Running 13.1 miles is possible for most runners – if you can do a 10K, you can do a half.

“It’s an achievable challenge, as it’s easier to fit the training into a busy life than it is for a marathon”, says British elite and RW contributing editor Jo Pavey. But it’s still a big step for those new to the distance, and will require a higher weekly mileage, longer long runs and a greater variety of sessions to develop the endurance and speed you’ll need.

Whether you’re building up to 13.1 miles for the first time, or planning to smash your PB, we’ve got everything you’ll need to get you to the finish line in style.

Contents

How long is a half marathon?

A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21K

Why should I follow a training plan?

Running coach Sean Tait explains that the right plan will help you train all the individual aspects that will be put together on race day. A good schedule is a good way of getting through different types of session in a week, without putting your body at risk of becoming injured or overtrained.

Remember that nothing is achieved in a day, rather it’s achieved constantly over time. A schedule will be written with the entire training session in mind, not just what you should be doing that day. For example, if you don’t run easy enough during an easy run, you won’t allow your body time to heal from the quality training you’ve been doing prior to that, which will increase your risk of injury.

What happens if I get injured when training for a half marathon?

“Never run through an injury” explains running coach Paddy McGrath – “it’s better to get to the end of your plan healthy, having missed a week or two, than to have hit all your sessions but be in no fit state to race.” Depending on when the injury is, it’s possible to cross-train in a way that doesn’t put stress on the affected area (e.g. swimming, aqua-running or cycling). That way you’ll retain fitness even without running.

Running injuries

If you can’t run for:

One week: Skip that week and simply pick up the schedule the following week

Two weeks: Repeat the previous week’s training and continue from there – bearing in mind you may not get to the same point as someone who has been following the programme without interruption.

Three weeks: Jump back two weeks, potentially even three, because you’ll have lost fitness.

Four weeks or more: It’s probably wise to adjust your goal by aiming for a slower time.

How do I find the best half-marathon training plan for me?

Our training schedules below are tried and trusted. Not sure on which to choose? Use our race-time predictor for an indication of what target you should set yourself.

I don’t feel like I’m improving on my half marathon plan, what should I do?

Don’t despair – it takes time to improve as a runner. You may not feel like it, but rest assured that you are getting better every day, as each run slowly builds your strength and fitness.

What kind of strength-training should I be doing?

Strength training is an essential supplement to a runner’s roadwork because it strengthens muscles and joints, which can improve race times and decrease injury risk. If you’re a bit lost about what you should be doing, we’ve got plenty of strength training workouts for runners, including home workouts that you can do from your living room.

What shoes should I be wearing?

Of course, if you’re going to run a half marathon, having a pair of shoes that will get you round 13.1 miles is important. It might seem like an investment, but you’ll soon get injured if you’re running in worn, or the wrong kind of running shoes. Before training, it’s a good idea to get your gait checked. We’ve rounded up the best men’s and women’s running shoes here.

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2

Won: Best Update 2019

Price: £159.95

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

Reebok Floatride Energy

Won: Best Value 2019

Price: £59.46

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

Hoka One One Rincon

Won: Best Debut 2019

Price: £105

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

Saucony Ride ISO 2

Won: Best in test 2019

Price: £107

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

Beginner Half-Marathon Training Plan

Aimed at getting you round your first half-marathon, this 12-week training plan builds you up to running 20.1 miles per week, to get you round your first 13.1 miles comfortably.

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The sub 2:00 Half-Marathon training plan

Aimed at those looking finish a half marathon in under two hours, this simple schedule gets you to 1:59:59 with two quality sessions per week – a long run and goal-pace (or faster) workout.

The hilly half-marathon training plan

If you’re training for a hilly half-marathon, here’s the training plan to help you stay running strong as you run up-hill.

10-week sub-1.50 half-marathon training plan

This time range takes you up to a regular 40 miles a week, though many runners would still be able to do themselves justice by substituting one easy run for a rest day and running closer to 35 miles a week.

10-week sub -1.25 half-marathon training plan

This band covers serious athletes. The schedule will take you up to over 50 miles a week, which is about as much training as is compatible with a lifestyle that involves a job and a family.

Experienced runner?

10-week plus 1.50 half-marathon training plan

This band covers beginners and those who have been over the distance once before, in around two hours, and would now like to try for something a little faster.

12-week sub-2.30 half-marathon training plan

You should be capable of either a sub-1:05 10K, a sub-1:55 10-miler or a sub-6:00 marathon. Training will be three days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 15 miles.

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12-week sub-2.15 half-marathon training plan

You should be capable of either a sub-60 10K, a sub-1:30 10-miler or a sub-5:00 marathon. Training will be four days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 25 miles.

12-week sub-1.45 half-marathon training plan

You should be capable of either a sub-46 10K, sub-1:18 10-miler or a sub-4:00 marathon. Training will be at least five days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 35 miles.

How should I taper for my half-marathon?

Your body doesn’t just benefit from training; it also benefits from recovery. Reduce your long-run mileage in the final two to three weeks before race day, and do a couple of short race-pace efforts in the final week to keep yourself ticking over nicely.

Read our advice on how to taper for you next half-marathon and look out for the top tapering mistakes runners make, and how to avoid them.

What about race day? Your race day plan for your best half marathon yet:

You can quieten the butterflies in your stomach by focusing on race-day logistics: carefully following your nutrition and hydration plans, making it on time and properly equipped to the starting area, and meeting up with friends. Run strong by following this race-day plan –

1. Warm up properly: Warming up prepares body and mind for the task at hand. It increases your heart rate, body temperature and blood flow. Blood transports oxygen to working muscles more efficiently when it is warm, and a warm body can break down and utilise glucose bette rthan one at rest. Plus, some fast running can burn off nervous energy and help you focus.

