Running a 2 hour half marathon is a huge achievement.
Whether you’re training for your first half marathon or looking to achieve your next personal best, half marathon training can be gruelling.
If you have just started your training, a sub-2 hour half marathon time may seem unachievable to you right now, but with the right mindset and training, you can achieve it.
According to a 2019 study, the half marathon is the most popular endurance running race event in terms of number of races and runners competing annually.
If you’re looking to improve on your race times, here are my top tips on how to run a half marathon in 2 hours or less.
In this guide we’ll explore:
- How many miles is a half marathon?
- What pace is a 2 hour half marathon?
- What’s included in a 2 hour half marathon training plan?
- 2 hour half marathon Q&A
- 7 training tips: how to run a 2 hour half marathon
How many miles is a half marathon?
A half marathon is 13.1 miles.
This is exactly half the distance of a marathon which is 26.2 miles.
What pace is a 2 hour half marathon?
In order to run a half marathon in 2 hours or less, you need to be running at a pace of roughly 9.09 minutes per mile or 5.40 minutes per kilometre.
Ask yourself – could you sustain a 9.09 minute mile/5.40 minutes per kilometre pace throughout the whole race?
It would be a shame to miss out on your sub-2 hour goal by a few seconds or minutes, so it’s important you practice running at a 9.09 mile pace during your training.
In light of this, a big part of your sub-2 hour half marathon strategy should be to break down your current run times.
In order to run a half marathon in 2 hours or less, you need to have hit the following running milestones:
- Weekly mileage – 15-16 miles
- 5k time – 25-26 minutes
- 10k time – 54 minutes or less
- Half marathons completed – one or more
- Half marathon PB (good conditions) – 2:04-2:06
- Half marathon PB (hills, heat or wind) – 2:08-2:12
If you’re a beginner runner, then my advice would be to start with a shorter distance like a 5k or 10k before attempting a half marathon.
Once you’ve mastered the 5k and 10k distance and have achieved race times closer to those listed above, then it’s time to start working towards the half marathon distance.
What’s included in a 2 hour half marathon training plan?
Many races are made or broken even before the race has begun.
A large part of your sub-2 hour half marathon strategy will be your training plan.
You need to condition yourself to feel comfortable running for 2 hours without stopping and not feel broken afterwards.
When training for a half marathon it’s important you use a well-rounded training plan to get your body conditioned for the race, especially if you are aiming to run a half marathon in 2 hours or less.
A well-rounded training plan will include the following each week:
- 1-3 easy runs
- 1 long runs
- 1-2 speed training sessions (e.g. interval training and tempo running)
- 1-2 strength training and/or cross training sessions
- 2 rest and recovery days
Easy runs should be run at a comfortable pace, meaning you should be able to hold a conversation while running without getting out of breath.
Roughly 80% of a 2 hour half marathon training plan will consist of easy runs.
The long run is integral to any half marathon training plan as it allows you to build your endurance and stamina.
Long runs will gradually increase in distance as the training plan progresses to get your body used to running longer distances.
Like easy runs, these runs should be run at an easy and slow pace.
Speed training is designed to improve your speed, power and running economy.
It is used to get you used to running at a certain pace so that you can comfortably do this on race day.
Both these types of workouts can be intense, but they are well worth doing to help you become a faster runner.
Strength training is recommended for any runner, no matter the running distance.
It helps to build muscle mass, endurance and strength and involves bodyweight exercises (such as squats, lunges, planks) as well as weighted exercises (such as deadlifts, weighted lunges, weighted squats).
To benefit from strength training, you need to be consistent.
A 2 hour half marathon training plan will include at least one strength training session per week, lasting between 30-45 minutes.
Cross training is used widely by runners to improve fitness, facilitate recovery, rehabilitate injuries and improve motivation.
Walking, swimming, cycling and yoga are all good examples of cross training for runners.
Cross training should not be challenging, but seen as a period of ‘active recovery’.
Aim to include at least one cross training session in your 2 hour half marathon training plan.
Rest and recovery days
Rest days are breaks from your training plan and give your body adequate time to repair and recover between runs and workouts. They also help to prevent injuries.
Don’t be tempted to skip rest days as they are in your training plan for a reason.
If at any point in the training plan you need to take extra rest days, listen to your body and take them as necessary.
2 hour half marathon Q&A
Q: Am I fit enough to run a sub-2 hour half marathon?
A: In order to run a sub-2 hour half marathon, you need to have a weekly mileage of 15-16 miles and be able to run a 5k in 25-26 minutes and a 10k in 54 minutes or less.
Regardless of your running times, you need to be comfortable with running continuously for 2 hours.
You also need to be confident that your body will be able to keep going for 2 hours.
