Unlocking My Fastest Half Marathon Time in 7 years

In this blog, I share my journey to unlocking my fastest half marathon time in 7 years at the Hamden Fest Half Marathon. I’ll take you through the training process, nutrition, and mindset that helped me achieve this goal. 


Firstly, I started by creating a training plan that was tailored to my current fitness level while gradually increasing the intensity and duration of my runs. Proper nutrition was also crucial in achieving my goal; I prioritized whole foods, healthy fats, and lean proteins while reducing my sugar and processed food intake.


Another critical factor was my mindset. I approached each run with a positive attitude, focusing on my strengths and small victories along the way instead of getting overwhelmed by long-term goals. The support of my loved ones and fellow runners also played a significant role in keeping me motivated and dedicated.


Throughout this article, I share tips and tricks that worked for me in hopes of inspiring and helping fellow runners achieve their goals. So whether you are a seasoned runner or just starting, this blog is for you! Join me as I share how I unlocked my fastest half marathon time in 7 years.


Listen to the Podcast Episode during your next run!







This was my spring goal half marathon after a long winter of base building 🤨


It is difficult for me to race an April or May half marathon due to my girls travel volleyball schedule.


As a parent, my daughters come first and I would never want them to be without their father there cheering them on. I really had a good 6 months since my last half marathon (November 20th, 2022) in which I spent building a nice solid base and strong foundation for which my spring half marathon and fall marathon goals would be predicated on.


I did a fun 5k shamrock  race with my daughter in March and then raced a 10k in Philly while there for a volleyball tournament in which I ran my fastest 10K since 2015 (which was my fastest half marathon year) and was pleased to place 2nd in my age group with a time of 46:35 (7:31 min/mile).



Coming into this half marathon training block my goal was to raise the floor of my base mileage to already come into the half marathon training block at a higher mileage and more fit based on doing longer long runs, threshold work in the winter for the first time in addition to strides to work on my efficiency and form.


My gym workouts had me doing the heaviest deadlifts and squats I have ever done in my life while focusing on form.  My running had me consistently running double digit long runs to work on building my aerobic capacity.  I actually remember my memorable 12 miler in February around all the monuments and memorials in Washington DC during that volleyball tournament.  



So coming into this goal race, I had conquered progressive threshold/ tempo specific workouts (building my stamina) which progressed into a 4 week block of interval training with repeat 800’s on the track (to get more speed and leg turnover) and long runs that included two 14 and 16 milers with 2 of them adding in some spice at marathon pace or half marathon pace.


Raised the ceiling to 47 miles…


This wasn’t an accident either, it wasn’t because I was feeling good or the weather was nice…it was strategic. This was the 3rd training cycle I have crossed the 40 mile threshold with last May hitting 41 and then in my fall marathon build hitting 43.  


I have been working methodically in the offseason at elevating the floor so my ceiling can raise!  See Strava graphs to see what your weekly mileage should look like graphed out with strategic cutback weeks.  Learn more about base building and training here!


My goals for this race were the following:

  • A goal: 1:40-1:41 range
  • B goal: Sub 1:44:00 which I have been stuck out for the last 3 half marathons these past 2 years
  • C goal: 1:44:00 


The Hamden Fest Half Marathon race is all about my local running community!



Dawn and Clay Tebbetts from Multisports Academy Gym and Team Mossman Events were the race organizers and I have always respected how they treat their clients and the local community so I knew I wanted to do this inaugural race to support these true champions in my local running community.  Real small business owners without all the corporate hoopla!


I really enjoyed leading a warm up with coach LaToya from our Spark Healthy Runner Team… (remember runners we need to do a movement based warm up to turn on our muscles and bring blood flow to the muscles we are looking to use during our race!)



I also loved seeing my faculty partner in crime Karen prior to the race.




I did my traditional 10 min jog prior and then after the warm up I was able to get in some strides and I was ready for the start of the race


The Race Begins!!!



The race begins and unique to this race the first 100m is on grass as well as the last 100m!  


Not going to lie that the PT brain in me went immediately to…I never run on grass, I hope I don’t sprain my ankle!


I was trying to watch my footing and stay safe for the first part on some uneven terrain and then we ran around a soccer field which was a sidewalk so it wasn’t totally level at all so I was just trying to watch my steps while trying to stay relaxed and not exert too much energy worrying about where I was stepping.


