The good news is that any healthy person can run a half marathon with a good training plan.
But it’s not simple!
You will have to do some serious training, and it’s not easy when you are a beginner runner who has only attempted 5Ks or shorter races in the past. Gradually increasing your running mileage every training week is one of the ways you train for a half marathon.
Following a dedicated training plan is how you train for a half marathon. The plan must include long runs, cross-training, strength training, and rest days. The running mileage should be increased over a period of time, typically 12 weeks, designed to prepare you physically to run 13.1 miles.
More than 2 million runners ran the half marathon last year, compared to the half a million runners who completed a full marathon.
The half marathon gives you a better chance of finishing a race, will build your confidence once you complete it, and set you up for training for the full marathon in the future.
If this is your first half marathon attempt, here’s how you train for it.
How To Train For A Half Marathon
A good half marathon training plan is one where you continuously log enough weekly miles that teaches and strengthens your body to be able to run for extended periods.
Your chosen training plan should be developed so that all training elements come together, resulting in the perfect race.
Several sessions should be completed per week to enhance your running ability without overexerting your body (injuries) and risking burnout.
Beginner half-marathon runners should begin their training by clocking 10 to 15 miles per week before advancing to a peak of 25 to 30 miles per week. Seasoned runners should aim for 25 to 30 miles per week before peaking at 40 miles or more in a proper training plan.
The difficulty of the target time will dictate how much training is required to meet your goals.
See more: What is a good 10K time?
Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan
A half marathon is 13.1 miles of continuous running.
As a beginner, going the full distance may seem daunting.
But that’s why a beginner half marathon training plan is designed to start slow – focusing on a series of 3 to 4 mile runs to build up some base fitness.
You will gradually increase mileage during the training program, which will typically last about 12 weeks.
If your schedule doesn’t allow this amount of running, consider a shorter distance for your first race.
We’d recommend starting with our 12 week training plan for how to run a half marathon in under 2 hours.
Example Of A Balanced Half Marathon Training Plan
Here is a basic 12 week training plan you can follow for your first half marathon.
|Week 1||Rest||3-mile run||Cross-Training||3-mile run||Rest||Cross Training or 2-mile run||4-mile run|
|Week 2||Rest||3-mile run||2-mile run or cross-training||3-mile run||Rest||30-min strength training||4-mile run|
|Week 3||Rest||3.5-mile run||2-mile run or cross-training||3.5-mile run||Rest||40-min cross-training||5-mile run|
|Week 4||Rest||3.5-mile run||2-mile run or strength training||3.5-mile run||Rest||40-min cross-training||5-mile run|
|Week 5||Rest||4-mile run||2-mile run or cross-training||4-mile run||Rest||40-min cross-training||6-mile run|
|Week 6||Rest||4-mile run||2-mile run or cross-training||4-mile run||Rest or easy run||Rest||Enter a 5K Race or run 3.1-miles|
|Week 7||Rest||4.5-mile run||3-mile run or cross-training||4.5-mile run||Rest||50-minute cross or strength training||7-mile run|
|Week 8||Rest||4.5-mile run||3-mile run or cross-training||4.5-mile run||Rest||50-min cross-training||8-mile run|
|Week 9||Rest||5-mile run||3-mile run or cross-training||5-mile run||Rest or easy run||Rest||Enter a 10K Race or run 6.2-miles|
|Week 10||Rest||5-mile run||3-mile run or strength training||5-mile run||Rest||60-min cross-training||9-mile run|
|Week 11||Rest||5-mile run||3-mile run or cross-training||5-mile run||Rest||60-min cross-training||10-mile run|
|Week 12||Rest||4-mile run||3-mile run or cross-training||2-mile run||Rest||Rest||Race day|
It’s difficult to prescribe an exact training plan with fixed days – as we all lead different lives, and sometimes life will get in the way of the best laid plans.
But what’s important to note is the natural progression and the increase in mileage as you work through the schedule. As well as the presence of strength training (something runners often forget!).
Also worth noting is that you don’t have to run a full half marathon before the race.
The training plan above will prepare you to go that extra distance when required. There’s not a huge amount of difference between a 10 mile run and a 13.1 mile run – just pacing and the extra burst of energy that comes with Race Day adrenaline.
Half Marathon Race Day Plan
When race day finally arrives, and you have diligently followed your training plan, it’s time to implement a race day plan to ensure you do everything you can to make the race successful.
Eat The Right Foods
Your dinner on the evening before the race should be carb-based and can include pasta, rice, and potatoes. Add lean protein, but avoid alcohol, cheese, creams, and pastries.
Stay well hydrated throughout the evening.
The meal before your run should consist mainly of carbohydrates. An excellent piece of advice is to start loading up on carbohydrates 2 to 3 days before the race to ensure that your glycogen reserves are well stocked.
Here’s an example of foods found in a typical runner’s breakfast:
- Oats with honey
- Toast with jam
- Granola with almond milk and berries
- Cereal bars with fruit and yogurt
- Two Energy Stroopwafels
From the time you wake up on the morning of the race, ensure to take in at least 500ml of fluid, preferably a drink containing salt.
Energy Tablets work well as a pre-race drink as they keep you hydrated and help you combat fatigue. Take an Energy Gel 5 minutes before and during the race as required.
Whether you decide to fuel during the race is a personal choice, but we generally don’t think it’s necessary unless your target time is beyond 2 hours.
Warm Up Properly
A warmed-up body will break down glucose more efficiently than a resting body, and oxygen transport to working muscles is enhanced when it’s warm.
Warm up your whole body before jogging lightly for 10 to 15 minutes. A few quick sprints will get the blood flowing and the heart pumping.
Run At A Comfortable Pace
Don’t start the race by sprinting, no matter the temptation.
It’s a half-marathon so start at a comfortable running pace. When you get to the halfway mark feeling pretty good, you can start to pick up the pace. Run the race by feel.
Should you not feel as great at any time during the race, quickly identify if it’s mental or physical fatigue.
If it’s physical fatigue, lower your running pace, and see how far you get by setting smaller goals like seeing how you feel after another mile.
Hopefully, you get to finish the race. Staying hydrated may alleviate fatigue, so ensure that hydration is not a problem before and during the race.
Our Verdict on Half Marathon Training
People don’t wake up one morning and magically find themselves able to run 13.1 miles without any prior training. Not unless they’ve been blessed with spectacular genetics.
It takes a continuous training effort to get ready to run a half marathon, or any race for that matter.
Don’t overdo your training; stick to the training plan, and all should be well on race day.
The good news is that half marathons are a lot faster to recover from than full marathons! And even though it will be tough on the body, most beginner runners are capable of completing this impressive race milestone if they are willing to put it. the training beforehand.