How to Improve Your Half Marathon Time (a Personal Checklist)

Last week after a particularly brutal bootcamp class (that included my first ever attempt at one-armed burpees!), I was feeling a bit of that old soreness in my hamstring/hip/glute area.  I immediately called up my chiropractor and have had a few very productive visits.  I'm feeling pretty much normal now and things should be just fine, but I already feel a little sluggish and slow from ramping things down after only a week.  It got me to thinking about how in the world I got out of a three year half marathon slump to have such a great race day last month.  How did I shave off more than fifteen minutes of every half I've done in the last three years?!  Certainly all the wonderful things about the Lake Sammamish Half I covered in the race report (the course, organization, etc.) contributed to a great time.  But, I really wanted to write down everything I could think of that might have helped me successfully cross that finish line, lest I forget...

The most obvious thing I did to improve was to stick to my training, but listen to my body.  If I was a bit run down after running a 5K, I skipped the interval workout the following week and ran trails instead.  I never compromised a long run, but there were a few times that I felt 'off' and postponed it for the following day. 

I'm pretty sure the run streak (I can't believe day 365 is almost here!) has helped with my endurance and weight management.  I lost a couple pounds a month or so into the run streak and I've maintained it ever since.  I'm thinking the lighter me is also a slightly faster me!

The run streak has also lent itself to daily stretching and core work.  Sometimes I just do my mile for the day, take a shower and I'm just done.  But when I was preparing for the Sammamish Half, I was much more diligent about my daily chores.  Every few weeks, I'd add on a few more moves or add time to my plank routine.  I've kind of let that go by the wayside, mostly just doing core on bootcamp days, and I think I'm paying for it!

Another thing I need to get back into is my twice monthly yoga.  It's such a great cross training option, but after the race and then Spring Break, I kinda got out of my habit.

Over the last year I DID get into the habit of having several pairs of shoes in rotation.  Normally, I'd have a pair of running shoes, cross training shoes and trail running shoes.  That's it, and that's probably more than fine.  But I think the addition of an extra pair of running shoes I happened to win from Brooks (yay!) helped condition my feet.  I'd wear my newest Ravennas for long runs, my slightly worn pair for middle distances, my low heel drop/minimalist Pure Cadence on one-miler days, Adrenalines for bootcamp and my Gore-Tex Adrenalines for trail.

Yep, I wear all of these shoes.

I am also so thankful for the gait analysis I was able to do at Everyday Athlete.  Just a few little tweaks got me feeling so much better in my form.  Additionally, it gave me something to concentrate on (distract myself with) during the race.

Which brings me to the most helpful point of all: don't stress about the outcome.  This was a not so happy coincidence for me, coming down with a nasty cold in the days before the race.  I pretty much gave up on any kind of PR aspirations and just ran to get through it comfortably.  All I thought about throughout the race was: my form, breathing, smiling, my music, and what a lovely day it was until the end when I realized I'd been doing a pretty decent clip.  Apparently, this was the key to my success!  I really, really, wish I knew how to create this mild (and helpful) form of apathy without getting ill.  Will report back after my next half!


  1. I'm a run streaker also, and having different shoes for different runs has been a lifesaver for me. I truly believe it is what has kept me healthy for 472 days of streaking!

  2. These are great tips, Andrea!