-speed workout weekly. A couple of my favorite workouts include:
4×1 mile repeats with 90 seconds rest
12X400s with 1-minute rest

In September, I raced my first half marathon in over a year.  I had run two since but both were done as an enjoyable training run.  Running in Virginia around Labor Day, is hot, and this was no exception.  Since it was my first half marathon I raced healthy in 18 months; I had no idea what to expect.  I ran a 1:31.48 which I was happy with.  It was a solid gauge for my fitness.

RnR Virginia Beach

In October, I ran the Runners World Half Marathon.  I was an invited blogger to the race series, and I ran both the 5k and 13.1.  While there was a trail race and 10k, I was not comfortable racing all of them because I’m so injury prone, and it was too much for me personally.  After running my first sub 19 5k in a while, I ran the half in 1:28.13.  It was about a 3-minute improvement, but the course was difficult, and I had raced the day before.  I knew I had room to improve.

Runners World Half

Three weeks later, I ran RnR Philadelphia.  Unfortunately, I was becoming sick with a reaction from an antibiotic.  (I’ve never had issues with antibiotics until then).  It was a reaction that took it’s toll on me for about two months. 

The race course and weather were perfect, and you could not have asked for a better day.  I ran a 1:25.45 which was a 3-minute improvement. In fact, the conditions were so optimal over 40 athletes qualified for the Olympic Trials that day!  At the time, I had no idea what was going on, but I felt my stomach the entire time.  I knew I could run faster when I felt better.

RnR Philadelphia
RnR Philadelphia
As November continued, I also ran the Philadelphia Half Marathon.  Despite the race also being in Philadelphia, it was on a much harder course on a much more difficult day.  It was windy, cold and the elevation was challenging.  I took the race out too fast and paid the price but still improved by about 45 seconds.  I ran 45 seconds faster on a much harder course after taking the race out too fast.  My stomach issues were also still lingering.

me running philadelphia

After Philadelphia, I continued with speed workouts and races.  Between October and December, I raced almost every weekend.  The races weren’t meant to be PRs, and I knew that they were however, great speed workouts.  I had some awful races, some good races and I slowly began inching towards my 5k PR.  While I wasn’t Pring, I was getting quality workouts and races.  It built my speed and endurance.  It took me a long time to lose speed, and it wasn’t going to come overnight.

On January 1st, I surprised myself with a 5k Pr of 18:22.  Not only was it a PR but it was 13 seconds faster than my Pr over two years ago.  It was also 25 seconds faster than my recent previous 5k.  It showed me my fitness was where I was hoping and gave my confidence for the Carlsbad half.  I also ran it in a dress.

Thank you Ally for this photo
Thank you, Ally, for this photo
Finally, I ran the Carlsbad half on January 17th and ran a 1:22.57.  The course was much hillier than anticipated.   It was no means a perfect day, but I felt good and ran 2 minutes faster than Philadelphia and almost 30 seconds faster than my PR in April 2014.  It wasn’t perfect conditions, and I do believe I have a faster half on flat terrain.

So what can I relate my progress in the half from?

  1. Consistently running and consistently racing. When I first started running races every weekend, I never expected to PR or be close to my PR.  It was a way to run speed work as well as see my friends and local runners.  Consistently racing for six months was consistently having speed work.
  2. Patience: Patience is a virtue I don’t have. Every high had a low, and I knew if I consistently trained, I would indeed PR eventually.  It was something I reminded myself often when I had a bad race.
  3. Fewer miles and more speed. There was no need to do 20 mile long runs; I’m not training for a marathon or longer race.  I ran a few 15-mile training runs, but I didn’t run more than 12 most of the time.

What is next?
I don’t know!  I’m going to wait until February (and the winter) is over to decide what to train for.  I do believe I have a faster half marathon right now (but don’t we all?).

Questions for you:
When was your last PR?
What is your favorite speed work?



  1. Fantastic work Hollie! I love that you raced so often. I would do the same thing if I could. 9 minutes is huge in the half. Congrats on that amazing progress.

  2. This is super encouraging to see the pay off of consistency and pushing through the “lows”. You’re awesome and I’m so proud of you! 🙂 You’ve been working hard (and smart) so I’m happy to see you reap some rewards, you deserve it!

