Cross Training For Runners

Break the Barrier: Conquer the Sub-1:30 Half Marathon with This Game-Changing Training Plan

12 Mins read

If your goal is to run a sub-90-minute half marathon, then you’re in the right place.

Here’s the truth.

Running a half marathon in under 90 minutes isn’t for the faint-hearted and requires more than just average running skills. It takes a burning passion to push the limits and surpass them.

But the good news is that almost anyone can do it with the right approach. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting out, there are specific strategies and techniques that can help you achieve your goal.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into what it takes to run a sub-90-minute half marathon. And that includes:

  • The required pace for the 90-minute HM
  • The prerequisite you need to have
  • How to start training for the 1.30 half marathon
  • The EXACT workout paces you need for a 90-min half marathon
  • The training plan to follow
  • And so much more

So, whether you’re a seasoned runner or just starting, let’s lace up our shoes and start the journey towards the sub-90 minute half marathon.

The Required Pace For A 1.30 Half Marathon

To achieve a 90-minute half marathon, you’ll need to run at an average pace of 06:50 minutes per mile or 4:15 per kilometer or faster. That’s no easy feat, and it requires an incredible level of fitness and training.

To even begin this journey, you need to have a solid running base, meaning you should be able to comfortably run a sub-18 5K, sub-40 10K, or a sub-3:15 marathon.

The 1.30 Half Marathon Plan – Who is it For?

Running a sub-90-minute half marathon is not for the faint of heart, but it is a goal worth pursuing. This plan is designed for experienced runners who are willing to put in the hard work and dedication required to achieve this feat.

But let’s be real here. The average runner may find it difficult to reach such an ambitious goal. Many runners set lofty goals without considering the amount of effort and dedication required to achieve them. It’s important to know what pace you need to run on race day to meet your target time, and this plan is specifically tailored to help you reach that pace.

So what does this plan entail? You’ll be hitting the pavement four or five times a week with a mix of easy, tempo, fast, and steady runs. Each week includes 1-2 easy runs, one speed-based run, and one long run to build your endurance. You’ll also be incorporating cross-training workouts twice a week to strengthen your muscles and prevent injury. And don’t forget to take one rest day a week to allow your body to recover and rejuvenate.

But this isn’t just about putting in the miles. This plan is strategically designed to improve your speed and endurance. Each week includes threshold and race pace runs, with targeted work on short and medium intervals. You’ll also be doing tempo workouts as long runs that include race pace work to simulate race day conditions.

The Requirements Of Running A 1.30 Half Marathon

Firstly, it’s important to know that running a sub-90-minute half marathon requires more than just showing up on race day and running as fast as you can. It requires preparation, consistency, and dedication.

If you’re already an experienced runner and have completed several races before, then you’re on the right track. However, if you’re a beginner runner, don’t be discouraged. With the right training plan and attitude, you can work towards achieving this goal in the future.

To give yourself the best chance at success, I’d recommend that you can already complete a half marathon in or around the 110-minute mark. This means that you have a good base to work from and can focus on improving your pace. If you can run a 10K within 40 to 42 minutes, then you’re definitely on the right track to achieving your sub-90-minute goal.

How Long is The HM Training Plan

The 12-week timeframe of the 1.30 HM plan is designed to help you find the sweet spot of training duration. Train for less than eight weeks, and you may not have enough time to build a good base. Train for longer than 16 weeks, and you risk losing the motivation and drive to train.

However, what if your target half-marathon race is scheduled for more than three months out in the future? Then, it’s recommended that you add a sub-goal along the way. This could be running a 10K race or another half marathon to help you build your confidence and momentum along the way. Remember, the journey is what matters—not just the destination.

Be Specific in Training

Running a half marathon is no small feat, and if you’re aiming for a specific time, it’s important to be specific in your training. It’s like sharpening a knife – you want to hone in on your target pace by training at that pace for shorter distances and durations during your workouts. But don’t just focus on the pace; the key to running your fastest race is teaching your body to clear lactic acid faster than it builds up. That’s why it’s important to include sessions with 20 to 60 minutes at your target race pace at least once a week.

However, it’s important to find the right balance. You don’t want to perform too many half marathon pace runs as this may increase your injury risk. Follow the 80/20 percent rule in which three-quarters of your miles should be easy, whereas the rest should be hard. For example, if you log around 40 miles a week, 32 of these should be easy, while the remaining 8 miles should be devoted to some form of speedwork.

Having variety in one’s running plan is the signature move of a well-rounded program. And that’s a good thing. A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that runners who followed a structured training plan improved their 5K and 10K times significantly more than those who did not follow a plan.

Additional resource – Maintaining muscle during marathon training

Easy Runs

Easy runs should be performed at a comfortable pace and are designed to give you a good aerobic base. Don’t stress too much about the distance or speed of these sessions – they should be enjoyable and easy.

You should be able to keep a conversation going on easy runs, so they’re perfect to do with friends. If you can’t hold a conversation, you’re going too fast.

To err on the side of caution, I recommend using a heart rate monitor. Your target zone should be around 65 and 75 of your maximum heart rate.

