Adding Intervals to Your Marathon Training

Adding Intervals to Your Marathon Training

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I’m following the Intermediate Half Marathon program to try and get a sub-2:00 in September, my third half-marathon. I’ve not followed a structured training plan before, but this looks like it might work for me, because I like the touch of speedwork (once a week) it offers. My question is how far and how long should I walk or jog between the 400-meter intervals. I currently walk for 1 minute. Is that right?


It matters little what you do during the intervals between the 400 repeats, as long as you do it consistently. For those not familiar with the program. Intermediate Half begins with 5 x 400 on Wednesdays in Week 1 and peaks with 10 x 400 in Week 11, one week before the half marathon. The prescribed pace is 5-K pace, the pace you would run in a 5-K race. Those following the program run 400’s one week, do a Tempo Run the next week, then back to 400’s, adding a 400 every other week. The length of time for the tempo runs also increases, keeping with the approach of gradual adaptation to stress. With the interval training, the only change from week to week is the number of repeats; everything else remains constant.

Thus, if you do 5 x 400 with a minute jog or walk between, do exactly that as you move from week to week. If you get to the last few reps and find you need to walk more or jog more slowly, that is an indication that you may be running the reps too fast. Interval training should not exhaust you. I want you to finish that final rep feeling exhilarated, not overly tired.

Interval training in one sense is a very sophisticated workout, while on the other hand it is fairly basic. It may take you a number of training cycles before you catch the concept. Fair enough. Don’t expect everything to work perfectly the first time out, but if you can master this approach to training, it should help you become a better and faster runner.

Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for'Runner's World'and author of 34 books, including the best-selling'Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that more than a quarter million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks.Hal uses'TrainingPeaks'to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans.'Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here'or on'his website.