    1. Your comment made me smile and I’m glad to see you coming back strong. I can’t wait to see the progress you make L!

  3. Congrats on your half PR… means a lot being in another area (strange course, different foods, strange bed the night before) too.

    My favorite speedwork is probably 400m repeats (usually 12), and 5K race-outs (i.e., race as a workout). Like you I love to run local races. I love running for a cause, whether that cause is a charity, or cause I like medals, or cause I like the shirt, or cause I like free beer ;). I realize I can’t just keep consistently PRing each week so I pick the races and run them as workouts. I love how you race a lot too and think it benefits your training; I would be nervous do run a half if I hadn’t raced any in the training cycle to do little experiments like what to wear, what to eat, etc.

  4. You are such an inspiration! What a huge PR.

    My latest PR was in December as well. It is always so much fun to watch gains in fitness!

  5. Consistency is the key and you show it here!! Congrats on all your hard work and results!! I love running the track! I honestly was scared of speed work until about 5 years ago…now it’s my favorite!

    1. I think so many people fear speed work. I won’t lie, I always get nervous the morning before but I power through and it always feels so much better when it’s done!

  6. you are so fast already 9 minutes is such a big deal! congrats! Injury and stomach issues aside you made some great strides. My last PR was my new years eve half which I ran 10 minutes faster than my last half marathon time and I wasnt even racing it. super excited to see where my fitness is at for my race next month.

  7. Such a great progression. During fall I started racing shorter race 5K – 10K and saw my times drop. I think if you are a bit competitive in a race environment it really helps get in a good workout. I have a very old half PR – November 2012. After Pr’ing every distance below that this past fall I am looking to drop it this year.

  8. Patience is not my virtue either–ha! But I remind myself it’s a process, and I’m in it for the long haul. Big things are in store for you this year!

  9. First off, you are seriously so fast! These are great tips. I’m itching to cut down my half marathon PR, which I’ve had since April 2015. I’m running a half in March, and after taking time off from my July marathon I really want to focus on the half again and race it more!

  10. I loved reading this! Congrats on all your progress. My last PRs were in April in the 5k and half. I’m hoping to do more local 5ks this year because like you said, racing consistently is a good way to improve.

    1. I agree Amanda, I think racing is such a fun way to get some speed work in without it feeling like a struggle!

  11. Very well done on the times, awesome job.
    Your gonna be great come this spring.
    My last Pr was in May at a 5k it was 18:41.
    As for speed work out I like doing 8×200
    And tempo run.Though I’d like to try mile repeat.doing 400 is good for me too,,this winter been hectic with the cold and snow..
    Good job hollie.
    Happy running

  12. Really interesting post, and it’s great that you have shared how you made all your progress. I’ve started using a 5K race as a speed workout every Saturday. It’s a great way of pushing yourself, as I would never run that fast on my own.

    Well done on those amazing times. I can only dream of times like that at the minute 🙂

  13. Your progress is incredibly inspiring! I definitely want to do more speed work because I’m craving a half PR. Need to continue to ease back into it post-injury.

  14. This was SO HELPFUL to me, thank you for posting it! I bookmarked it so that I can come back to those two speed workouts you did. I can’t race as much as you do but that doesn’t mean I can’t do speed work on my own.

  15. WOW Hollie! I feel like I use that word here a lot but it’s really the only way to describe your determination, training discipline and speed!! You are super motivating and I love that you just keep improving in every possible way!!
    Glad you were able to finally make it home with no issues. Welcome back!

  16. So awesome and inspiring! I really love that your 5k PR was done in a dress, such a great fun fact. I’m trying to work more races into my training this year and it’s definitely out of my comfort zone(especially shorter distances). After racing on Sunday I realized that my mental game is really not where it needs to be for Boston in a few months. Any tips?

  17. Congrats times a million! Been meaning to read this and finally got to it this morning! The half marathon is SOOOO your jam. You are having a great year so far and you’ve put in the time coming back from injury and training hard to achieve this time!! I was looking at your splits from the race thinking, HOLY CRAP that’s fast. You rock sister!

Comments are closed.