About 1/2 mile into the race we got on the paved (rails to trails) Historic Farmington Canal “trail” and now I knew I was in my comfort zone as my weekday runs before my gym workouts are on a different section of this paved trail and it seems familiar to me to get in a nice relaxed run.


Goal for miles 1-3 in the half marathon race strategy is conservative start and consume as little energy as possible.  I looked down at my watch to keep it in check as my plan was to run 7:50-8:00 min pace the first 3 miles.


Took little bit to get the breathing in sync after the slight chaos of the start but at mile 1 I was in a nice relaxed breathing and in control with good form.  A lot quicker than most of the big races where you are dodging people in the beginning of a race which was nice!



Mile 1: 7:58


Mile 2: 8:00


Mile 3: 7:53


First part of the race was complete and I met my goal which was to get in control, not go out too fast and get my breathing down.  


Middle Part of the race… Meet Ella!





Part 1 of the race was complete getting in control and now it was time to pick up the pace to my goal pace which was 7:45 so now I needed to start surging a bit to pick up my pace and get in that groove.


It was great to see some former patients of mine and friends (Lisa and Gina) in the local running community volunteering at the water stop so I took my UCAN gel at mile 4 1/2 mark so I could chase it down with some water.


The music was starting to change in my playlist (strategically) to pick up the pace a bit and then I noticed I was running around the same pace as someone in front of me.


It appeared she was running my pace so I was like “hey let’s hang with her”


She looked over her shoulder a couple of times and probably was thinking why is this dude right on me…there is plenty of space and this was an open trail without many runners running the race around us then she said something to me and we just started talking.


Learned a lot about Harvard and how she was a cross country and track HS athlete and where she was a planning on attending grad school after Harvard.


These middle miles with Ella flew by! 


She was instrumental in keeping me honest with my middle miles as I have tended to drift off in previous races (without knowing) and we were just clicking off the miles together!


Mile 4: 7:33


Mile 5: 7:25 


Mile 6: 7:45


Mile 7: 7:41


Mile 8: 7:32


Mile 9: 7:41


I wasn’t able to talk many sentences but I was able to talk which is quite impressive for me at this half marathon race pace because I was so relaxed and not exerting too much energy.


Ella really helped me not get in my own head too much and was a great distraction.  


I really never did this at a race before.  Have you? 


The race has begun!


As Chris McClung said in Episode 173 on the Healthy Runner Podcast get in your rhythm and stay relaxed at race pace (Chris you would be proud, I even was able to close my eyes in the beginning and did a moving meditation trying to relax each muscle group going at pace). My rhythm mantra was “smile and breathe”


Now the race was about to start…. 




This is where it was a bit tricky with the 2- 2 1/2 mile water stops…when to take my gel so I could wash it down.  I did wind up taking my second gel a little later than I wanted around the 9 mile mark (but I knew I had fuel on board because I had my pre fuel before the race) and then my 3rd gel was at the last water stop which was around 11 miles so that spacing wasn’t ideal but I needed to adjust on the fly based on how the water stations were laid out and how it was an out and back style course where you passed the same water stop at different miles.  


Usually my “Go Time” is after mile 10 (with a 5k left) for a half but as you can see from my splits it did start a bit early (I think Ella was pushing the pace)


Mile 10: 7:27


Walking that last water stop to take my gel quickly and chase it with water as I knew the hardest part of the race was going to begin and I knew I needed fuel and hydration on board so mile 11 was a bit slower than I would have liked (plan was to try and go 7:30 the last three miles)


Mile 11: 7:49


Now Ella and I said our goodbye’s for the time being as I knew I was just going to push at this point and start to chase down some people in front of me and see what I had.  I caught up to one dude and I remember saying to him.  “Come on man!  We got this.  Only 2 miles to push”


Mile 12: 7:20


The music playlist I created that morning was perfect placement of the pump up songs that get me going.  It was just what I needed.  You can find it on Spotify if you search “Half Marathon Spark 2023” if you want to try it or want some ideas for songs to get you going!


I was asking my mom to lend me her angel wings to take me to the finish line.  I felt light, I felt fast…


Now the breathing is starting to get heavy but I am still feeling strong.  Not slowing down and not needed too much of a “Fight mantra” push until the last half mile “stay strong stay fast” is what I kept repeating in my head




Mile 13: 7:20


I see the finish line and it is setting in that I am not only meeting my goal but surpassing it by minutes!  I give a nice Scotti Strong pose to the photographer because was flying on cloud nine and I raise my arms up like I just won the Boston Marathon.