Half marathon warm-up: do some light jogging for 10-15 minutes, then do two to four 200m strides, accelerating slowly until you reach your planned half-marathon pace. Because the half marathon is fairly long, you won’t need to shoot off the line – ease into your goal pace over the first mile or two.

2. Stick to your pace: In general, the best pace stratergy is to run even mile or kilometre splits throughout the race. Break the race down into managable chunks. This is particularly useful if you’re a runner who tends to lose focus in the middle miles. “Mental lapses are common in the middle of races such as the half marathon,” says Scott Douglas, author of The Little Red Book of Running. “If you’re really racing the distance – a minute or more per mile than your normal training pace – you’ll have to concentrate to keep the proper effort going. Otherwise, it’s common for your mile splits to start being 10 or 15 seconds slower. The benefit of the tempo run – of learning how to keep that concentration going- can’t be overstated.”

3. Listen to your body: If you’re feeling comfortable, persist with the same pace, but don’t get too excited yet. If you reach the halfway mark and still feel you’re not being stretched, gradually pick up the pace and run by feel. If you’re not feeling great, “try to distinguish between mental and physical fatigue,” says Tait. “If it’s physical, you’ll be cramping or have no power left in your body to keep pushing. If it’s mental, your body will feel tired and you’ll be looking for a way out.” Focus on short-term goals: if it happens at halfway, tell yourself to continue to the eight-mile point and if you’re still feeling bad by then, you can pull out. Feeling better then? Carry on to 10 miles, and so on.

4. Listen to the conditions: If it’s really windy or hot on race day, both will cause you to slow down. You’ll be more hindered by the slowing-down effect of a headwind than you’ll be helped by a tailwind. Even a crosswind will sap your energy. In this case, forget your pace plan and run by feel instead. Heat will definitely slow you, because your body will have to work harder to cool you down. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking to thirst before and during the race.

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Got a half marathon (or a few!) checked off your list, and ready to take it to the next level with training? This 12 week half marathon training schedule for intermediate runners is designed for you! It’s a perfect “next level” training plan to improve your speed and get you the PR you’re looking to achieve.

This training plan was produced in partnership with Multisport Mastery – find more details about their coaches at the bottom of the post! If you’re looking for individualized help as an intermediate or advanced athlete, definitely reach out to them.

Here’s all the important info about this intermediate 12 week half marathon training schedule:

If you don’t want to read through all this now, just scroll to the bottom of this post to view and print the training plan. But be sure to read over the rest of this information prior to starting, as it’ll break down everything you need to know to train successfully.

Who is this training plan for?

This plan is designed for intermediate runners who have completed a half marathon before, and are looking to improve upon their performance.

As different athletes have different definitions of “intermediate”, be sure to follow your gut as far as whether this plan is appropriate for you. We’ve provided some modification suggestions below, such as adjusting the long run structure or modifying speedwork, for those who may want to follow this plan but feel it’s just a touch too challenging.

Above all, the plan should be something that seems attainable yet pushes you a bit, given your current fitness level. If you consider yourself an intermediate athlete but this plan seems too difficult, consider looking at one of our beginner plans instead.

How far should I be running before starting this plan?

You should be regularly running a minimum of 20 miles per week with a long run of at least 7 miles prior to beginning this plan.

*Disclaimer: I am not a physician; check with your doctor prior to starting any new exercise program.

Can I use this plan if I am a beginner?

This plan is not designed for beginners. In beginner programs, there is usually less emphasis on speedwork (to reduce the risk of injury) and more emphasis on simple consistency and base-building.

If you’re looking for a good beginner half marathon training plan, check out one of these options:

  • 20 week half marathon training schedule – great for beginners who are just starting their running journey
  • 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners – ideal for beginner runners who can run (or run/walk) 3-4 miles comfortably, but haven’t trained much further than that yet
  • 8 week half marathon training schedule – great for beginner or intermediate runners who can run 3-4 miles comfortably, and are looking for a condensed plan that includes a little speedwork (but who aren’t quite ready for the level of training in this plan yet)

All of these include a more gradual increase in mileage and less speedwork to keep beginners injury-free.

What is the time commitment for this plan?

The plan is designed to help you get from a solid running base to peak half marathon condition in 12 weeks.

This plan includes 5 run workouts each week with an optional cross-training day on Mondays. Mid-week runs range from 20 minutes to approximately an hour. Weekly long runs range from 7 miles to 13 miles.

Weekly Schedule:

  • Monday – Rest or cross training
  • Tuesday – Track speed workouts
  • Wednesday – Easy runs
  • Thursday – “Strength Runs” – Hills, Pace, or Tempo Runs
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Long runs
  • Sunday – Easy runs

Workout Descriptions:

Here are the names of workouts that you’ll see on the 12 week intermediate half marathon training schedule. Be sure to read through these and either print or bookmark this information, so you’ll know exactly how to complete each workout:

CROSS TRAINING workouts – For the purposes of this training plan, cross training should be low-intensity/low-impact exercise such as gentle yoga, easy cycling, or swimming to promote recovery.

EZ Runs – Just like it sounds, these runs should be easy and comfortably paced. Aim to complete them around 60-90 seconds slower than your goal half marathon pace. Don’t try to “fit in” more speedwork. These easy runs are necessary to promote recovery and training adaptations.

