How to Run a Sub-2 Hour Half Marathon

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After the birth of my daughter, I knew that I wanted to get back to running. I had run throughout my pregnancy, and returning to running was a simple and easy transition. One big goal that I had was to run a sub-two hour half marathon after she was born.

Running a half marathon in under two hours was the doorway for me to really feel like I was making it as a running. Not saying that running faster or slower makes you less of a runner, but that was a personal goal of mine.  Breaking that time barrier was such a mental target that I kept me eyes focused on the first year after my daughter’s birth. (Since then I ran my second sub-2 half marathon about two years after her birth.)

For years I was stuck at a 10 min/mile pace. Then after my first two children I struggling to get faster  than a 12 min/mile pace. I ran a half marathon 11 months after my second child in 2:30. Pushing your body to move faster after baby is hard, but so doable! In fact, I’m a better runner now after three children than I was even at my best in high school cross country. Babies don’t have to stop you! If anything, I think they make you better.

So if you’re new to running, or just had a baby and are worried about returning to running, don’t be discouraged! You can totally hit your goals with a little time and hard work

When I set out the first year after Baby Girl was born to break 2 hours, I knew I would need to make some changes. Those first couple months getting back into shape are really hard, the runs are frustrating and exhausting. You’re carrying extra weight which makes running hard and slows you down. View those months as building your base and just getting familiar with your body again. When I was ready to start a training plan, I had a good based laid down; that is super important!

As I began training, I made several changes that helped me.

Focus on Goal Pace

Once I had my based built (that took several months), I focused on adding some speed. Now, since I just had a baby, I wasn’t ready to hit the track and do 400 repeats until I collapsed. (I tried it once, and it was a mess. Speedwork after baby will probably require a change of shorts.) So instead, I focused on tempo work and goal pace. I did a lot of repeats at tempo pace, or miles at goal pace, working up to 8 miles at my goal pace.

The rest of my runs were easy and slow. Let me get a little science-y because this is important.  It encourages blood flow to tired and worked muscles which helps with recovery. Long runs should be at an easy pace; long slow runs build new blood capillaries in your muscles. More capillaries means more blood flow, which means more oxygen to the muscles.

5 miles
8_58mile

Running at goal pace allows you to get familiar and comfortable with how the pace will feel. That way on race day, you can relax into your race without stressing over your pace or obsessing over your watch.

Adjust Fuel Plan

This was a HUGE game-changer for me. For all of my previous training and races, I had stuck with the traditional pre-race bagels or cereal and gels during the runs. The result? Crashing and burning, tired legs, and plenty of gut distress. I have made one to many pit stops during training runs or races. Not fun. I’d take a gel and within a mile or two, start to fatigue and have to take another one. And quite frankly, gels are gross.

Then I found Generation UCAN. This changed everything! No more bonking, no more nasty gels, no more spike in blood sugar followed by a crash in energy levels. UCAN is a superstarch that releases slowly and give steady energy. The first race I used it for was my sub-2 hour half. It gave me lasting energy. In fact, I was able to hold my race pace steadily without fatiguing. Since then, I’ve been a complete convert to UCAN.

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It comes in a mix that you blend with water. I carry mine in a little Nathan water bottle that fits perfectly in a pair of Saucony Bullet Capri . Those are my favorite shorts and tights and are great for long races or training runs. I’ll drink a scoop of UCAN before, and  will drink from my little bottle periodically, usually around the 6 mile, 9 mile and 12 mile marks if I need it. Click here to check out UCAN!

Get Comfortable Going Long

The long run has always freaked me out a bit. It’s hard and tiring. Sometimes it’s boring. But it wasn’t until I dedicated some time to the long run, that I really got comfortable with it.

Most training plans have you slowly building up to 10 or maybe 12 miles before your race. You might run that distance a couple of times during a given training cycle. This is fine if you’re just looking to cross your first finish line, but if you’re looking to start improving and breaking barriers, you have to build a really great base and take any fear out of the long run. This requires a lot more time then just a 12 week training plan. I ran 10-14 miles every Saturday for months to really get comfortable with going longer distances. Your legs will have the strength and endurance to really go the distance, and you gain the mental boost from confidence that comes from practice.

The sub-2 hour marathon is totally doable! Just take the time, build your base, fuel your body, and add some speed. With the proper training, and my tips, you can certainly break that barrier!

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