How To Run A Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon + Training Plan

Break the 2-Hr barrier with this free training plan and expert coach-written guide

Running a half marathon is an impressive accomplishment that requires months of consistent training.

After all, running 13.1 miles without stopping requires physical endurance, mental stamina, and determination.

For most runners, a sub 2 hour half marathon is doable and in the wheelhouse of the average middle-of-the-pack runner with dedication and a good half marathon training plan.

In this 2 hour half marathon training guide, we will discuss how to train to break 2 hours in the half marathon, the sub 2 hour half marathon race pace, tips for following a 2 hour half marathon training plan, and our very own training plan for you to follow.

We will cover: 

Let’s jump in!

How To Run A Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon + Training Plan 1

What Pace Is A Half Marathon In 2 Hours?

A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21.08 kilometers.

Therefore, a sub 2 hour half marathon means that you must hold an average race pace of just under 9:09 minutes per mile or 5:41 per kilometer.

You will want to run slightly faster so that you build in a buffer.

How Do I Pace Myself For A 2 Hour Half Marathon?

Here is how to run a sub 2 hour half marathon pace chart in miles and kilometers:

MileSplit
19:09
218:18
327:28
436:37
545:46
654:55
71:04:05
81:13:14
91:22:23
101:31:32
111:40:41
121:49:51
131:59:00
13.11:59:59
A person running.
KilometersSplit
15:41
211:23
317:04
422:45
528:26
634:08
739:49
845:30
951:11
1056:53
111:02:34
121:08:15
131:13:57
141:19:38
151:25:19
161:31:00
171:36:42
181:42:23
191:48:04
201:53:45
211:59:27
21.11:59:59

How Do You Run a Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon?

Almost every half marathon training plan includes the same types of workouts. 

Generally, whether you are trying to break 2 hours in the half marathon, 1:30, or some other goal, all runners will need to develop their aerobic base with a long run and regular easy runs, and then there will be more structured workouts such as speed work and race pace intervals.

The best sub 2 hour half marathon training plans also build in enough recovery modalities such as cross training workouts, rest days, and supportive strength training workouts to help reduce the risk of injury.

Here are some of the key workouts in our 2-hour half marathon training schedule:

  • Training Runs (Easy Runs): For the training runs, run at a conversational pace to aid recovery from hard workouts.
  • Race Pace: Try to run at your half marathon race pace for these runs.
  • Long Run: Long endurance workouts to improve physical and mental stamina. Run at a comfortable, conversational pace, at an effort of 6 on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is max effort.  
  • Cross Training: Non-running aerobic workout. Examples include cycling, swimming, rowing, elliptical, aqua jogging, and hiking.
  • Rest Days: No structured exercise. Focus on rest and recovery (stretching, foam rolling, taking it easy).
  • Speed work (interval training) on the track will involve running reps of race pace intervals and VO2 max intervals. These speed workouts get your body used to running fast and build anaerobic fitness, improving VO2 max and running speed.
  • Warm up: Easy jog to warm up before speed work or a race pace effort.
  • Cool down: Slow down your pace at the end of a workout, downshifting to an easy jog to recover.
A person running.

Can I Break a 2 Hour Half Marathon For My First Half Marathon?

While it is possible for first time half marathon runners to follow a 2 hour half marathon training plan with the goal of breaking the 2 hour barrier on their first try, I suggest that new runners do not set a time goal for their first half marathon.

Generally, setting the goal to get through the half marathon training program healthy, enjoy the race day experience, and get to the finish line without needing to walk (unless you are specifically following the run-walk approach), is a great goal for a first time half marathon debut.

However, the caveat here is that if you aren’t necessarily a new runner and you have been running for several years and done a bunch of shorter races such as 5ks, 10ks, and longer runs in training upwards of 10 miles or more, setting a half marathon pace goal or finish time goal can certainly be reasonable.

According to Running Level, a site that compiles and reports average finish times for different race distances based on age, sex, and ability, the average half marathon time across all ages and sexes is 1:50:15.1Half Marathon Times By Age And Ability – Running Level. (n.d.). Runninglevel.com. https://runninglevel.com/running-times/half-marathon-times

‌The average half marathon time for men is 1:43:33, which is 7:54 mile pace, and the average half marathon time for women is 2:00:12, which is 9:11 minutes per mile pace. 

A sub 2-hour half marathon time goal is appropriate if your current fitness level is around 55 minutes for a 10k and your average weekly mileage is at least 20 miles per week.

A person looking at their running watch.

What Are The Best Tips For How To Break 2 Hours In The Half Marathon?

Here are a few additional training tips that can help you reach your half marathon goal time:

#1: Ditch Your Watch…Sometimes 

In my work as a certified running coach, the majority of runners that I train are wedded to their Garmin or GPS running watch.

Although using a running watch to keep track of your weekly mileage, heart rate, and pace is certainly a valuable tool, relying too much on your pace per mile or splits can be a recipe for overtraining, pushing too hard, and ignoring how your body is feeling.

I strongly encourage runners to train by feel or rate of perceived exertion, particularly for easy runs, long runs that do not have half marathon race pace miles built in, and cross training workouts.

You can use your heart rate and your perceived exertion level to guide how fast or how hard you should be pushing your body. These workouts really need to be all about recovery rather than hitting a certain average pace.