PACE runs – Begin your PACE runs with 10-15 minutes of easy running, then complete the amount of time listed on the schedule at your goal half marathon pace. Conclude with 10-15 minutes of easy running to cool down. For example, 25 MIN PACE would look like this:

  • 10-15 min easy run warm up
  • 25 min run at goal half marathon pace
  • 10-15 min easy run cool down

TEMPO runs – Similar to above, you’ll begin your TEMPO runs with 10-15 minutes of easy running, then complete the amount of time listed on the schedule at 30 seconds faster than your goal half marathon pace. Conclude with 10-15 minutes of easy running to cool down.

HILL repeats – After a warm up of 10-15 minutes of easy running, run up a hill for 60 seconds, walk back down, run easy for 2 minutes. This is one rep. Repeat as indicated in the schedule and cool down with 10-15 minutes of easy running.

TRACK workouts – Start your Tuesday track workouts with 10-15 minutes of easy running. Then you’ll complete the sets that are listed on the schedule. The workouts are listed as number of sets X distance, along with a rest interval. For example, 4×800 at TEMPO, R = 1 min would look like this:

  • Warm up with 10-15 minutes easy running
  • Run 800 meters at tempo pace
  • Rest 1 minute (active rest OK)
  • Run 800 meters at tempo pace
  • Rest 1 minute (active rest OK)
  • Run 800 meters at tempo pace
  • Rest 1 minute (active rest OK)
  • Run 800 meters at tempo pace
  • Rest 1 minute (active rest OK)
  • Cool down 10-15 minutes easy running

On these Tuesday track workouts, you’ll notice a few different speed and pacing notes on the plan – here’s what they mean:

  • Pace = goal half marathon pace
  • Tempo = 30 seconds faster than goal half marathon pace
  • R = Rest interval (active rest i.e. walking or jogging is fine depending on your personal fitness level)
  • Descend = start easy and get faster each rep

LONG RUN Breakdown – The image at the bottom of this post shows the full 12 week half marathon training schedule for intermediate runners. You’ll notice the total long run mileage on the plan image, with asterisks next to each. You can do this mileage as-is, or you can follow the plan as our coaches wrote it with the following pacing strategies.

Modifications to this training plan:

Depending on where you are in your running journey, you may decide to slightly modify this plan to fit your needs.

For example, maybe you run regularly and fit the requirements to start this plan, but most of your training has been at a lower intensity – and you are a bit nervous about adding in this much speedwork.

No worries! Here are a few modifications you might consider:

  • Mondays include an optional cross training day, but some athletes may want to utilize this as a full rest day.
  • The long runs include pace-based work as described above. If you haven’t done as much speed work in previous training, you can choose not to utilize this pace-based training. Instead, just complete the total miles as listed at an EZ pace.
  • If you need an additional adjustment to make this plan do-able, you can choose to substitute some of the track workouts or tempo workouts for easy runs lasting approximately 45-60 minutes.

Warm ups, cool downs, and stretching:

When it comes to warm ups, the most important thing to remember is to start your Tuesday track workouts and Thursday “strength runs” with a 10-15 minutes of easy running. To save space I left this off the plan grid but you definitely want to remember to do that every time! It will get your muscles and heart ready for these more intense workouts.

Similarly, conclude these workouts with 10-15 minutes of easy running to cool down.

Stretching is important to improve flexibility and reduce muscle pain/stiffness after your runs. Try to stretch after all of your runs. If you struggle with tight muscles on a regular basis, consider adding foam rolling.

12 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule (Intermediate)

There you have it! Everything you need to grab that PR at your next half marathon race.

This plan was produced in partnership with Multisport Mastery. Multisport Mastery is a group of endurance coaches who specialize in individualized performance plans for multisport athletes of all abilities. Whether your goal is to run a marathon, compete in a triathlon, ride in a week-long cycling event or finish an Ironman, they offer customized coaching to bring out the best in each athlete no matter who you are or where you want to go.

Share with me: Which half marathon are you training for right now? What’s the PR you’d love to achieve? If you used this intermediate half marathon training schedule, what did you think of it?

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Chrissy Carroll

Chrissy Carroll is a Registered Dietitian and USAT Level I Triathlon Coach. She specializes in sharing nutrition and fitness tips, as well as recipes, for runners, triathletes, and active women.Chrissy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition, a Masters Degree in Public Health, and is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer.

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Step-by-Step Half-Marathon Training Schedule for Frequent Runners

Whether it’s your first time in a racing bib or you just need a little refresher on those 10-miler training runs, we’ve got a half-marathon training schedule that will get you across the finish line. Join the ranks: The half marathon currently has the highest percentage of women of any U.S. road distance-57 percent of competitors are now female (in 1985, just 20 percent of competitors were!). If it seems like everyone and her sister is doing a half marathon, there’s a reason: between 2008 and 2009, the number of half marathon finishers grew 24 percent, to more than 1.1 million.

So SHAPE asked running coach Brendan Cournane to give us two plans. Follow his expert advice (he’s completed marathons in all 50 states!), get started on this half-marathon training plan, and you’ll be feeling confident at the start and ready to finish strong come race day. Try it: 13.1 will look great on you!

If you’re new to running and/or haven’t been working out regularly in the last six months,

If you’ve been running three or so miles three times a week, this free plan is for you. In 12 weeks, you’ll safely increase your mileage so you can handle the whole 13.1. Plus, you get two days of rest and two days of cross training every week.

How to Read the Workout Key

Cross train: Not a weight-bearing activity. Examples are biking, swimming, rowing, or elliptical trainer. You want to maintain and build on your aerobic fitness, while also giving your body a rest from the wear and tear of running.

