How Long To Drop 1 min/mile in a Half Marathon?

#1
I am a male in his mid 40s who just got serious about running at the start of this year. I've been running consistently since January and am currently averaging about 50 miles a week. Right now, my half marathon time comes in at around 2 hours/9 per mile.

My current goal is to get that down to around 1:45/8 min per mile and I am just curious as to roughly how long it should take to reach that goal. I am confident that if I continue with my training I will be able to shave a minute per mile off my time eventually, but as someone who is relatively new to running, I don't really have any idea as to how long this process might take.

I am not in any sort of rush to accomplish this and I don't have any races on my calendar, so I'm just going to keep running and following my training and see what happens. But generally speaking, how long should one expect it to take to drop a minute per mile at my current paces? A few months? A year? Longer?

However long it takes is fine with me - I am just curious to hear the thoughts about this process from those with more experience.
 

Joe

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#2
I am a male in his mid 40s who just got serious about running at the start of this year. I've been running consistently since January and am currently averaging about 50 miles a week. Right now, my half marathon time comes in at around 2 hours/9 per mile.

My current goal is to get that down to around 1:45/8 min per mile and I am just curious as to roughly how long it should take to reach that goal. I am confident that if I continue with my training I will be able to shave a minute per mile off my time eventually, but as someone who is relatively new to running, I don't really have any idea as to how long this process might take.

I am not in any sort of rush to accomplish this and I don't have any races on my calendar, so I'm just going to keep running and following my training and see what happens. But generally speaking, how long should one expect it to take to drop a minute per mile at my current paces? A few months? A year? Longer?

However long it takes is fine with me - I am just curious to hear the thoughts about this process from those with more experience.
Generally speaking, for a competitive distance runner, a reasonable goal would be to shoot for a 1 second improvement per 400m/per distance/per year. So 4 seconds for a mile, 12 seconds for a 5k, 26 seconds for a 10k and 52 seconds for a 1/2 marathon, about 2 minutes for a marathon. If you stay healthy, train consistently and stick to it, you'll be there in a year or two if all goes well.

Best of luck.

Joe
 
#3
This, unless James is going to put in a monster training block without getting injured, or he has a massive amount of talent just out of reach, the best thing to do is pick a training plan that he likes and start chipping away. Working on middle distance times might help him realize untapped fitness-this is the most realistic way to make an improvement of that scale fast.
 
#4
I had a similar experience to what you are trying to achieve. I went from a 1:47 half to a 1:35 half in a year and then did a 1:30 half six months after that. I am a 30 yr old male who started getting serious about running about 3 years ago. You are doing good mileage (I actually was closer to 40-45 mpw during this 18 month period). I don’t know your training plans but one thing that really helped me get faster was that I did a lot of marathon specific training including 16-20 mile long runs. My focus during these 18 months was actually the marathon but I found I improved the most at the half marathon. One thing that really helped mentally was fast finish long runs (where you take it easy for first 3/4ish of a long run and then speed up to closer to your half marathon pace for last 1/4). This helped so much in half marathons especially mentally as I knew I could run these faster paces for 4-6 miles on tired legs. So at mile 7-9 in races I knew I could push it to the end.
 
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#5
I doubt it would take long at all. There is a lot of room to improve from a 2 hour half. I don’t know what your training looks like exactly, but I’d expect 50mpw to be solid half marathon volume for serious improvement. If you were at 2 hrs after years of running, I’d agree with some other people when they say improving by only a few seconds per mile is doable. But since you are new and already running 2 hours, I’d bet you can do so much more. Make sure to do all you can to stay injury free and you will drop more than 15 minutes I think. One of the other people on this thread mentioned the benefits of training for some shorter faster stuff, and I agree completely. The best long distance road runners in the world have a background in track/XC, so that faster preparation will come very much in handy. Sometime, just do a fast 5k time trial. Do some quick miles, 2000m’s, and other things shorter and faster than your half marathon racing goal. Also, even though the half marathon is a longer distance race, doing your long runs longer than 13.1 isn’t too much. I believe you have a good enough base to hit some long runs that supersede your racing distance, so I would recommend those as well. Just put in the work and the results will follow very quickly! Remember to increase your training load gradually, and I believe you can run some good races!
 
#6
The very first time I ever ran a half marathon distance during my weekly long run was on May 2, 2020 and it took me 2:02:33.

On Saturday, October 3, 2020, I ran 15 miles on my long run and completed the half marathon distance in 1:47:00.

So, to answer the question posed here in my own thread: It took me 5 months to drop one minute/mile off my half marathon distance.

Can't want to see what I can run five months from now!
 
#7
The very first time I ever ran a half marathon distance during my weekly long run was on May 2, 2020 and it took me 2:02:33.

On Saturday, October 3, 2020, I ran 15 miles on my long run and completed the half marathon distance in 1:47:00.