A bowl of fruit and oatmeal.

#2: Don’t Neglect Nutrition 

If you are going to be running a half marathon in 2 hours, you will need to take in some carbs and hydration during the race and your long training runs.

You should be practicing your fueling strategy on your long runs as you build up towards the half marathon distance.

Even though you may not run the full half marathon distance in your training plan before race day, your average pace for the longer runs in training will be slower than your intended sub 2 hour half marathon pace per mile, so the time on your feet will be roughly the same. 

Even for some of the shorter long runs in the half marathon training plan build-up, you should work on your hydration and energy gels or other carbs you plan to ingest to get used to the feeling of fueling and digesting carbs and fluids on the run. 

Consider sports drinks and electrolytes if you sweat a lot and have trouble eating energy gels, dried fruit, maple syrup, or other fuel options for half marathon runners.

Aside from your hydration and fueling strategy for race day and longer training runs, you should also be dialing in good nutrition in your everyday life to support recovery.

Make sure you are getting an adequate number of calories, plenty of protein spaced out during the day, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals.

Consider working with a sports nutritionist if you struggle with your diet or feel like you are not recovering well from your workouts.

A pacer with a 1:50 sign.

#3: Decide On a Pacing Strategy 

Just because the 2 hour mark for a half marathon means that you need to run an average pace of 9:09 minutes per mile on race day does not mean that you need to run every single mile in the race in exactly nine minutes and nine seconds.

There are different half marathon pacing strategies.

Experienced runners do tend to run even splits or negative splits. Even splits means that you will be right around that average sub 2 hour half marathon pace for the whole race give or take a couple of seconds.

The negative splits pacing strategy means that you will actually start at a slower average pace than 9:09 minutes per mile, but after the first half of the race, you will pick up the pace and run the second half at a faster pace per mile.

Therefore, the resultant average pace taking you across the half marathon finish line will be under the 2-hour mark.

People running a half marathon.

For example, experienced runners might start at a 9:15 mile pace as they warm up during the first couple of miles on race day and then eventually drop down to a 9 minute mile pace or even a faster pace for the final few miles before crossing the finish line in under 2 hours.

You can use your training sessions to experiment with different pacing strategies, but also to become intimately familiar with your goal average half marathon pace.

That way, come race day when there is so much hubbub and excitement of the crowd around you, you will be less likely to fall prey to running a faster pace than your current fitness level supports.

Some bigger half marathon races will actually have pace groups who intend to hit a certain time goal.

A pace group can be helpful for your first half marathon or for those who have trouble running even splits and have a specific goal race pace that is a round number, such as a sub 2 hour half marathon or a 1:45 half marathon time.

However, keep in mind that you will not have control over the pacing strategy used by one of these pace groups, so it might not be your preferred approach to hitting your goal half marathon time.

A person online with a coach.

#4: Work With a Running Coach

A running coach can help tailor your training plan to exactly what you need and can provide other individualized training tips to help you run a sub 2-hour half marathon.

We also encourage everyone to join the Marathon Handbook Facebook group for more training tips from fellow runners on how to run a sub 2 hour half marathon.

Although our 12 week half marathon training plan doesn’t guarantee that you will run a sub 2 hour half marathon, if your current fitness level is appropriate for this time goal and you are able to follow the training schedule, hopefully, things will come together on race day. 

Either way, try to enjoy the race experience, but make adjustments to the training schedule if you experience problems in your build up. 

It is always better to arrive on race day healthy but a little slower than to risk injury because you are wedded to a 2 hour half marathon goal.

After you break the 2-hour half marathon mark, you might consider training for a full marathon!

Download The Sub 2-Hr Half Marathon Training Plan:

Sub 2 hr Half Marathon - Printable

Check Out The Premium Version of The Sub 2-Hour Half Marathon Training Plan . . .

We’ve teamed with TrainingPeaks to offer a premium version of the Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Training Plan:

Access the plan via the TrainingPeaks website and app, track your workouts in real-time against the plan, and get performance data analysis on your progress.

trainingpeaks
trainingpeaks training plan

Check out the premium sub 2-hour half-marathon training plan here!

Other Suggested Half Marathon Training Plans:

Beginner + Novice Training Plans

Intermediate + Advanced Half Marathon Training Plans

Time-based Half Marathon Training Plans

Check out the Half Marathon Training Plans page for more.

References

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

4 thoughts on “How To Run A Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon + Training Plan”

  1. the downloadable half marathon training plan, is this for a complete novice or if you want to complete the race in under 2 hours? I’m unsure on how to customize it even though I have read your post. Still very confused therefore I would rather just follow one that is already done. Can you help me please.

    Reply
  2. Hi Thomas,
    Thank you so much for making the plan available for free and for your service to the running community! I’m just curious how you calculated the interval sprints into equivalent km or miles to add up to the weekly volume?
    E.g. in week 1, 2 x 800m is calculated as [(2 x 1.2) + 5] = 7.4 km instead of 1.6 km. Would you please kindly let me know the rationale?
    I was just trying to modify the plans a bit to fit my schedule but realised that the formula also needs tweaking.
    I appreciate all the wonderful resources on this website and I hope I’ll get to learn from you with the calculation. Thanks in advance!

    Reply

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