I feel strong, confident and didn’t mind running on the grass as I thought initially 


1:40:23 on the clock!




Do you know what is better than 1:40:23?


24 seconds faster!  That is what my immediate primitive runner brain went to but then the wiser experienced runner brain took over luckily!


I finally broke that 1:44:00 barrier I had been stuck out the last 2 years (4 half marathons) and this was my fastest half marathon in 7 years!


That is huge.  The last time I ran a half marathon faster it was 2016 and if you even said the word pandemic I would have thought you were reading some comic book or something.


I was still in my mid thirties at 36 years old….I was still writing my dissertation for my PhD and I hadn’t even started my business as an entrepreneur at the time.  


So much has changed in these 7 years and I am now 43 and faster then I was in my late thirties which makes road race #70 in my 12 year running journey that much sweeter!


Half marathon #31 will be one to remember for a while!




It has been the culmination of a full 6 months of consistent 4:30 wake up time and implementing all that I preach on this platform



5 Key Points and Lessons Learned from this past Spring Half Marathon Training Cycle:


✅ Building mileage must come slowly and progressively 


✅ Think in 6 month blocks or years and not in days and weeks when evaluating your progress in your running journey 


✅ Balance the hard running (6 x 800m repeats and long runs with spice or pace miles) with slow and EASY running on the other days (Do you know how many runs I went on in the 10-11:00 min mile pace range?  You can look on Strava)


✅ Strength training keeps your body healthy and strong to be able to go to that next level and milestone in your training


✅ If you are an experienced half marathoner… Train beyond the half in terms of long runs and weekly mileage


If you have run (and raced) 8+ half marathons over the course of 5+ years then you can start thinking of training beyond the half marathon and almost approaching it like marathon training (minus the really stressful 18 and 20 milers)


I hope by me sharing my journey it may either help or inspire you to elevate your running to the next level.


Our mission here at Spark Healthy Runner is to help dedicated runners get stronger, run faster, and enjoy lifelong injury free running (even if you have been told to stop running with an injury or don’t think you’re a fast runner).


Dr. Duane Scotti is an avid half marathoner, 4x marathoner, physical therapist and coach for runners, founder of Spark Healthy Runner, and host of the Healthy Runner Podcast.


Want the structured strength, nutrition and run plan with motivation and accountability to reach your highest running potential? Book a call and learn more about Healthy Runner coaching here!


This Episode Sponsored By: 


A big thanks to ucan for your support for this episode!




Want to know what I fueled with for this epic half marathon?  I felt strong and fast because I use Edge Energy Gels from UCAN.


Fuel smarter during a run with the best no sugar energy gel on the market delivering up to 75+ minutes of steady energy to power your best running performance.


Click here and use code HEALTHYRUNNER for 20% off your entire UCAN order! Learn more about how UCAN provides fuel for running to go further with less sugar and more energy.


Click HERE to be directed to the discount page!



Resources Mentioned:


[Download] Recovery Blueprint



[Download] Race Day Blueprint: 10 Tips to Crush Your Race!




Episode 164: What are long runs with Coach Whitney LaCombe


Episode 160: How To Set Goals For Running with Coach Carolyn Coffin


Episode 173: Mantras and Mental Strategies with Coach Chris McClung


Episode 175: How to Train Hills with Coach Elisabeth Scott


Want the structured strength, nutrition, and run plan with motivation and accountability to reach your highest running potential as a runner? Book a call and learn more about Healthy Runner coaching here 


Connect with Dr. Duane:

Dr. Duane Scotti, DPT, PhD, OCS is a running physical therapist, run coach, host of the Healthy Runner podcast, and founder of Spark Healthy Runner and has been a leader in the rehab and running community for 20+ years.


Duane initially started running as an adult, wanting to add some cardio to his gym sessions. After having a hip surgery, his doctor advised him to get off the treadmill and run outside. Without having fully recovered, Duane suffered a running-related hamstring tendon injury and many others as a novice runner.


As a coach, he has guided thousands of athletes back to running, finishing their first marathon, crushing a personal best, and even the elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.


