Half Marathon Hill Workouts

By Rick Morris

Your half marathon race pace is very close to your tempo run intensity. While your tempo training runs aren’t performed at an extreme pace or intensity, you are working at a moderately hard level. Tempo workouts  are sometimes called cruise intervals or cruise workouts because you get into a nice, steady relaxed rhythm at a fast “cruising” pace. The half marathon specific pace of tempo workouts make them nearly ideal half marathon training runs. The one problem with most of your tempo workouts is that the steady, moderately hard pace tends to encourage you to hit the flats and avoid the hills. Hills can turn what was an enjoyable, relaxing, moderate training pace into a more difficult and intense workout. These half marathon hill workouts are a good starting point.

Half marathon hill workouts may not be the easiest workouts in your arsenal but they are one of the more effective training runs you can do to improve your half marathon performance. Hill training will increase your running specific strength, power and economy.

Here are some sample half marathon hill workouts at various paces, inclines and distances. If you live in a hill challenged area you can easily do these workouts on your treadmill.

Half Marathon Pace Hill Repeats

Your half marathon race pace is a strong, moderately hard pace, but you still feel fairly comfortable because of the strong rhythm of this pace. This hill workout takes your half marathon pace up a level.

  • Description:  Run  6 to 10 repeats of about 800 to 1200 meters up a steep hill of 8% to 12% elevation. Run at a your half marathon race pace. Don’t use perceived exertion to judge your pace on this one.
  • Pace:  Run all repeats at your half marathon race pace.
  • Recovery: Recover between each hill repeat by walking or running at a very easy pace down the hill. As soon as you reach your starting point at the bottom of the hill turn around at begin your next repeat.

Half Marathon Hill Climb

This is not only a great half marathon training run but is also a very good indicator of your half marathon fitness level.

  • Description:  Run 6 miles up a hill of moderate incline or about 5%. Run at your half marathon race pace.
  • Pace:  Try to maintain your half marathon race pace all the way up this six mile hill climb.
  • Recovery: No recovery on the uphill portion. Run back down the hill at an easy pace for a recovery and cool down.

Half Marathon Changeup

You will need to find a trail with rolling terrain or with frequent incline changes. If you can’t find one you will need to do this one on your treadmill.

  • Description:  Run between 4 and 8 miles on a hilly, rolling trail or course with frequent elevation changes between downhill running and 15% elevation. The exact distance of each segment of this unstructured run is not critical as long as you are changing elevation or incline frequently and are able to include some steep hill running. For your first attempt at this workout limit your distance to 4 miles and gradually build up to 8 miles as you progress through your program.
  • Pace:  Goal half marathon race pace.
  • Recovery: No recovery

Half Marathon Long Run with Finishing Climb

You probably are already aware of the benefits of fast finish runs. They train your mind and body to run at a quality pace when fatigued and improve your negative split ability. Hill training is very similar to speed work. This one uses a finishing hill climb rather than a fast finish. You will need access to a long hill at the end of this workout. No hills? Hit the treadmill.

  • Description: Run 14 miles at an increasing pace and a hill finish.
  • Pace: Run the first 7 miles on mostly flat terrain at an easy pace. Run the next 5 miles on flat terrain at half marathon pace. Finish with 2 miles at half marathon pace up a hill of moderate incline or about 5% on your treadmill.
  • Recovery: No recovery

Half Marathon Blasters

You will need that long hill access again for this one.

  • Description: Three to six mile hill climb alternating between half marathon pace and 5K pace.
  • Pace: Alternate between running 1200 meters at half marathon pace and 400 meters at 5K pace.
  • Recovery: None. Run back down the hill at an easy pace for a cool down.