How I Used CrossFit to PR My Half Marathon Time

I didn’t utilize a volume periodization training platform (one that adds miles each week until you hit a determined plateau and then taper down). However, I didn’t just sit on my couch and eat Doritos every day either. I trained, but not in the sport specific way most people train for their first half marathon or marathon.

I signed up for the half marathon two weeks prior to the actual race day, and I felt 100% confident that I would post a decent time on it.

I’m not writing this to gloat, but rather to highlight the incredible benefits of high intensity interval training.

I used CrossFit as my primary training platform.

CrossFit Games 2016 Updates tia clair toomeySource: CrossFit Inc
Sprint time after the swim at The CrossFit Games

Between using CrossFit as my conditioning 3-6 times a week and having a solid understanding of running mechanics, I was not only able to finish the run with a decent time, but I wasn’t one of the people you typically see at the end of the finish line that look like they just went through their first night of Fight Club.

Of course, I was tired, but I wasn’t experiencing a near death phenomenon at the finish line. Why is this important? Because too many people rely on a high-volume training platform without the proper understanding of running mechanics.

Does a high-volume training plan work? Yes, it does, and there have been countless athletes that have proved that. What they don’t experience is the incredible shin splints, knee pain, and hip flexor pain as a result from poor running mechanics.

Skill and mechanics in any movement should be a greater priority than the volume in any training plan.


Running a half marathon or a marathon without any prior knowledge of what proper running form is would be akin to completing a workout with 100 moderately heavy deadlifts without any idea of how to position your body in the deadlift to avoid blowing out your back.

Yet, very few acknowledge that running is a skill that needs concentrated skill work and dedication.

So, how can you run the best race you’ve ever run without having to drown yourself in seemingly endless miles coupled with nagging injuries?


Find a knowledgeable coach, or if resources are limited, start researching POSE Method running.

The steps to learn proper running mechanics through POSE running are simple, but they take a lot of practice and adherence to skill work. Much like getting your first muscle up, there is a process, and the process unfortunately can take a while.


“The Pose Method of Running technique consists of three elements: Pose – Fall – Pull and it accepts gravity as the primary force for forward movement instead of muscular effort. To achieve the optimum running technique, the key is to make the greatest possible use of terrestrial gravity. A skilled, knowledgeable runner should be able to work with the force of gravity just as a yachtsman gains energy from the wind.”

Skip to 1:40 for the start of the training

This is a crucial aspect to any long-distance run. Not only will having proper running mechanics allow you to run more efficiently (making the run feel easier), but you will know what to feel while you are running mid race.

Knowing your body and your positioning mid run is just as important as knowing where you are in a handstand pushup. If your positioning is off and you’re striking the foot incorrectly or bending at the waist, you will understand what you are doing and will be able to correct while on the go.

Utilizing a training program that builds in high intensity interval training is important because you’ll be able to condition your body more efficiently.  As opposed to grinding out mile after mile, you’ll be able to get your body stronger, faster, and more mobile in less time using a training program that focuses on interval work (CrossFit is one example).

Coupling the knowledge of efficient running with the conditioning power of high intensity interval training will allow you to crush your next race, whether that is a half marathon or that second mile on Murph.

Although I can’t speak in absolutes, if you are looking to run your first half marathon or marathon, I urge you to experiment with different training models and seek guidance to develop your running prowess with an expert coach. Experiment to find what works for you in terms of training, but think about the end goal.

My end goal is to be able to function as a human being and to run well into my elder years without the need for medical assistance. I hope you agree.

If you want to go into more depth with improving your aerobic capacity, check out this excellent podcast from the guys at Barbell Shrugged with Chris Hinshaw. 

5 Endurance WODs to Build a Powerful Engine for Crossfit


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