Easy run: This is a recovery run, so if you’re training with a heart rate monitor, stay in the 65 to 70 percent zone.

Long: This is a long, slow distance run, also known as a ‘fat burning run’; keep a pace that makes it easy to maintain a conversation.

(FYI: The workouts for running on Mondays and Wednesdays are time based, so the distance listed is the max to run within that time frame. For example, under Monday in Week 1, you would run for either 30 minutes or 3 miles, whichever comes first.)

RELATED: What to Eat Before and After Running a Marathon

  • By Melissa Ivy Katz @mkittyk

16-Week Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan

Target time: Sub-1hr 45min

Race pace: 8min/mile

This plan is for you if: You run regularly, have completed half marathons before and want to improve your time.

This 16-week training plan (one of five) from running coach and co-founder of Advent Running James Poole will help you cover the 13.1-mile (21.1km) distance comfortably. You’ll build speed and endurance gradually, so there’s less chance of injury, and you’ll arrive at the start line feeling fresh, confident and ready to smash your half marathon goals.

Each plan has you running between four and six times a week, but don’t worry if that sounds daunting. “Six runs a week makes running part of your routine,” says Poole. “And you’ll develop a solid endurance base, which is vital for a long-distance runner. Obviously there are times when life gets in the way and missing the odd run here and there can’t be helped, so don’t panic – it’s not going to have much effect on your training. And if you feel like you need an extra rest day, substitute it for one of the easy runs in your plan.”

“That said, the best way to get better at running is simply to run more. People often don’t do as well as they hoped to because they just don’t run enough in training. If you want to add some cross training there is the option to change one of your easy runs for a session such as swimming or cycling on four of the five plans. For best results though, I would advise running all the sessions.”

How The Plan Works

The plan follows four key phases. Within each phase there are three weeks of progression and one easier week to give your body chance to recover. The four phases are:

  1. Base phase: This is the most important stage of your training as you’ll build an aerobic base and get into the habit of running regularly.
  2. Build phase 1: In this stage you’ll work on endurance and start to increase the distance of your longer runs.
  3. Build phase 2: Now you’ve got a solid base and can cover longer distances, it’s time to up the intensity with quicker runs to build aerobic endurance and speed.
  4. Hone and taper: You’re on the home stretch and you’ll start to decrease distance and dial down the intensity so your legs are fresh for race day.

There are four different types of run – easy, steady, tempo and long – plus rest days. Each run has a specific purpose and should be completed at a different pace, detailed below. Make sure you warm up before and warm down after each run.

  1. Easy run – 9min/mile: Designed to give you a good aerobic engine, these should be easy and enjoyable. You should be able to hold a conversation on an easy run, so they’re a good one to do with friends.
  2. Steady run – 8min/mile: Harder than easy runs, steady runs should be similar to your half marathon pace. Steady runs leave you more fatigued than easy runs so they feature less in your training.
  3. Tempo run – 7min 40sec/mile: These improve your aerobic endurance and speed, and should be run at a challenging pace – if you can hold a conversation then you’re going too slow. If you find you’re struggling to complete tempo runs at first, try alternating between five minutes at tempo pace and five minutes at easy pace.
  4. Long run – 9min/mile: Long runs should be slower than race pace to minimise wear and tear on your body. These runs are a great opportunity to test your nutrition and clothing to make sure everything works on race day.
  5. Rest: The best day of the week, rest is vital to give your body time to recover. Rest days on this plan are scheduled for Mondays, to give you a break after Sunday’s long run.

Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan

Base Phase

Week 1: 20 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles easy
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 3 miles easy
Friday Rest
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 6 miles long

Week 2: 23 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles easy
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 3 miles easy
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 6 miles long

Week 3: 26 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles easy
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 4 miles easy
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 8 miles long

Week 4: 23 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles easy
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 3 miles easy
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 6 miles long

Build Phase 1

Week 5: 26 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles steady
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 4 miles steady
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 8 miles long

Week 6: 29 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles steady
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 5 miles steady
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 10 miles long

Week 7: 31 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles steady
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 5 miles steady
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 12 miles long

Week 8: 27 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles steady
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 5 miles steady
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 8 miles long

Hone and Taper

Week 13: 29 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles tempo
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 5 miles tempo
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 10 miles long

Week 14: 27 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 5 miles tempo
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 5 miles tempo
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 8 miles long

Week 15: 21 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 3 miles tempo
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 3 miles tempo
Friday 3 miles easy or cross training
Saturday 3 miles easy
Sunday 6 miles long

Week 16: 12 miles

Monday Rest
Tuesday 3 miles steady
Wednesday 3 miles easy
Thursday 3 miles steady
Friday Rest
Saturday Rest
Sunday Race

Half Marathon Training Guide (Intermediate – 12 Weeks)

Download your training guide here

If you’ve got a couple of half marathons under your belt and now you want to push yourself further, this is the training guide for you. Over 12 weeks, you’ll build your strength, speed and endurance to hit a new personal best.

Everyone is an individual and your base level of fitness may vary. For those who already have been doing some running, this general program should give you the extra speed and endurance to take your performance to the next level.

This 12 week training guide is just that, a guide, so feel free to be a little flexible with it and make it work for you. Mix up days and runs when you need to, and if you miss a session you can make it up. The real aim is to be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter as much.

Training days explained

Easy runs: The runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays are to be done at a comfortable pace. If you’re training with a friend, the two of you should be able to hold a conversation. For those who wear heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75% of your maximum heart rate.

