5 Keys to Nailing the Half-Marathon Row

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Updated June 21, 2022

Is a half-marathon row on your agenda? Try these tips to help you survive and thrive. We include a half-marathon strategy as well. #halfmarathon #halfmarathonrow #ucanrow2



So you want to do a half-marathon row on the rowing machine… “They’ve done it at The CrossFit Games,” you say to yourself.  Or maybe Concept2’s Global Marathon Challenge or the Solstice rows have hit your radar screen.


It’s definitely a doable goal, but you’ll need to train for it and have a strategy in place for when the big day comes.  You’re looking at spending a couple of hours on the rowing machine (or SkiErg or BikeErg) so preparation is key.


If you’ve never done one before, the aim is plain and simple: Your goal is to finish. Period. If it helps you to have a race plan (see #4 below), then go for it, but the idea on the first time out is simply to get a baseline for how long it takes you to do this distance and how you feel throughout.


The Concept2 Rankings for your age group can give you a sense for what your time might be but if it’s your first half it’s a personal best no matter what, so don’t worry about breaking world records right now.


Doing your first half marathon on the @concept2? Your goal is to finish, first and foremost. Here's a race plan: https://old.ucanrow2.com/half-marathon-row-strategy/ Share on X


additional tips to help you make the most of the half-marathon row:

1. Work Up to It – In a perfect world you would work up over weeks or months to those long rows (You wouldn’t jump out and run 13.1 miles with no training, would you?).   Rowed or run, 21,097 meters is a long way and it’s nothing to mess around with.  Build up to the half-marathon row distance, and don’t try it until you can row at least 10k comfortably at a challenging pace.


2. Be Merciless About Your Technique – Bad rowing technique is never good but done poorly, a row of this distance could have serious repercussions.  Not to mention affecting your final time.  Review our video on the basics of the rowing stroke,  watch an expert row, and heed the mantra Legs, Body, Arms; Arms, Body, Legs.


3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – In more than an hour of rowing you will almost certainly need water, and maybe even some food.  Do it, as early and often as needed!  It’s also perfectly fine to put the handle down and even get off the machine and stretch if you need to.  You will have at least a minute before the monitor goes off.


4. Pace Yourself – Don’t Fly and Die – Resist the temptation to go out hard and fast and use up all your energy at the beginning of the piece.  A row of this distance will take you more than an hour, it’s critical to take that into consideration when you put together your race plan (See #5).


5. Have a Plan, Stick to the Plan – On-water rowers always have a plan for how they’re going to row the race.  The same is true for indoor rowing, be it a 500-meter row, a 2k, or a half-marathon.  If you can, test your approach in advance of the real race.  What works for one rower doesn’t always work for another.


here’s a half-marathon row race strategy:

Divide the row into five segments, four of about 5k each and a final sprint to the finish.  Plan to row almost the whole distance at 24-26 strokes per minute.  Use power-10 or -20 strokes every 1k or so to beat boredom and help you stay on pace.


First 5k: Warm into the row and find a challenging pace that you can also sustain.  Use this time to settle into the row and decide what you think you can do for splits today (Then see if you can surprise yourself!).
Middle 10k: Keep chipping away at the distance, aiming to drop 5 seconds off your split.
Fourth 5k: Try to drop another few seconds off your split if you can, and decide your goal split for the final sprint.
Last 500-1000 meters: HAMMER DOWN!  Here’s where you let it loose and empty the tank.  The finish line is in sight, give it all you’ve got!


When you’re done be sure to paddle down, drink water, and let your heart rate return to normal, then get off the machine, drink water, and do some good stretching.  Lastly, drink water and record your time in your Concept2 logbook.  It will rank your time automatically and give you a link to a printable certificate of completion and souvenir goodies available from the C2 online store.


Not bad for a couple of hours of work!


5 tips to help you nail your next half-marathon row #halfmarathon #indoorrowing #rowingmachine #ucanrow2 #rowing #endurance Need more workouts to build your cardio base?



  • Our Workouts Section has a variety of options
  • Download our FREE workout set 5 Rowing Workouts to Boost Your Fitness. Learn how to use the rowing machine to build your fitness in 5 key areas.
  • Want to go deeper? Our 6-week RowReady program offers challenging workouts and technique practice that will help you build your endurance engine AND your speed.




Questions? Ask them in the comments below.  Half-marathon veterans, share your race strategies. We’d love to know what’s working for you!