So, to answer the question posed here in my own thread: It took me 5 months to drop one minute/mile off my half marathon distance.

Can't want to see what I can run five months from now!
That's fantastic progress.

As others in the thread have suggested, it is "easier" to drop from a 9 minute pace to an 8 minute pace, as opposed to making that same improvement from an 8 minute pace to a 7 minute pace. All the same, that's fantastic progress and glad you've hit your goal so soon!

I am going through a similar struggle with the marathon distance. I have manage to take 25 minutes off of my PR in the span of roughly 8 months but I still have another 20 minutes to go until I reach my ultimate goal. I suspect that 20 minutes will not come as easily but I am remaining optimistic that I haven't hit my fitness ceiling yet.
 
#8
I am excited about having been able to drop 1 min/mile in five months, but I am certainly not expecting that same sort of progress to continue indefinitely.

As you said, it's easier to drop from 9 to 8 minutes than it is to drop from 8 to 7 minutes, and it'll just keep getting more difficult from there, so I am trying to remain realistic in my goals.

I have never run a marathon and have decided that I am not going to even try one until I am confident that I can complete it in less than 3:30. So I am going to continue with my training program and hopefully be able to improve my times over the coming months and then I'll see where I am in 2021.

If I can continue to progress and there are races next year, I may think about entering one.
 
#9
Hi james. What worked to help me get faster is to hit those faster paces over intervals and shorter distances. Your body will get used to the faster turnover and you can take that and the conditioning you gain from that to your longer runs. More importantly than that, I wouldn’t say wait till you can hit x time to do a race. It seems like a lot of pressure to put on yourself especially if you haven’t done a lot (or any) racing. Racing will make you a faster runner. You’ll learn a lot about your body and mind and managing your effort in that environment. Racing is a fun thing we get to do as runners. We get together, do what we love, and push each other in the process. So I would say when races open up or if they’re open in your area, go for it. Get out there, meet a bunch of like minded weirdos, (lol. The longer the race the weirder) and just race and have fun. Don’t worry about crushing your first half or full. Hope this helps
 
#10
I would suggest practice running your goal pace at least once-a-week for 12-14 weeks at a shorter distance, probably starting at 4 miles and working up to 8 at that pace. Too many plans have you running slow for long runs and quick for short intervals, but completely skip knowing your race pace and what it feels like.

I'd recommend three goal workouts a week: Long run. Long intervals of a 1 mile x 3 or 4. Tempo run (at race pace).
 
#11
It really just depends on the quality of training, the volume of training, and the amount of time you've been running. I only started running last May, and that means that I'm able to PR more often because I'm still developing my fundamentals. I've ran 6 half-marathons, and I've PR'd all but once. On January 3, 2021, I PR'd for a time of 1:47:22. Then, 7 weeks later, I jumped to 1:31:45 --that's a 16-minute improvement. So, if you ask me, the common replies to these sorts of questions are very conservative, and I think they tend to discourage people from setting more ambitious goals.

You should work on improving the following areas (I've listed them in order of importance, IMO):
1. Improve diet and hydration
2. Improve sleep and recovery (i.e. nourish properly before and after workouts; stretch, massages; foam roller)
3. Improve your running form. Many runners do a poor job of getting the most out of their stride. At best, most are inefficient runners; at worst, they are repeating bad habits that lead to disappointing results and injuries—DO NOT overlook form and efficiency. Start by filming yourself and then consult plenty of online resources. (***When I did this, my numbers made huge jumps***)
4. Cross train. You cannot run every day, unless you want injuries. But you should workout every day (rest days are okay sometimes, however). This means cycling, swimming, and weight lifting as much as you can. If you seriously want to drop 13+ minutes off your HM time, it is simply a matter of cardiovascular fitness and strength (assuming you are running efficiently).
5. Increase training volume. Run as many slow miles as you can. Run real races or at race pace as many times as you can.

Again, this is quite different advice than most will give you, but I believe in the process. I can't stress enough how important numbers 1 and 2 are to improving your numbers. If your diet is poor and you don't rest and recover, then you simply can't put in the miles or the time to improve your numbers. Injuries are so common in running, and there's a myth that you must be careful not to overtrain. It is true that you can overtrain, but few people actually have the time to really do that. Cross training is the key to a 7-day per week training plan. I get little issues from running all the time--I run a lot. But when I do, I don't miss a beat--I go straight from my running shoes to my cycling shoes.

Of course, it is slightly easier for me to do this, given that I'm about 20 years younger than you, but I've trained with plenty of men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who kick my butt. It all comes down to discipline. Commit to those 5 things, and I'll bet that you knock off 13+ minutes in 2-3 months.

Frankly, I think the "1 second improvement per 400m/per distance/per year" is a good benchmark for the casual runner, but not a serious runner. Besides, we have to factor age into the equation. As we get older, it becomes harder and harder to PR. That requires smarter, more committed training.