Long runs: Important sessions in the guide are the long runs, which progressively increase in distance each weekend. You will jump from your longest training run of 19 km to the half marathon – a solid leap, but your training and inspiration on the day will see you over the line.

Stretch + strengthen: Stretching is key to a strong, supple body and should be done daily. Strength training, particularly for your core muscles, is an important focus of this training guide. Try bodyweight exercises like push-ups, chin-ups or dips, or light weights with high reps at your local gym.

Rest: Your muscles need time to recover and rebuild, so ensuring adequate rest is just as important as the runs in this guide. In particular, taking the time to rest before and after your long run will help reduce your risk of injury. Be realistic about your fatigue level, especially in the closing weeks of the program, and don’t be afraid to take an extra day off now and then.

Long runs: The key to taking your running to the next level is the long run, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. Over a period of 11 weeks, your longest run will increase from 8 km to 19 km. The guide schedules long runs on Sundays however you can do them on Saturdays, if it’s more convenient. Keep in mind that it’s easier to do a long run the day after a pace run.

Test: The idea with the test runs is to measure your time, progress and fitness, if it suits you. Another option is to find local fun-runs at these distances so you can time your race and get used to running with other competitors.

Speed sessions: To increase your speed to take your running to the next level, you need to train at an increased pace a couple of sessions per week. This guide alternates interval running with tempo runs (described below). An interval workout usually consists of fast runs separated by walking or jogging. The guide begins with 5 x 400 m and reaches 10 x 400 m the week before your half marathon. Walk or jog between each. Run the 400s at a medium pace – around your 5 km best time pace.

Tempo runs: This is a continuous run with a buildup of pace in the middle. A tempo run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to 15-20 minutes at medium pace near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual. A tempo run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it.

Pace: In the guide some workouts are designed as pace runs to get you used to running the pace you will run to achieve your goal. For example in week 10 you run a session of 8 km at goal race pace. Remember to do a short warm-up before starting each of these pace runs.

Warm-up: A good guide for a warm up is to jog 1-2 km, sit down and stretch for 5-10 minutes, then run some easy strides (100 m at near race pace). Cool down afterwards by doing half the warm-up distance.

Cross-training: Even though you are focused on running, cross-training is still an effective session as it helps with active recovery and injury prevention. It could be swimming, cycling, walking, rowing, or a combination that includes strength training.

Download the full guide here.

The terms in the Intermediate Half Marathon training plan are defined inside the downloaded plan, but let me define them for you here as well.

Warm-Up: Walk for 5 minutes at an easy effort before every workout (run-walk days and cross-training days). A proper warm-up will help to gradually increase heart rate, improve circulation, loosen up muscles, and prepare you for the days workout.

Cool-Down: Walk for 5 minutes at an easy effort after every workout (run-walk days and cross-training days). A proper cool-down will help to gradually bring your heart rate and breathing rate back down to normal levels after the days workout.

Perceived Effort: A way to rate your effort level based on your feelings about the level of intensity on a scale from 1 to 10. 1 is considered ‘At Rest’ and 10 is considered ‘An All Out Level.’ Use this scale to stay in the correct range listed in the training schedule for a given day (i.e. 6-7).

Heart Rate: If you have access to a heart rate monitor then use this device to stay in the correct range listed in the training schedule for a given day (i.e. 60-75% of maximum heart rate).

Cross-Training: Include activities other than running and walking in your training plan. If you are completely new to exercise, then you may want to wait until weeks 4 or 5 to add in a cross-training workouts. If you are already active 3 to 4 days per week, then start the cross-training as scheduled in the plan. Activities for cross-training may include cycling, elliptical, rowing, strength training, swimming, and more. Cross-training allows you to rest your running muscles and work opposing muscle groups. These activities will help to reduce the impact on your body and the risk of injury. Cross-training can also speed up recovery time between run-walk workouts. Cross-training workouts should be done at a moderate level, Perceived Effort of at least 7, or a Heart Rate of 75-80%.

Strength Training: A form of cross-training, strength training can be a great way to increase lean muscle and boost metabolism while at rest. Strength training can be completed using free-weights, resistance bands, weight machines, or classes such as pilates, yoga or cross-fit. Include exercises for upper body, core, and lower body. Warm-up with a walk or another form of cardio. If you are new to strength training, then start with 1 set of each exercise for 12-15 repetitions. The goal is to work your muscles to fatigue or until you can no longer maintain proper form during the exercise. Continue with 1 set of each exercise for weeks 1 through 4, then progress to 2 to 3 sets of each exercise for 8-12 repetitions.

Flexibility: Stretch lightly after every warm-up period. Stretch again after every workout to improve flexibility, increase circulation, and reduce the risk of injury.

Easy Effort: Easy pace/effort is considered slightly above what you can maintain a conversation, 70-75% of maximum heart rate, and 6 to 7 on the Perceived Effort scale.

Moderate Effort: Moderate pace/effort is where you can hear your breathing, but you are not breathing hard, 75-80% of maximum heart rate, and 7 to 8 on the Perceived Effort scale.

Speed Workouts: Warm-up with 10-15 minutes at an easy pace. Then complete the appropriate speed workout for the day. All hard efforts are considered 90-95% of heart rate, 9+ Perceived Effort. You should be able to hear yourself breathing hard. It is very important to make sure your easy recovery effort is truly easy. Running to fast during the recovery can have a negative impact on your performance during these workouts and throughout the other parts of the training plan.

