Last weekend, I ran the 2018 Mayberry Half Marathon in 1 hour and 58 minutes beating my first half marathon by 30 minutes. I also beat my goal of running it in under 2 hours.   

I’ve learned a lot about running the last 4 months and for those interested in improving their half marathon times I wanted to share the keys to me shaving 30 minutes off my time in 6 months.  

My quick keys to running a half marathon under 2 hours:

  • Hansons Marathon Method Training Plan (beginner half marathon plan)
  • Increased accountability with a running partner
  • Improved running gear
  • Improved form and stride
  • The Mayberry Half Marathon Course is Flat & Fast  

Lets dig into the details below:

Key #1: The Training Approach

The more obvious difference between my first and second marathon was my training approach.  The first half marathon I made a plan to get me to be able to run a full 13.1 miles. The second half marathon, I followed a plan based on science and proven by thousands of runners.  

I ran my first half marathon with only 34 days of training consisting of 35 total miles run in preparation of the race. My goal was to run the entire 13.1 miles without stopping. I was successful with a time of 2 hours and 28 minutes.

As I reached the finish line of my first half marathon with a throbbing foot and completely exhausted, I did not think I would run another one.  Running 13.1 miles was now marked off my bucket list.

As the days past, I could not wait to get back to regular running when my foot healed. I’d caught the running bug. The desire to get back out and run plus some light-hearted jokes about my 2:28 time got me to thinking about running another half marathon.  

For my first half marathon, I thought that the less I ran in preparation for the race would be better on my bones and joints. I now know that this minimal training is the complete opposite approach to training for long distances and probably why I hurt my foot during the race. I did not prepare properly for that mileage.

My research lead me to Hansons Marathon Method Training. It is science based method to training for marathons that has helped thousands of runners run their fastest marathons.

I used the Hanson’s Half Marathon Beginner Training Plan for the final 14 weeks of training.  I was not able to get in all of the weekly miles due to life… but I did get up to 40 miles of running in a week. That’s more in a week than I ran training for my first half marathon.

I fully recommend getting the Hansons Marathon Method book, so you can understand the science behind the training plan.  I also recommend joining the Marathon Method Facebook Group so you can join the community of runners setting their personal best running times using Hanson’s Marathon Method. The book plus this group will help you commit to the plan.  

Key #2: Running Partner Accountability 

2018 Mayberry Half Marathon Photo

No one signed up with me for my first half marathon because I made the decision to run one 34 days in advance of the race.   

For the Mayberry Half Marathon, my dad (age 64) signed up with me.  While we never got to run together during training, the exchanging of regular training texts pushed me.  

Half Marathon Training Texts

Pops was regularly beating my times during training and picturing him beating me on race day provided the motivation needed to get in runs on the toughest days. I don’t think I would have broken my 2 hour goal without it.  

In addition to the texting with my dad, I shared my goal of breaking 2 hours on Facebook when I started training.  I also shared my 2 hour goal and regular training updates with the Build Your Life Resume Group for accountability and support.

I’ve accomplished several big fitness goals the last couple of years. Utilizing social media to share the goals & the journey to accomplishing them has played a major role.

Key #3: Professionally Fitted for Running Shoes (and taking care of my feet)

I’ve had 2 annoying foot injuries that has impacted my running the last couple of years. After looking at the weekly mileage in the Hanson’s Method Training Plan, I knew I needed to take better care of my feet.  

I went to the Run For Your Life store where I was fitted for running shoes by an expert. The staff looked at my stride, the strength of ankles and hips, and the width of my feet.  While being fitted, I learned that I should be running in a half size bigger to give my feet room to swell during long runs. I ended up going with the Mizuno Wave Sky 2.  

During the fitting process, I shared with my sales consultant that my left foot had recently recovered from Morton’s Neuroma, a condition that causes pain in my toes because of the nerve being pinched in the joints. She suggested I try Injinji Socks to help keep my toes separate.