Best of luck! I hope you crush your next HM!
 
#12
It really just depends on the quality of training, the volume of training, and the amount of time you've been running. I only started running last May, and that means that I'm able to PR more often because I'm still developing my fundamentals. I've ran 6 half-marathons, and I've PR'd all but once. On January 3, 2021, I PR'd for a time of 1:47:22. Then, 7 weeks later, I jumped to 1:31:45 --that's a 16-minute improvement. So, if you ask me, the common replies to these sorts of questions are very conservative, and I think they tend to discourage people from setting more ambitious goals.

You should work on improving the following areas (I've listed them in order of importance, IMO):
1. Improve diet and hydration
2. Improve sleep and recovery (i.e. nourish properly before and after workouts; stretch, massages; foam roller)
3. Improve your running form. Many runners do a poor job of getting the most out of their stride. At best, most are inefficient runners; at worst, they are repeating bad habits that lead to disappointing results and injuries—DO NOT overlook form and efficiency. Start by filming yourself and then consult plenty of online resources. (***When I did this, my numbers made huge jumps***)
4. Cross train. You cannot run every day, unless you want injuries. But you should workout every day (rest days are okay sometimes, however). This means cycling, swimming, and weight lifting as much as you can. If you seriously want to drop 13+ minutes off your HM time, it is simply a matter of cardiovascular fitness and strength (assuming you are running efficiently).
5. Increase training volume. Run as many slow miles as you can. Run real races or at race pace as many times as you can.

Again, this is quite different advice than most will give you, but I believe in the process. I can't stress enough how important numbers 1 and 2 are to improving your numbers. If your diet is poor and you don't rest and recover, then you simply can't put in the miles or the time to improve your numbers. Injuries are so common in running, and there's a myth that you must be careful not to overtrain. It is true that you can overtrain, but few people actually have the time to really do that. Cross training is the key to a 7-day per week training plan. I get little issues from running all the time--I run a lot. But when I do, I don't miss a beat--I go straight from my running shoes to my cycling shoes.

Of course, it is slightly easier for me to do this, given that I'm about 20 years younger than you, but I've trained with plenty of men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who kick my butt. It all comes down to discipline. Commit to those 5 things, and I'll bet that you knock off 13+ minutes in 2-3 months.

Frankly, I think the "1 second improvement per 400m/per distance/per year" is a good benchmark for the casual runner, but not a serious runner. Besides, we have to factor age into the equation. As we get older, it becomes harder and harder to PR. That requires smarter, more committed training.

Best of luck! I hope you crush your next HM!
I agree with most of what you said. But running 7 days a week does not guarantee injury if you do it the right way. Nearly every professional athlete trains 7 days a week with doubles on most of them. Same goes for collegiate, and even a lot of HS. There have been studies showing that the injury rate over 7 day training programs are actually lower than 6 day ones. Like you said, most of the mileage should be comfortable. But it is important to continue to work on that turnover in a couple of speed workouts each week. At the beginning of a training period, the speed work will only be slightly up paces intervals, but towards the end, focusing on paces up to VO2 Max can be very beneficial. Like you said though, none of it matters without a good diet and proper rest/recovery.
 
#13
I agree with most of what you said. But running 7 days a week does not guarantee injury if you do it the right way. Nearly every professional athlete trains 7 days a week with doubles on most of them. Same goes for collegiate, and even a lot of HS. There have been studies showing that the injury rate over 7 day training programs are actually lower than 6 day ones. Like you said, most of the mileage should be comfortable. But it is important to continue to work on that turnover in a couple of speed workouts each week. At the beginning of a training period, the speed work will only be slightly up paces intervals, but towards the end, focusing on paces up to VO2 Max can be very beneficial. Like you said though, none of it matters without a good diet and proper rest/recovery.
That sounds like an interesting study--surprising results! I guess I don't really believe that it's impossible to avoid injuries while running 7 days per week (indeed, I've had several weeks like this without injury). But it's true that running injuries are incredibly common. Perhaps that's more about nutrition, recovery, and form than about volume itself.
 
#14
That sounds like an interesting study--surprising results! I guess I don't really believe that it's impossible to avoid injuries while running 7 days per week (indeed, I've had several weeks like this without injury). But it's true that running injuries are incredibly common. Perhaps that's more about nutrition, recovery, and form than about volume itself.
Yeah, I was very surprised about it too when my coach told me about it. I had always believed one day off each week is absolutely necessary. But after hearing the explanation of it, I think it makes sense. On a day spent completely off, your muscles get the chance to tighten up, which can cause an injury. Now, what you were saying about doing cross training days would solve this problem as well, but the amount of fitness gained (in my experience) from running 7 days a week is tremendous. I did actually get injured more with a weekly break though than I have with running week round, so I’d say the study holds true.
 
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