Race Pace Effort: The goal of these runs is to build confidence and endurance to maintain your goal race pace. Start these runs right at your average goal pace for the half marathon and maintain the pace the whole distance. Practice nutrition and hydration just like you plan to do on race day and make adjustments as you learn from your body.

Half Marathon Training : Novice 1

Hal on his Novice 1 Program

Before starting to train for a half marathon, you need to possess a basic fitness level. But assuming no major problems, most healthy people can train themselves to complete a 13.1-mile race. This guide will tell you how. Much more information is contained in my book, Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training, published by Human Kinetics.

The following schedule assumes you have the ability to run 3 miles, three to four times a week. If that seems difficult, consider a shorter distance for your first race.

The terms used in the training schedule are somewhat obvious, but let me explain what I mean anyway.

Pace: Don’t worry about how fast you run your regular workouts. Run at a comfortable pace, a conversational pace. If you can’t do that, you’re running too fast. (For those wearing heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum pulse rate.)

Distance: The training schedule dictates workouts at distances, from 3 to 10 miles. Don’t worry about running precisely those distances, but you should come close. Pick a course through the neighborhood, or in some scenic area. In deciding where to train, talk to other runners. GPS watches make measuring courses easy.

Rest: Rest is as important a part of your training as the runs. You will be able to run the long runs on the weekend better if you rest before, and rest after.

Long Runs: The key to half marathon training is the long run, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. Over a period of 12 weeks, your longest run will increase from 3 to 10 miles. Then, after a brief taper, you jump to 13.1. The schedule below suggests doing your long runs on Sundays, but you can do them Saturdays, or any other convenient day.

Cross-Train: On the schedule below, this is identified simply as “cross.” What form of cross-training? Aerobic exercises work best. It could be swimming, cycling, walking (see below), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or even some combination that could include strength training. Cross train on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays. Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week.

Walking: Walking is an excellent exercise that a lot of runners overlook in their training. I don’t specify walking breaks, but feel free to walk during your running workouts any time you feel tired. Be aware that I also offer a separate half marathon training program for those who plan to walk all the way.

Strength Training: If you never have lifted weights before, now might not be the best time to start. Wait until after completing this program. If you are an experienced lifter, continue, although you may want to cut back somewhat as the mileage builds near the end. Tuesdays and Thursdays after your run would be good days on which to lift.

Racing: Consider doing a couple of races to familiarize yourself with the sport. I have suggested a 5-K race at the end of Week 6 and a 10-K race at the end of Week 9. If you can’t find races at those distances on the weeks suggested, feel free to modify the schedule.

Juggling: Don’t be afraid to juggle the workouts from day to day and week to week. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter.

Running 13.1 miles is not easy. If it were easy, there would be little challenge to an event such as the half marathon. Whether you plan your half as a singular accomplishment or as a stepping stone to the even more challenging full marathon, crossing the finish line will give you a feeling of great accomplishment. Good luck with your training.

Schedule key

Start all hill and speed sessions with 15 mins easy running and end with 5 mins easy

GHMP: Goal half-marathon pace

Challenging: A pace that’s on the edge of your comfort zone. An effort of 8 out of 10

Negative split: Running the second half of the distance quicker than you ran the first

Train like a pro

Our 12-week beginner’s half marathon training plan:

Week 1

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 4 x 6 mins challenging, with 2-min recovery jog in between each

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train/easy run 30 mins

Sunday: Long run 6-7 miles easy

Week 2

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 6 x 20-30 sec hills with walk/jog recovery

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 45 mins easy

Sunday: Cycle, swim, walk or cross-trainer easy 60 mins

Week 3

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 4 x 7 mins challenging with 2-min recovery jog between each

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train/easy run 30 mins

Sunday: Long run 7-8 miles easy

Week 4

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 8 x 20-30 sec hills with walk/jog recovery

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train/easy run 30 mins

Sunday: Long run 8-9 miles easy

Week 5

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 3 x 10 mins challenging with 2-min recovery jog between each

Friday: Rest/cross-train

Saturday: Rest/cross-train or Parkrun

Sunday: 10K race (or rest if you did a Parkrun)

Week 6

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 2 x 2 miles at GHMP

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train/easy run 35 mins

Sunday: Long run 9-10 miles with negative split

Week 7

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 6 x 800m at 10K pace, with 90 secs rest between each

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 1 min easy, 3 miles at GHMP, 1 min easy

Sunday: Cycle, swim, walk or cross-trainer easy 60 mins

Week 8

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 3 x 1 mile 10 secs slower than 10K pace, with 2-min rest between each

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 45 mins easy

Sunday: Long run 10-11 miles, with last 2 at GHMP

Week 9

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 3 x 2 miles at GHMP with 4 mins easy

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 8 x 20-30 sec hills with walk/jog recovery or Parkrun

Sunday: Long run 6-7 miles easy

Week 10

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 4 x 1 mile 10 secs slower than 10K pace, with 2-min rest inbetween each

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Cross-train/easy run 40 mins

Sunday: Long run 11 miles, with last 3 at GHMP

Week 11

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 1 min easy, 5 miles GHMP, 1 min easy

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 4 x 800m at 5K pace with equal jog between each

Sunday: Long run 7 miles easy

Week 12

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins easy

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: 40 mins easy, with 4 x 30 second surges of speed

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 20 mins easy

Sunday: Race day!

Recover like a pro

On the top of his hand, he’s written 4:42 and 4:37 in black ink. If he averages 4:42 pace, he’ll likely win the race. If he averages 4:37 pace, he’ll break the American record. The gun goes off and his legs begin spinning. He averages 4:33 pace for the first five miles, faster than he’s ever run before, but he goes with it: it doesn’t feel any harder than his training runs. Hall’s parents and wife watch silently from the lead vehicle. They can’t cheer or they’ll interfere with the race.

