8 Tips to Run Your Best Half Marathon

If you've registered for a half marathon, here are eight tips on how to run your best race:

Run with others.

Group running
Christopher Futcher

Running with a group will not only boost your motivation (who wants to flake out on friends who are counting on you to show up for a run?), but you'll also likely to improve your performance. The group motivation will help you stick to your training schedule. And when you're running with others who are encouraging you to run faster and harder, it's easier to take it to the next level. If you haven't found a group that challenges you, check in with your and running specialty store or ask running friends for recommendations.

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Give yourself rest days.

Runner lying on the couch
Steve Cole

You may assume training hard and fast every day will lead to faster race times, but that's not the case. Rest days and easy runs have a specific purpose as part of an overall training plan. Giving your body a break from the stress of running can reduce your risk of overuse injuries, such as shin splints. It's also good to take a mental break from running, so you don't lose your running mojo and get bored.

Do some speed work.

Running Uphill
John Kelly

Doing speed work once or twice a week can help improve your speed, strength, and confidence. Here are three workouts that you can rotate into your half marathon training. The first two can be done on a track or treadmill so you're able to accurately track the distance:​

800m (half-mile) Repeats
10 minute warm-up (easy jog)
800m @ 10K race pace
1 minute easy recovery
Repeat 800m @ 5K race pace/1 minute recovery 4 more times
5 minute cool-down​

Mile Repeats
10 minute warm-up (easy jog)
1 mile @ 10K race pace
1 minute easy recovery
Repeat 1 mile @ 10K race pace/1 minute easy recovery 2 more times
5 minute cool-down​

Hill repeats
10 minute warm-up (easy jog)
Run uphill (100-200 meters) @ 10K race pace
Recover easy jog downhill
Repeat 5 times (add one more hill per week)
5 minute cool-down

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Do a training race.

Runners Warming Up Before Race
Chris Leschinsky

Just like actors getting ready for a big show, it always help to do a "dress rehearsal" work out all the pre-race jitters and practice your race day routine. Pick a 5K or 10K a few weeks before your half marathon and use it as an opportunity to practice everything you'll do on race day.

Work on your mental training.

Runner smiling
Matthew Leete

Running your best is not just about training your body –- you also need to train your mind so you'll be prepared for the inevitable rough patches that happen during training and racing.

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Finish strong during some long runs.

Runner Outdoors
Runner Outdoors. Getty Images

Picking up the pace for the last few miles of your long runs is good practice for race day conditions and it all improve your endurance. Try picking up your long run pace by about 20-30 seconds for the last few miles.

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Have a race plan.

Runners in half marathon
Yellow Dog Productions

It helps to figure out a plan for your race to avoid going out too fast or not racing to your full potential. Here's how you can predict your half marathon time based on a recent race time. Once you figure out your average pace for your goal time, you may have to use a pace bracelet or pace tat to determine what your splits should be at each mile. Keep in mind that changes in elevation or conditions on the course may lead you to run uneven splits. And some runners prefer to run a negative split for half marathons, where they run the first half of the race a bit slower than the second half. Of course, even when you have a plan, it's important to keep it flexible. You may end up feeling better or worse than you expected and may have to throw the race plan out the window at a certain point.

Race smart.

Runners in race
Getty Images

It's possible to shave some seconds or maybe even minutes off your finishing time with smart racing strategies, such as making sure you don't start out too fast. Try some of these strategies for running faster races.

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