Interval Training

If you’re looking to race at a fast pace, then you should train at your race pace (and a little bit faster) at least once a week. This is where interval training comes in, which consists of running one fast interval followed by one slow interval.

Then you repeat for the duration of the session. Interval training is the best way to improve your speed when training for a half marathon. Speedwork can also teach your body how to recruit more and more muscle fibers while running.

In my 1.30 HM training plan, I include various interval work, ranging from 400-meter to 2Km intervals. The intervals should be performed as instructed in the plan. For shorter repeats like 400 and 800, I recommend doing them on a track, but for longer repeats, you might want to do them on the road.

Here’s how fast you should perform interval training:

  • 400-m reps – These should be drastically faster than your HM race pace, at a roughly 6:00 per mile pace with a 60-second recovery jog. Ten mph or 16.2 km/per hour for treadmill sessions.
  • 800-m reps – Same as above, shoot for 6:20 pace per mile again with a 90-second recovery jog. 4 mph or 15.2 km/per hour for treadmill sessions.
  • 1K intervals – Again, at slightly faster than race pace and should be at roughly 6:40 with a two-minute recovery jog. Nine mph or 14.5 km/per hour for treadmill sessions.
  • 2K intervals – These should be performed at your goal race pace of 6:50 per mile with a two-minute recovery. 8.6 mph or 14.1 km/per hour for treadmill sessions.

Remember not to overdo it; otherwise, you risk being too overtrained for the other runs in the plan.  Overall, the total interval distance shouldn’t exceed 15 to 20 percent of weekly mileage.

For more guidelines on speedwork, check the following posts:

And here’s the average time to run a mile.

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs consist of non-stop sessions with a build-up halfway to a 10K race pace, and they’ve a lot to offer.

Tempo runs are fantastic strength builders and are a must, especially when training for a half marathon. They also help keep pace without building too much lactate in your muscles, which eventually helps keep a faster pace for a longer period.

The typical tempo runs would start with 10 to 15 minutes of easy running, then speed up gradually for 20 to 30 minutes near the midpoint, then 5 to 10 minutes easy as a cool-down toward the end.

That’s all.

I’d also recommend performing your tempo workouts at your target half-marathon pace, which is 5:50 per mile. Build up the speed gradually, not suddenly.

If this is your first time doing tempo training, start with tempo intervals of 2 to 5 minutes at a tempo pace with 1 to 2 minutes of easy running as recovery in between. Shoot for about 20 minutes at a tempo pace.

Increase the distance until you can finish five or six miles at a tempo pace a couple of weeks before race day.

Additional resource – How long is a half marathon

Girl in sportswear does warm-up in the park on a cloudy day.

Long Runs

Taking on the 90-minute half marathon means that you likely already do a long run of roughly 90 minutes or longer every weekend.

If it’s the case, then I’m not surprised.

Long runs are the bread and butter of endurance training.

They’re the best for building aerobic endurance.

But how do you increase distance without incurring injury?

The key is to do it gradually. As a rule, build up the distance of your long runs gradually. Following the 10 percent rule is the best way to go.

During the program, you’ll add 1-2 miles to your long run every 1-2 weeks. You’ll also be taking a recovery week every 4 to 5 weeks in which you reduce the long run distance by 30 percent.

To complete a sub-90-minute half marathon, you’ll want to run more than 13.1 miles during your long peak runs—4 to 6 weeks before race day.

Don’t try to run these sessions too fast.

Forget about how fast or far you’re going. Focus on spending more time on your feet. Time over distance.

Many runners often complete long runs too fast, but even a mild effort can benefit your half-marathon performance.

Start your long runs at a super easy pace, then work up to a mild effort—around 7:50 per mile pace is good. Then, as race day approaches, throw in a few miles at the end at your race goal pace. But don’t overdo it.

Stick to a comfortable, conversational pace, except when a 3/1 long is prescribed. This is a session where you run to cover the first two-thirds of the run at a conversational pace, then speed up near your goal HM pace over the last one-third of the run.

Overall, you should be feeling refreshed, not exhausted, at the end of the run.

Warm Up

Before you hit the road and start logging miles, it’s important to warm up properly to lay the foundation for an efficient run. Think of it as priming your body for the physical challenge ahead. Without a proper warm-up, your body may struggle to keep up with the demands of your workout or race.

  • For speed workouts and races, a 10 to 15-minute jog is a good start. But don’t stop there. To get your muscles ready, add some dynamic movements like leg swings, lunges, and squats to your routine. And to get your body firing at all cylinders, throw in a few 100-meter strides at near maximum speed.
  • For long runs, you can warm up on the go by starting the first few miles at a slow pace. But a 10-minute brisk walk followed by a few dynamic exercises will help ensure your muscles are properly warmed up.

Additional Reading – Half marathon pace chart

Stretch And Strength

While most half-marathon training plans focus mainly on running, cross-training is essential for improving performance and preventing injury. By doing non-running workouts like strength training, you can build overall body strength and endurance without subjecting your body to more running-related stress.