Interactive Training Plans

Track your workouts, get email reminders, and watch video tutorials in our two interactive 12-week training plans from coach Matt Ebersole. Beginner | Advanced

Ryan Hall leads the 2009 Boston Marathon

Ryan Hall leads the 2009 Boston Marathon

Around mile nine, Hall’s stomach feels unsettled. He worries about cramping, so he prays. His stomach settles down by mile 10, and he crosses the finish line at 59:43, a new American record, and the crowd goes wild. He’s crushed Mark Curp’s 22-year-old American record by more than a minute. His family screams and runs out of the pace car and over to hug him.

“There was just pure joy coming out of me,” Hall says. “I was so excited.”

Fast forward to 2012. The half marathon is the fastest growing road race in the United States, with almost 1.4 million finishers in 2010 and more than 30 new half-marathons popping up every year, according to Running USA. You don’t have to run 4:30 miles to feel the euphoria Hall experienced, but learning from the American record holder will help you achieve own personal best. In the following pages, you’ll find a nutritional guide, training plans, and tips from Hall, Curp, and coach Matt Ebersole.

“The half marathon hits the sweet spot between being manageable and being a challenge,” says Ebersole, owner of Indianapolis-based coaching company Personal Best Training. “And when distance is no longer a challenge, time can become the challenge.”

10 Tips To Run Your Best Half-Marathon

Train like a pro with tips from Ryan Hall, Mark Curp, and coach Matt Ebersole

Start of the 2011 Chicago Half Marathon (Photo: Courtesy of The Chicago Half Marathon)

The marathon’s little brother has been bumper-sticker branded 13.1. The distance is half that of a marathon, but that doesn’t mean running one is half the achievement. To run a good half, you’ll need the speed of a 10Ker, the endurance of a marathoner, and the wisdom of those who have gone before.

Your Coaches:
Ryan Hall, current U.S. record holder with a time of 59:43
Mark Curp, former World and U.S. record holder with a time of 1:00:5
Matt Ebersole, 20-year coaching veteran of more than 5,000 runners

10. Understand your goal
“People who aren’t clear on why they’re doing this really struggle,” Ebersole says. Take a moment to reflect on why you want to run 13.1 miles. Is it for weight loss, a sense of personal achievement, or to motivate yourself to get more exercise? “If you can be clear on that, you’ll see how each day’s training fits into the goal you’ve set out, and you won’t have too many motivation problems,” he says.

9. Make it social
Get a group together, or join a local running club. When you’re socially and emotionally invested in your workouts, it’ll be harder for you to skip them. “One day you’ll want to run because you’re fired up about being a runner,” Ebersole says. “The next day, you might run so you can go to Starbucks and not feel guilty.” Having running buddies will help keep you from burning out or slacking off.

8. Slow down
Don’t be that guy or girl who dominates every workout and then fizzles on race day. “People who have the tendency to train too hard leave their races in their workouts,” Curp says. “You have to make sure you get enough rest along the way.” Rest days and easy runs are built in to the training plan for a reason. And if you’re a speedster stepping it up from a 10K, give yourself permission to run slower as the distances increase. “When the distance is no longer a big deal for you, you can worry about speed again,” Ebersole says.

7. Race
Nothing will prepare you for the big day like racing in a smaller event. You can practice your nutrition plan, work through pre-race jitters, and learn what it feels like to push hard. “The trick is to learn to love running and racing,” Ebersole says. “The other 23 hours of the day feel so much better when you put that hour in.” His beginner plan has a 5K and a 10K race. Advanced runners should experiment with negative-split runs—running the last half of a race faster than the first half.

6. Get outfitted
Even in 1985, Curp wore moisture-wicking fabric that wouldn’t soak up his sweat. Skip cotton and wear clothes made from materials like COOLMAX or Nike’s Dri-Fit. Same goes for your socks. “And avoid something you’ve never worn before,” Curp says. Test your race outfit on a long run, paying attention to any chaffing or fit issues. You don’t want comments about bloody nipples detracting from comments about your accomplishments when you post your official finisher photo on Facebook.

5. Train your brain
“Often we think we need to train our bodies, but then we leave out the mind,” Hall says. “We all have negative thoughts, but it’s what we do with them that makes a difference.” Hall recommends developing the habit in training of turning every negative thought into a positive thought. When mental lows creep up during the race, you’ll be prepared to combat them.

4. Pace yourself
“The half-marathon is in the gray zone, where it isn’t really comfortable but it’s not really hard, either,” Ebersole says. New to pacing? Here’s Ebersole’s half-marathon rule of thumb: For the first five miles, err on the side of feeling a little too relaxed. For the second five miles, adjust your effort to maintain that speed, or turn it up a notch. Then, with 5K left, kick it into high gear. “This is where the real racing starts,” Ebersole says. “It’s where you’ll start thinking about other people and trying to squeeze out as many seconds as you can.”

Need help determining your goal pace? Try plugging 5K and 10K results into these pace-predicting calculators: The Running Times Race Time Equivalent Calculator and The Runner’s World Training Calculator. They’re not perfect (each one will give you a slightly different goal time), but you’ll get an idea of what to shoot for in the half-marathon.

3. Get a tattoo
Before Hall ran his record-setting race, he wrote out two pace charts on the back of his hand, outlining what his splits should be at different points during the event to hit his goal time. Tell PaceTat.com your half-marathon goal time, and they’ll send you a temporary forearm tattoo with mile splits mapped out at your goal pace.