Q: What should I take with me on race day?
A: Preparation is key when it comes to race day, so ensure you make a checklist of what you need to take with you so you don’t forget anything.
This is especially true if you have signed up for a half marathon event.
Check our race day checklist for more advice and guidance on what to take with you on race day.
7 training tips: how to run a 2 hour half marathon
#1 Practice your race pace during training
If you’ve run 5k and 10k races, you’re used to sustaining your 5k or 10k race pace for 3 to 6 miles.
A half marathon is 13.1 miles so maintaining your 5k or 10k pace during a half marathon will take its toll after a while, so you need to approach half marathon pacing differently.
In order to run a 2 hour half marathon, you need to be running at a pace of roughly 9.09 minutes per mile or 5.40 minutes per kilometre.
When you step up from a 5k or 10k race to a half marathon, adaptations in your body need to take place.
In other words, your body needs to get used to the intensity of running a 9 minute mile for two hours straight.
This is why it’s important to practice your race pace during training.
For the first few weeks during your training plan, you may not quite be ready to run at your race pace and this is completely fine.
The aim is to gradually build up to your race pace during training, with the view of running at this pace in the last 4-6 weeks of training.
Activities like speed training will go a long way to help you run at this pace.
Tempo running, for example, is designed to build up your body’s ability to run faster for long periods of time.
Related: How to pace your run
#2 Fuel your race properly
Food and nutrition is incredibly important for a successful sub-2 hour half marathon strategy.
Think of your body as a machine, it won’t function properly if you put the wrong type of fuel in it. Likewise, it won’t function properly if you don’t give it enough fuel.
Fuel before, during and after your race so you don’t succumb to fatigue and tiredness.
Here are some good examples if your run is in the morning:
- Porridge with berries or mixed nuts
- Healthy granola
- Wholegrain bread topped with scrambled or poached eggs
- Greek yogurt with berries or fruit salad
- A bagel with cottage cheese
- Fruit juice or a fruit smoothie
Try and have something at least two hours before you plan to run so your body has time to fully digest the food.
If you struggle to eat very early in the morning, make sure you have a carb-rich meal like pasta the night before the race.
Related: What to eat before a run
#3 Strengthen your core
Your core is extremely important when it comes to running. A strong core helps you hold a strong and stable position for longer.
Include core workouts in your weekly training routine. These are all good examples of core stability exercises for runners:
- Side plank
- Bicycle crunches
- Superman pull
- Ling windscreen wipers
A lot of core workouts are easy to do at home as no equipment is needed.
#4 Strength train
Strength training is key for any runner looking to run faster for longer.
It is important for runners is important because it helps you build stronger muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues.
It also improves your speed and power and lowers your risk of injury.
Strength training also contributes to better running form. In other words, it helps you run more efficiently!
Aim to include at least two strength training sessions in your training plan.
#5 Perfect your form
Proper running form is all about running in the most efficient way possible. Inefficient running form can shave valuable seconds off your running time.
But what is proper running form? Here are some simple tips:
- Try not to look at the ground when running – keep your gaze upright and forward.
- Lift your chin and retract your shoulders back slightly.
- Keep your arms by your sides (try not to let them cross your body) and keep them relaxed to avoid stiffness.
- Don’t over stride – your foot should land under your hips or slightly in front of you.
- Keep your knees soft and bent and let your heels float up behind you.
#6 Do hill repeats
Hill repeats are a great way to improve your power and strength as a runner.
My suggestion is to include at least one hill training session in your training plan and you will reap the rewards on the race track.
Here’s how to run uphill:
- Try and land on your forefoot (near your toes) when running uphill.
- Use your arms to really propel you forward.
- Allow yourself to relax and stay forward on your toes rather than sinking back into your heels on the downhill run.
- You will gain speed instead of hitting the breaks.
If you struggle to get out onto hills during your training, there are plenty of treadmill workouts that you could try.
By using the incline function on the treadmill, you mimic outdoor runs.
An incline of 2 to 3 is great for long, uphill run training, which is a great strength builder. Whilst an incline of 4 to 7 is good for quick hills varying in length.
#7 Do speed training
Speed training is a game changer for a lot of runners who are working towards a PB, or just generally want to run faster.
Try and include at least one speed training session in your training plan each week.
The aim is to gradually increase the intensity of the speed training session from the start of your training plan and subsequently over the following weeks.
The below shows example progression for interval training by increasing the number of intervals each week.
You can also increase the amount of work and decrease the amount of rest in between each interval:
- 4 x 400m intervals
- 5 x 400m intervals
- 6 x 400m intervals
- 7 x 400m intervals
- 8 x 400m intervals