Mizuno Running Shoes for Half Marathons

IT ALL WORKED!  I got up to running 40 miles in a week without experiencing any major pain in my feet. As the miles started getting higher, I did get a Rubz Foot Massage ball ($6) to roll under my feet in the evening. Any minor pains I was feeling were gone by the next morning.

My recommendations: I do not recommend you get the Mizuno Wave Sky 2 shoes… I do recommend getting fitted at a running store to find the best shoes for you.  I do recommend trying the Injinji Running Socks. They felt a little weird at first, but I now don’t like running without them.  

Key #4: Garmin VivoActive 3 Watch

If you are training for a goal time in a half marathon, then pacing is extremely important.  Almost every training program incorporates speed and tempo runs. I spent most of my training using my phone and the Nike Run Club app.  I ran a practice 10K during training and realized that my tracker was averaging 10 second fast per mile than I was running.

It appears that this is a GPS issue with Cell Phones not the Nike mobile running app. GPS watches have much better sensors and are more accurate for tracking speed and distance.

In the Marathon Method Facebook Group, many of the members post training run updates from the Garmin App. Plus, there were a couple of posts with strong recommendations for the Garmin Watches. So, for the final 3 weeks of my training, I bought the Garmin Vivoactive 3 Watch.  

The pace of my final 3 week training runs was noticeably faster with the Garmin Watch. I was concerned that I would not hit my goal time due to training for weeks at the wrong pace.  But, all the cumulative mileage during training and speeding up the final 3 weeks must have worked.

Key #5: More Focus on Improved Running Form

With increased mileage, I wanted to make sure that my running stride was as efficient as possible.  While researching running form and stride, I came across this post with 4 simple tips on the Run To The Finish Blog.  It has some great tips that are easy to implement.  

I used my long easy runs to focus on my form and stride. This carried over to race day and when I felt winded during the race, I just relaxed and focused on proper form.  

Key #6: The Mayberry Half Marathon Course (Flat & Fast)

I can’t discount the course for contributing to my first sub-2 hour the half marathon.  The Mayberry Half Marathon is in Mount Airy, NC. The race starts in Historic Downtown that is a throwback to Mayberry and then heads downhill to the greenway. After the downhill, the course stays on the scenic greenway running along side a creek.  

True to it’s marketing, the Mayberry Half Marathon is flat and fast.  

What can I improve on for my next half marathon?

While I’m pretty stoked about beating my first half marathon by 30 minutes with a 1:58 time. I’m even more excited by the fact that I know there is room for improvement.  

Lose weight with more strength training

I ran the Mayberry Half Marathon at 213 pounds. While training, I eat a lot more and I ended up almost completely abandoning strength training. Running 6 days a week makes it tough to get in the gym to lift. After losing a lot of muscle during this training period, I will make sure I lift at least 3 times a week while training for my next half marathon.  

My goal weight for the next half marathon is 205 lbs.  

Starting program with correct pacing and time tracking

Starting the next training program with my Garmin Watch will be a huge improvement. Hitting the correct paces on my speed and tempo runs should help me hit my next half marathon goal.  

More confidence in the goal time

For this last half marathon, I set my goal time almost 30 minutes faster than the first one. It felt a little arbitrary because I had not really trained properly the first time. Even knowing my training was inadequate the first time, shaving 30 minutes off my time seemed like a lot.  

For my next Half Marathon, I want to beat 1:58 by 5%. So my goal new goal time will be 1 hour and 52 minutes.  I’ll need to improve my mile pace from 9:00/mile to 8:33/mile.

With the better tracking and more confidence, I will stick even closer to the Hanson’s Method Half Marathon Training Program. 

Now to find Spring 2019 Half Marathon and start training! 

I’m already looking for the next half marathon to sign up for in the first quarter of 2019 and get back to training. I’m looking forward to continuing my running education and improving my times.

Hopefully, you found this post to be helpful if you’re looking to improve your half marathon time.

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