For further reading

Tricks to Dominate Endurance Rowing Workouts


Monster Meter Workouts


  1. […] Can Row 2 has a great article on how to approach the 21,097 meter half marathon here. Have […]

  2. Tony Cotton on February 3, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I am 78 years old , 5′ 8″, 138 lbs, and have now done 10 weeks training of about 30k per week from scratch.
    I completed a 21097 metres row in 1:43:01 on Monday 1 Feb 2016 on a Concept2 rower with PM3.
    With more training I may be able to improve this time, but I am not sure how hard I should try .My heart rate rarely
    exceeds 75%, so maybe sub – 1:40:00 is possible prior to the Global Marathon Challenge. For what time should I aim? Will there be anywhere in England that this challenge will take place? Or is my local gym the only option?

    • UCanRow2 on February 6, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Great job, Tony! You did that in just 10 weeks of training? What else do you do for fitness? Question: When you say your heart rate rarely exceeds 75%, do you mean that you don’t want it to, or that it never did in the time you were rowing the half marathon?

      • Tony Cotton on February 22, 2016 at 10:57 am

        I joined a gym late October did 10 minutes on everything for four weeks then longer rows on the C2. My plan for the above HM was to keep my breathing comfortable. My heart rate range is 55 – 155, this last figure being calculated, My HRM indicated 130 max, so 75%.
        A week later I completed another HM in 1:41:11, and then another week goes by and I complete 25000
        metres in just under 2:04. The plan now is to increase this long row by a 1000 metres a week on Wednesdays , and include 60 minute rows on Saturdays and Mondays. 50000 metres max per week. Thank you for your reply and I would be very grateful for advice. I will row another HM in early April to see where I am, prior to the marathon. The other days I run and racewalk at an easy pace. C2 supplements these activities very well
        and is very kind to the joints. Upper body hithertoo almost ignored, so now it gets a work out too

        • UCanRow2 on February 22, 2016 at 1:37 pm

          Your plan sounds solid and you’re clearly getting good results with it. Well done! With that much rowing our only big concern is that you use correct technique to be sure you’re not risking injury from the repetitive motion.

          Do you live near a certified instructor who could evaluate your technique?

          If not you could send us a quick smartphone video of 20 seconds or so of you rowing from the side. We can do a quick evaluation, and if you end up wanting more in-depth technique coaching, we offer that service as well. Row on!!

          • Anthony Cotton on May 11, 2016 at 11:40 am

            Thank you. My rowing technique appears to be ok. I completed one million meters in April
            and then put finishing touches to my marathon running training before the Boston UK and London Marathons. That gave me just one week before the Global Marathon Challenge.
            Half-marathon was an insurance in case full-marathon was a disaster. H-m was fine and I rowed non-stop without drink in 1:43:36.0 last week. F-m 2 days ago was ok up to 24000 but then became a struggle, and I needed drink and stops every 2000. I had expected it would be, but I called on my 156 running marathons experience to keep going. 3 hours 39 minutes and 4.6 seconds and the job was done. Very satisfying, but could I have rowed sub 3:30, but for ten minutes of stops? Probably, it is not a good idea to train for running and rowing at the same time, especially at my age (78) and 138lbs. No fat and not much muscle. The timing of the Spring running marathons and the Globall Marathon Challenge is not ideal. Evenso, I will continue to use C2 to supplement my running prep. and may try to row sub 1:40 for the h-m next month. Thank you very much for your website and I hope my report is of interest.. Now for rest and recovery for a few weeks. Best wishes.

  3. Anthony Cotton on May 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Nailed the half-marathon today. Steady row with a sprint at the end for 1:39:29.5. No drinks and no stops.
    I am quietly chuckling to myself. Thank you for the website. Tony Cotton (78 years old and 138 lbs).

    • UCanRow2 on May 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Well done! We salute you. 🙂

  4. chris nicholas on March 11, 2019 at 6:02 am

    Do the half marathon the easy way. First thing to remember is its a mind game . After one and a half hours your bum will hurt your hands will have blisters your back might be aching and sweat will be in your eyes .Sweat will be rolling down your arms on to your hands and and making your grip on the handle difficult. and if your over wight you might have rubs under your arms. so lets start with a pad for the seat you can get them from e bay .I use a piece of foam and it seams to work for me .I don’t bother with gloves they tend to get worn out after a week or so and this becomes expensive i tend to use a good hand cream after the row .Again it works for me . As for the sweat a head band works best but looks odd. But again it works for me . Nothing will get you off the rower quicker than eyes full of sweat. As for the sweat on your arms it tends to roll down on to your hands .the best thing to use is a long sleeve shirt this tends to soak up the sweat and also cuts down the the rubs under the arms .All this just makes it easier i tend to watch a favorite film with headphones otherwise you will not hear it over the rower. I Use my rower as a tool. To me that’s all it is I use it to help control my weight .I row 5 half marathons a week and have the weekend of.But if you want to loose wight remember its only the icing on the cake .you need to eat less .my times differ hugely from 1 hour 25 to 2 hours. i tend to eat a banana and drink a pint of water just before a row. hope this helps

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