Completing your first half-marathon is a big accomplishment in the life of the runner. Spanning 13.1 miles, this race fills a unique role when compared with other common distances. It's more challenging than the popular 10K but less trying than a marathon. Therefore, it allows for more flexible training than the standard marathon. If you decide you'd like to take on your first half, though, how do you get started? Here's a basic routine that will help you get there.
The program is 12 weeks long, with a taper starting two weeks before race day. Since this half-marathon training plan is designed to take you right up to the race, booking the event is a very important first step. Once you know the day of your half-marathon, you'll be able to start your training in earnest. Having a definite deadline will help keep you focused.
It's important to note that, as challenging as it might be, the taper is a vital part of your training. Dialing back your total mileage in the weeks leading up to your race ensures your body is fully recovered, and your fuel stores are completely replenished. This leaves you in the best shape possible for race day.
Here's your complete half-marathon training plan.
Run 2 miles - Easy pace
Run 2 miles - Easy pace
Run 3 miles - Easy pace
|Rest||Run 3.5 miles - Easy pace|
|2||Run 2.5 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 2 miles||Crosstrain||Run 4 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|3||Run 3 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 2.5 miles||Crosstrain||Run 5 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|4||Run 3.5 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||
Fartlek training - 3 miles
|Crosstrain||Run 6 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|5||Run 4 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 3.5 miles||Crosstrain||Run 7 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|6||Run 4.5 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 4 miles||Crosstrain||Run 8 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|7||Run 5 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 4.5 miles||Crosstrain||Run 9 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|8||Run 5.5 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 5 miles||Crosstrain||Run 11 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|9||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 4 miles||Crosstrain||Run 13.5 miles - Easy pace||Rest|
Run 5 miles - Easy pace
|Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 4 miles||Crosstrain||Run 11 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|11||Run 6 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Fartlek training - 4 .5 miles||Crosstrain||Run 9 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Rest|
|12||Run 5 miles - Easy pace||Crosstrain||Run 4 miles - Easy pace||Rest||Rest||Run 2 miles - Easy pace||Race day!|
This plan is intended for beginners, but that might not mean what you think it does. In this case, a beginner to the half-marathon already has some experience with shorter 5K and 10K races and can comfortably log about 20 miles in a week. Keep in mind that that mileage does not account for time - you'll build speed later on. For now, the concern is just that you are making gradual progress and not throwing too much at your body too soon.
You'll also see something called Fartlek training used in this program. This is a loosely structured form of interval training that allows you to manipulate it based on how you're feeling in the moment. The basic idea is to sprint when you can for as long as you can. Many runners use landmarks like telephones, trees, or road signs to dictate how far they will go at a given pace.
When You Aren't Running
You'll notice that in this and other half-marathon training plans, there are a considerable number of days that don't have you running. For the most part, these will take one of two forms: cross-training and rest. What should you be doing on those days?
Cross-training days give you a considerable amount of flexibility, so have fun with them but make sure to use them wisely. When used correctly, cross-training has the potential to reduce your risk of injury, improve your overall performance, and help to prevent mental and physical burnout, according to the American Council on Exercise. The trick to creating an effective cross-training routine is to select activities that will complement, not compete with, your running routine.
To do this, keep the intensity relatively low on your cross-training days so you aren't worn out or sore when it's time to run again. You'll always want to select activities and exercises that help fill in the gaps of your fitness. Here are a few ideas that complement running well:
- Strength training
On days set aside for rest, try to stay lightly active but don't feel like you need to put in any more time at the gym. Go for a walk, take care of some stuff around the house, or play with the kids. Some easy activity will help to reduce muscle soreness but at the same time, you need to allow your body time to recover.
Getting to Work
With this half-marathon training plan, you should be able to prepare for - and enjoy - your first 13.1 mile race in about 12 weeks of concentrated training. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any workout routine and to listen to your body throughout the program to avoid injuries or overtraining.