The ideal strength routine for endurance runners would consist of push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, bench presses, planks, and other compound movements to build overall body strength and endurance.

What’s more?

I’d also recommend stretching regularly after your runs. Static stretching helps release tight muscles and as well improves overall mobility.

Just keep in mind that these are, in fact, easy days, so don’t overdo them. Keep it light. Keep it easy.

Rest

Proper recovery is key to achieving your 90-min half marathon. By incorporating proper recovery practices, you’ll get the most out of your runs while limiting your risk of injury.

Pay attention to your fatigue level, especially as race day nears—and don’t lose sleep over taking a day or two off.

Your Pacing Strategy

To run a sub-1:30 half marathon, it’s essential to pace yourself properly throughout the race.

One effective strategy is to break the race down into smaller segments and pace accordingly. For example, you can divide the half marathon into three 4-mile segments and one 5.1-mile segment. During the first two segments, aim to run slightly slower than your goal pace.

In the third segment, aim to run at your goal pace. Finally, during the last segment, aim to slightly increase your pace.

What’s more?

Be sure to adjust your pacing based on factors such as course elevation, weather conditions, and individual fitness level.

Weekly Mileage For Running A Sub 90 Minutes Half Marathon

One of the keys to success is building up your weekly mileage gradually. While there’s no magic number of miles that will guarantee you a sub-90-minute finish, most runners will need to put in some serious work to get there.

If you’re currently running around 20 miles per week, don’t worry, you can still get there! Aim to gradually increase your weekly mileage to around 40 miles throughout the early weeks of your training. Think of it like building a sturdy foundation for a skyscraper. The more miles you run, the stronger your endurance base will be and the faster you’ll be able to run.

But it’s not just about running more miles. You also need to be smart about how you structure your training. Keep your long run mileage to around 25-35% of your weekly volume. For example, if you’re running 26 miles a week, aim for a long run of around 6-9 miles. Going too hard or too fast can lead to injuries that will only set you back in your training.

As you build your weekly mileage, be sure to also focus on cross-training and strength training to prevent injury and build overall body strength. A strong body is a resilient body, and you’ll be better able to handle the rigors of training if you’re doing push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, and other compound movements.

Additional Resource – Here’s your guide to the Yasso 800 Workout

The 1.30 Half Marathon Training Plan

Now, onto the training plan. This is just a guide, so feel free to adjust it to fit your schedule and needs. But remember, consistency is key. You won’t get to the finish line in under 90 minutes if you’re not putting in the work.

This plan includes a mix of easy runs, speed work, and a long run each week to help you build endurance and speed.

Week – 1

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 4 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 6 X 800M

Thursday– Easy Run: 4 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Steady Run: 4 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 10 miles

Week – 2

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 5 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 10 X 400M

Thursday– Easy Run: 5 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Steady Run: 6 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 10 miles

Week – 3

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 5 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 5 X 1K

Thursday– Easy Run: 6 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Steady Run: 4 miles on hills

Sunday – Long Run: 11 miles

Week – 4

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 6 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 4 X 2K

Thursday– Easy Run: 4 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Tempo Run: 4 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 12 miles

Week – 5

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 7 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 12 X 400M

Thursday– Easy Run: 5 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Steady Run: 6 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 13 miles

Week – 6

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 7 miles

Wednesday—tempo run: 5 miles

Thursday– Easy Run: 5 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Steady Run: 7 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 13 miles

Week – 7

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 7 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 8 X 800M

Thursday– Easy Run: 6 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– tempo Run: 6 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 14 miles

Week – 8

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 7 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 8 X 1K

Thursday– Easy Run: 7 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Tempo Run: 6 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 14 miles

Week – 9

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 7 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 5 X 2K

Thursday– Easy Run: 8 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Tempo Run: 7 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 15 miles

Week – 10

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 7 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 12 X 400M

Thursday– Easy Run: 7 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Steady Run: 7 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 15 miles

Week – 11

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 5 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 10 X 1K

Thursday– Easy Run: 6 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Tempo Run: 6 miles

Sunday – Long Run: 10 miles

Week – 12

Monday – Rest Day or Cross train

Tuesday – Easy Run: 4 miles

Wednesday—Speedwork: 8 X 400M

Thursday– Easy Run: 3 miles

Friday—Rest Day or Cross train

Saturday– Steady Run: 3 miles

Sunday – Half Marathon Race Day

Additional Resource – Your Guide To Running Heart Rate Zones

The 90-Minute Half Marathon Plan – Conclusion

Crossing the finish line of a half marathon in under 90 minutes is like summiting a mountain peak – it’s an exhilarating achievement that only a select few can claim.

According to my own estimates, less than 5% of all recreational half marathoners can break the coveted 90-minute barrier.

But don’t let that discourage you – with hard work, determination, and a little bit of grit, you can join the elite ranks of sub-90 half marathoners.

So, lace up your shoes, set your sights high, and prepare to conquer the road ahead. Remember, every step you take brings you one step closer to the summit – so don’t give up until you reach the top!

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