How to build half-marathon endurance from scratch

by | Jan 26, 2024 | Technical Articles

Train to improve your speed endurance for long distances

What does it take to run long distances? The word endurance is often used, but what you actually need is something more specific: speed endurance.

Speed endurance describes your body’s ability to hold a faster pace for a sustained amount of time. It’s what you need to run a 10K or half marathon at a faster pace. So if you’re aiming for a new PB – keep reading!

Speed endurance training and V02 max

V02 max is the measure of your body’s maximum capacity to transport and use oxygen to breakdown glycogen and fat for energy during exercise.

Increasing your V02 max will boost your running performance, allow your heart to work more efficiently, and will mean you can tap into a wider range of speeds when you run.

5 ways to improve your speed endurance:

Long runs:

The most important factor in learning to run further is running further. Increase your weekly long run by 10 minutes or 1 mile (max) – no more – and play the long game. Plenty of other techniques listed below will boost your speed endurance more quickly, but a steady focus on distance will provide the foundation. Your long run should be 30-50% of a half marathon training plan.

Tempo runs:

Tempo runs are mid-distance runs at a mid-pace (spot a theme!) They’re not short and fast like sprints, nor are they long and steady. Tempo runs mean holding a 7-8/10 effort pace to teach your body how to deal with lactic acid, fatigue, and mental endurance.


As with so many things, consistency is crucial to success with speed endurance. This means training consistently across the week, and maintaining a training plan as the weeks turn into months. Consistency will build your aerobic base, muscular strength, and self-confidence as a runner.

Running economy:

Running economy refers to how efficient your body is as a runner. This means your posture, technique, style, and even your body weight. The more efficient you are, the further (and faster) you can run without getting fatigued. We run at a cadence of around 170 – 180 steps per minute, so imagine the difference if every step was more efficient.


The further you run and the higher your training frequency, the more recovery your body needs. During recovery, the body adapts to training stimuli, getting fitter, stronger, and healthier. Your recovery strategy should include sleep (7+ hours a night), hydration (2+ litres water a day), and a healthy diet based around whole foods. Spend time stretching and doing mobility work, and use rest days wisely.

How to build speed endurance as a beginner:

Start where you’re at, and don’t do too much too soon. Add 10% to your total weekly mileage or to your long run. This might not seem much at first, but will soon add up (and will protect you from aches and pains).

Focus on increasing running duration before you look at tempo runs. Once you can run for 20 minutes at a steady pace, you can think about adding in tempo runs and some speed work like sprints (they’re more fun than they sound!)

Increase time on your feet through long walks and hikes one day a week. This isn’t the same as running, but it will help build muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.

And lastly, be patient with yourself. It takes time to build speed endurance but you will get there. Celebrate every run you do – they all make a difference.

We welcome you to join us at the Windsor Half Marathon  Sunday September 29th in the beautiful surroundings of Windsor Castle. You’ve got plenty of time to train click here for more information