2. Keep an open mind
“Don’t limit yourself on the start line,” Hall says. Although he did have those pace charts on his hand, he wound up feeling better than expected, and ran faster than either pace he had outlined. Don’t be a slave to your watch on race day. Pay attention to how you feel, and you may end up surprising yourself.

1. Celebrate
Enjoy the moment when you cross the finish line. Hall hung around and hugged his family, while Curp ran straight back to his hotel to call his loved ones. Then post that finisher photo on Facebook and tag us @outsidemagazine so we can join in the praise. But don’t be surprised if you, like Curp, find yourself haunted by the old runner’s adage: You’re only as good as your next race. That’s the beauty of the half-marathon. “You can recover relatively quickly and be back racing a week or two later, ” says Curp.

The Ultimate Half-Marathon Nutrition Plan

Everything you need to fuel up for the race

Horizon organic chocolate milk (Photo: Courtesy of Horizon)

You can put in the physical and mental training, but if you don’t train your stomach, you could end up spilling your guts instead of sprinting for glory. We spoke with Denver-based Registered Dietician, Beth Jauquet, to create a nutritional guide that’ll take you the distance.

NIGHT BEFORE
Continue to eat the same as you did when you were in the full swing of training and your body will store the glycogen you need to fuel your race. Jauquet recommends that you eat balanced meals, meaning they contain about 50 to 65 percent complex carbs, like brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, corn, squash, and fruits and vegetables, and 30 percent fat. The rest of your calories should come from lean protein, like chicken, pork tenderloin, shellfish, or tofu.

“Pasta isn’t bad,” Jauquet says. “But have what your body is used to, and make it a balanced meal.” If you want pasta, think pasta with marinara sauce, a lean protein, and some sautéed or roasted vegetables. Stay away from high-fiber foods the night before, as well as dairy if you know you have a hard time digesting it.

RACE MORNING
“The general rule of thumb is to eat breakfast two to four hours before the race starts,” Jauquet says. Eat something familiar and easy to digest. For some people, that may be oatmeal with fruit and milk. For others, that may be cereal with yogurt and fruit, or a bagel with peanut butter and fruit. And don’t forget to hydrate. Jauquet recommends drinking 16 to 24 ounces of water two hours before the race, and an additional 8 ounces of water about 15 to 30 minutes before.

DURING THE RACE
“Find out ahead of time what food will be provided at your race,” Jauquet says. That way, if you trained with Gatorade and the aid stations have Cytomax, you won’t be thrown for a loop. If your event provides liquids or foods you can’t stand, consider wearing your own hydration belt.

Once you figure out what you’ll use for fuel, follow this plan: Drink something every 15 minutes, starting 15 minutes into your race. Most people need between 30 and 60 grams of carbs per hour, Jauquet says. That’s 120 to 240 calories. Figure out how many carbs you need to sustain your running during long training runs by taking in 30 grams per hour (spread throughout the hour, not all at once) then adjusting the amount by how you feel. If you bonk on 30 grams, you need to take in more. Try alternating between a sports drink and water, taking in other food, like gels, blocks, or bites of banana, with the water as needed. That said, if you’re running hard and not too much longer than an hour, you might not need any calories. Hall says he only took in a couple ounces of water on his record-breaking run. Experiment to see what works best for you.

Jauquet also recommends you determine your sweat rate, so you can aim to replace the fluids you’re losing as you run. Figure it out by weighing yourself naked, running for a half hour without drinking, then stepping on the scale again. For every pound lost, figure you’ve lost 16 ounces of fluid. Multiply that number by two to get your sweat rate per hour, then aim to drink that much as you run. Don’t worry if that seems difficult, as most people have a hard time making up for their sweat rate during their run, Jauquet says. If you can take in 80 percent of what you’re losing, you’ll be in good shape. You can replace the rest after you cross the finish line.

Example sweat rate calculation: You lost one pound during your half hour test run. One pound = 16 ounces x 2 = 32 ounces per hour. 32 / 4 = 8 ounces every 15 minutes.

Want a simpler rule of thumb? Tim Noakes, a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, has recommended drinking according to your thirst.

POST RACE
“Your muscles are most susceptible to recovery immediately after you finish exercising,” Jauquet says. Protein is particularly important right now, as it will help repair damaged muscle fibers. Replace protein and carbs all at once by drinking lowfat chocolate milk as soon as possible. If you can’t digest dairy, chocolate soy milk will also work. Single-serve cartons of Horizon chocolate milk and Silk soy milk don’t need to be refrigerated, so you can toss one into a bag to drink at the finish. Once your stomach is settled, eat a balanced meal, just like you have all week.

Half Marathon Training Plan

12-weeks to your best half marathon, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro

Beginner Half-Marathon Training Plan

Advanced Half-Marathon Training Plan

Matt Ebersole, owner of Indianapolis-based Personal Best Training, has coached over 5,000 runners and is something of a half-marathon expert, having prepared many of those runners to compete in Indianapolis’s Mini Marathon, the largest half-marathon in the United States—with more than 30,000 finishers in 2011. If this is your first shot at running 13.1 miles, go with the beginner training plan. If you’re a pro looking for another race, try the advanced training plan and check out one of our five favorite half marathons below.

For the best training experience, sign up for the interactive version of our beginner plan or advanced plan in the Outside Fitness Center.

The Top 5 U.S. Half Marathons

Filed To: Road RunningEndurance TrainingRunningNutrition Lead Photo: Victah Sailor

Half marathon training intermediate

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