Breaking the Sub-1:30 Half-Marathon: A Comprehensive Guide to Achieving Your Fastest Time

Basic endurance is your foundational level of conditioning, or your ability to simply complete 13.1 miles comfortably without even trying hard. 

Once you can do that taking it a step further involves either running 13.1 miles at a faster pace or focusing on specific endurance training. 

To enhance our aerobic support system and simultaneously develop muscular endurance, consistent and progressively growing training is crucial. The effectiveness of this training hinges on your body’s ability to recover and absorb it.

Establishing benchmarks through key workouts and performance testing (Blood lactate testing, V02max testing) is essential. The collected data (metabolic profile, HR, pace, thresholds) will serve as a valuable guide for shaping our training strategies.

Consider a runner aiming for a 30-minute 10k (6.2 miles): To achieve this, they must be capable of running 10 sets of 1k intervals in 3 minutes each, with short rest intervals. This is termed specific speed endurance training. The runner must also feel in control at this pace, ensuring it is not too fast for them.

In practical terms, this runner, aspiring to run a 30-minute 10k (=4:48/mi), must run shorter intervals much faster than a 4:48/mi. Therefore, a series of speed support sessions is a prerequisite before resuming specific endurance training. This approach prevents burnout and overtraining by ensuring the runner feels in control at their target pace.

The same principles apply to YOU.

If your goal is to maintain a 6:51-minute per mile base, you must be able to run 13 consecutive miles at that pace with short rests within the next three months—no exceptions. Speed support sessions involving intervals at faster speeds than the target 13.1 race pace are also necessary.

In essence, you’ll need to run at speeds of 6:30 minutes per mile or faster, so that a 6:51-minute pace feels manageable. Additionally, your current fitness level must be considered, as training based on an aggressive pace might lead to suboptimal results and increased recovery time.

Building a substantial aerobic base/’infrastructure’ is critical for handling faster training. This involves steady z1-2 running,  tempo runs, and tempo intervals—all below your current anaerobic threshold. While some low-end anaerobic training (10k intervals and 5k repetitions) and neuromuscular development (Sprints) workouts are necessary, the majority of the training intensity should remain under your anaerobic threshold.

It typically takes around 6 weeks of consistent training to move up one performance level, but the exact progress varies based on factors like recovery speed, training volume, age, background/history, bodyweight and more. Generally, consistent and strategic training will lead to incremental improvements in speed at your anaerobic threshold every 6 weeks.