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?