He is truly living his passion educating the running community that they don’t need to stop running to get over a running injury.  Through his signature 1:1 coaching program, weekly videos, and podcast episodes, he empowers runners to get stronger, run faster, and enjoy lifelong injury free running.  Dr. Duane truly believes that anyone can run and that all runners should be treated differently when recovering from an injury.  He is on a mission to change the traditional thinking that running causes “overuse injuries” or “your body is just not meant to run” and you must “take a break” to get better.  Through strength and run specific training you can grow a strong mind, strong body, and just keep running!


Duane received his Bachelor of Health Science degree and Master of Physical Therapy degree from Quinnipiac University in 2001 and 2003. He then went on to receive a clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy from Nova Southeastern University in 2017. Duane is a board-certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist, RRCA Certified Running Coach, Certified Mulligan Practitioner, certified in dry needling and has advanced training in spinal manipulation and rehabilitation for runners.


As an athlete, Duane is an adult-onset runner, avid half marathoner, and enjoys challenging himself to learn and grow in his personal running journey!


A native New Yorker from Long Island, Duane currently lives in Cheshire, Connecticut with his wife Deb and his two teenage daughters who are competitive volleyball players.  They all love to explore new beaches along the east coast.




Get weekly running tips on the Healthy Runner Podcast…available wherever you get your podcasts!

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“I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude towards Duane Scotti and the Spark Healthy Runner program. When I started working with Duane, I had been dealing with chronic shin splints/posterior tibialis tendinitis for almost a year.

I had worked with multiple other coaches and physical therapists with little success and was at the point of almost giving up on my love for running. Duane is so kind, thoughtful and knowledgeable as both a physical therapist and running coach. Our first virtual meeting lasted two hours because he was so meticulous in his assessment. His strength and running program is progressive and created so that you can continue to build strength and mileage as you heal. His strength program is unique, effective, and fun.

Additionally, his warm-up routine is awesome and includes drills that over time have made me a more efficient runner. His training platform is easy to use, and he is always readily available to chat when problems or questions arise.

Over four months of working with Duane, I have built back to five days a week of running and am almost back up to my pre-injury weekly mileage and long run distance. Whenever I have flare ups or setbacks, Duane reassures me and makes necessary adjustments so that I can continue to progress in my running journey. I have had so much success with him so far that I have signed on for four more months so that he can help me to continue getting stronger as I train for the Dopey challenge in Disney World.

If you are struggling with a running injury and are feeling hopeless, you have to reach out to Duane Scotti. Of course, you will have to put in a lot of hard work, but with Duane by your side, you will be able to achieve your goals and more. Thank you Spark Healthy Runner for bringing the spark back to my running!”

Dipti Pandya

You can teach an old dog new tricks!!!  I have never considered myself a runner and I knew I needed to be smart about it because I am no spring chicken. Spark preached getting strong and healthy to be injury free and they practice what they preach.  I am soooo glad I made the investment in me!  I finished my half marathon last weekend and couldn’t be any happier!  The program fed me all the steps I needed to essentially learn how to run long distance, build strength, nutrition help, a forum of other runners and probably most important was the 1:1 coaching.  I had no idea how to tackle training for a 1/2 marathon and this program broke all of it down, had it individualized for me and we tweaked as we went to make sure I was staying healthy and strong.  I had so many questions the week prior to my race and Coach Cat was always there for me and answering all the questions and issues I had-and believe me there were a lot!  The biggest benefit I think I got was the strength. I am strong and fit. But most important was what I gained emotionally.  I built confidence and strength I didn’t know I had, even at my age.  Honestly could not have done this without Spark Healthy Runners!

Gina J.

My Healthy Runner journey started after I had battled bilateral achilles pain for a few months and was frustrated how it affected my running. As soon as I talked to Duane I knew I had made the right decision. His positivity, enthusiasm and genuine care are infectious. The training plan that was tailored to me included specific exercises to rehab my injury and I was so excited that I didn’t have to stop running. It took patience to only run slow for a few weeks but I trusted the process and it got me me to where I am now: running pain free. We made adjustments to the plan throughout whenever needed having someone in your corner that is always there with guidance and support throughout the process was invaluable.

I just ran my second half marathon, both with Duane’s coaching, and PR’d by over 9 minutes! I got all choked up in the last mile when I realized that I felt strong and could still kick it up a notch.

I’m so thankful for the Healthy Runner program, community and the entire coaching team for all the support!

Katja L.

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