Saturday, February 6, 2010

Half Marathon Strategy Revisited

Wow. I was looking back through my race log last night. Has it really been 9 months since my lst Half? May 3, 2009 - the PCRF Cinco de Mayo Half. Hmm. It might do me some good to review how to run a Half Marathon before I do my usual - go out too fast and blow up at mile 10.

I have two books on my shelf that I (should) refer to when I have running questions. One of them, Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfizinger is a bible when it comes to the technical aspects of running - what pace to run, what heart rate to hit, why I am running a specific workout on a specific day. The second is the Competitive Runner's Handbook by Bob Glover. What Glover misses on the technical side of things he more than makes up for in discussion of strategies. Here are some of his words of wisdom for a Half Marathon:

  • "The key is to run slightly below your lactate threshold (LT) so you don’t fatigue an hour or so into the race due to lactic acid accumulation. Push the pace above your LT (about 85-90% of maximum heart rate) at the start or along the way and you’ll regret that." Interpretation: Must keep my heart rate in Zone 3.5 to 3.8. Watch the Garmin!
  • "The first mile or two sets the tone for your effort. Going out too fast sets you up for failure. If you go out a bit too slow, you have adequate time to make up for it. So it’s better to err on the side of caution." Interpretation: 9:15 to 9:20 for the first couple or three miles.
  • "To achieve your goal time you need to push the effort over the second half like you do in the middle miles in the 10K." Interpretation: See #1 and #2 above. Then push once past mile 6. Find a group running at my pace and glomp on to them.
  • "Move from runner to runner to help maintain a good pace, or hitch a ride when a competitor goes by you. Don’t be satisfied with just holding your place. Most likely many of the runners around you are slowing down. This presents a mirage. You think you’re on pace but you may not be if you’re slowing with them." Interpretation: Keep on pushing. If the group slows down, let them go.
  • "The first 10 miles are for pacing, the final 5K for racing. Reel in runners. Use runners up ahead as targets. Increase the effort slightly to gain ground on your competition and to keep from slowing from your goal pace. But don’t surge too much. That could push you over the threshold. The goal here is a steady push at your limit." Interpretation: When I see the mile 10 marker, the racing starts. Make sure I have enough in the tank (unlike my last HM).
  • "Fight off fatigue by relaxing and focusing on good running form and controlled breathing." Interpretation: This guy' s a comedian too.
  • "Position yourself to change into your final gear over the last quarter-mile. That’s just a lap of the track. Even though you’ve been running for well over an hour, you can muster the energy to push for another 2 minutes or so." Interpretation: Suck it up. When I see the mile 13 marker push push push. What's the worst that can happen? Does an IV hurt?

So there you go. Nothing left but the playlist!

P.S. - If you want to see the Glover's entire strategy on the Half Marathon, New York Road Runners has publshed it on their web here. Great reading!


  1. PR or ER, but first and foremost - HAVE FUN!!

  2. Wise words there! You will do great tomorrow! My cousin and I will be there early so hopefully I run into you beforehand! Otherwise definitely at the finish line! Good luck!!!!!

  3. Hi Glenn,
    I am going to have to read that list again before my half next week. Have fun tomorrow and good luck:)

  4. Great post! Thanks for sharing. This is excellent advice. I laughed out loud at your response to fighting off fatigue.

    Good luck tomorrow! You've got this one.

  5. I think we all know you are primed and ready. Good luck!

  6. I hope to see you tomorrow!! Have a great race!!!!

  7. good luck today glenn! i know you'll do great. start strong but reserved and kick it home!