Half Marathon Training Schedule for Beginner Runners

Before starting any training for running the 13.1-mile half marathon distance, whether it’s in an organized race or on your own, you should be regularly running approximately 10 to 15 miles per week. If you’re a beginning runner, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting anything as strenuous as training for a half marathon, especially if you’re over age 35 or 40.

(MORE: 16-Week Training Plan | 20-Week Training Plan)

With that in mind, below is the training schedule that the publisher of this site has followed in past races, one that’s worked out well. It’s based on a simple philosophy — using the mid-week runs for conditioning and feeling out your proper pace, and using the once-per-week long runs to get you mentally prepared for running 13 miles.

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week
1
off 3 miles 3 miles 3 miles off 3 miles 4 miles
Week
2
off 3 miles 4 miles 3 miles off 3 miles 4 miles
Week
3
off 3 miles 4 miles 3 miles off 3 miles 5 miles
Week
4
off 3 miles 5 miles 3 miles off 4 miles 6 miles
Week
5
off 4 miles 5 miles 4 miles off 3 miles 7 miles
Week
6
off 4 miles 4 miles 4 miles off 4 miles 8 miles
Week
7
off 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 4 miles 9 miles
Week
8
off 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 4 miles 10 miles
Week
9
off 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 3 miles 11 miles
Week
10
off 4 miles 5 miles 4 miles off 4 miles 12 miles
Week
11
off 4 miles 5 miles 4 miles off 3 miles 6 miles
Week
12
off 3 miles 5 miles 3 miles off 2 miles 13.1
miles!

Rest Days

Especially for beginning runners or those who may be experienced at running but training for their first half marathon, it’s important to take two days off from running during the week to allow your joints and muscles adequate time to rest. I’ve always taken two days off during the week, on Mondays and Fridays, as that allows a day off after your long run as well as a day off after your three mid-week running days.

Water

On your weekend long runs, make sure to bring plenty of water to drink after your run and during your run. It’s important especially when your long runs start reaching distances of seven, eight and nine miles or longer, to have water at the mid-point of your long run as well as at the end.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade are fine as well, but you can’t go wrong with water. Also, this will get your body accustomed to what your race conditions will be like, when you’ll be able to have water most likely at every two miles in the race.

(MORE: 13 Essential Tips for Your First Half Marathon)

Walking & Taking Breaks

If you feel the need to walk or take a break in your long run or during any of your training runs, by all means don’t feel guilty or hesitant about doing so. Especially for beginners, the goal is to complete the race more so than to compete, and when finishing is your goal, it’s perfectly fine to take walking breaks here and there. Listen to what your body is telling you, as it’s quite possible that perhaps you’re trying to maintain too fast a pace; consider slowing yours or using the run-walk method popularized by Jeff Galloway.

Consult the Experts

Remember that the training schedule above is just one recommendation on how to structure a half marathon training plan. You should also consult the training schedules put together by the famed and highly accomplished runners Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway for more perspectives on how to train for this enjoyable and challenging race distance.

40 comments… add one

  • sam July 10, 2014, 1:21 am

    Is this age specific?

    Reply
  • Terrell Johnson July 10, 2014, 4:45 pm

    Hi Sam, no it isn’t. But that’s a factor we should consider, and perhaps incorporate into training programs for runners at different ages. Great idea.

    Reply
  • Michael L Bradley July 14, 2014, 9:58 am

    I have signed up to do the St.Jude half on December 6 2014.I walk a 5k every morning.I finish them in 46 minutes or less.I want to improve my miles but scared to death.I have done 5 5k this year.I can’t afford a coaching coach.Any suggestion that you can give me will help me out a lot.I recon that I put this on my Bucket list to do.Am I crazy?Thanks for all of the information.
    Mike

    Reply
    • Donald Beuke October 2, 2014, 9:21 pm

      Michael,
      I would suggest training by your heart rate to avoid injuries and to build a good base. The method I am referring to is called Maffetone. The Maffetone method uses the 180 rule which is 180 minus your age is you optimal training heart rate. Do not exceed this heart rate when you first start training and slowly build in the miles. I am 39 so I keep my heart rate around 140 when I jog. It may seem slow at first but you eventually build a strong base. I got down to 8:00 pace while keeping my heart rate at 140. Takes time start slow and it is ok to walk when you start a run and end a run.

      Reply
  • Julie July 28, 2014, 1:47 pm

    I have searched all over the Internet for half marathon training schedules and came across this one as it is the only one I’ve found with no cross training, fartlek, tempo run, interval runs etc…. Will it still be as effective?

    Reply
    • Kelly August 1, 2014, 3:15 am

      Hi Julie,
      I’m certainly no expert, just an experienced runner, so don’t quote me. But training schedules that incorporate tempos, fartleks, etc. are meant to help people with speed work. It is so they can focus on passing people and speeding up at crucial points in the race, and then settle back into their regular pace. This particular training plan seems to be for people who want to complete, not compete. Hope this helps!

      Reply
      • Darrell Gammon October 19, 2014, 6:03 pm

        One thing I would suggest is running hills to strengthen up the legs. I do at least once per week.

        Reply
  • Melanie July 31, 2014, 5:09 pm

    In response to Julie….from a personal level, I trained for my first half two years ago and I too only wanted a “running” schedule with no cross training, tempo, ect. It was very effective for me and I finished the race with no issues. And I was NOT a runner AT ALL beforehand. Hope that helps. Good luck!

    Reply
  • Betsie August 5, 2014, 3:51 pm

    In response to Mike and Julie: I completed my first half marathon last year using a training schedule very similar to this one (which I am using this year) I had completed several 5K’s in a similar time frame that you mention (46mins) but was scared to attempt a half. I finished in 3:02 with the cutoff time of 4:00. I would check the cut off time and train according to that. I didn’t train for speed but endurance. You’ll find that the adrenaline of the race will push you faster than you thought. Just be careful to be aware of your time and not exhuast yourself early on in the miles. The one recommendation I would give is to include hills in your training daily, this will prepare you for hills on the course and increase your endurance abilities. Good luck!

    Reply
  • Monica August 6, 2014, 2:01 pm

    Hello!
    I am planning on running a half marathon in 9 weeks instead of 12 weeks. I have done triathlons before and am in fairly good shape but also a little rusty. Are there any suggestions to tweak the training for the 9 weeks?
    Thanks,
    Monica

    Reply
    • Terrell Johnson August 6, 2014, 4:36 pm

      Hi Monica! We don’t have a 9-week plan here on the site, but that’s one we should add, especially for runners and athletes who keep themselves in good shape. Stay tuned.

      Reply
  • Paulo August 9, 2014, 9:15 am

    I am planning on running a half marathon in 12 weeks , and I’m a 56 old , is there any HELP?
    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rick August 10, 2014, 9:14 am

      Paulo, you can do it. I walked my first half marathon Dec 2012, Las Vegas Rock and Roll at age 59. My primary goal was to finish, secondary was to finish under 3:30. I completed it in 3:25. Then I did another 1/2 Marathon May 5, 2013 and 4 weeks later walked my third 1/2 Marathon. Decided to start running and in October 2013 completed the Cleveland Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon in 3:15. Five weeks later I was back in Vegas and ran it in 2:59. Just do it!

      Reply
    • Louann August 24, 2014, 9:56 pm

      You can do it! I prefer the walk 10 minutes walk 1 minute method to keep from getting hurt. Make sure you get the right shoe, it makes all the difference! I didn’t realize that I needed to buy 1/2 to 1 whole size larger until after losing a toenail.

      Reply
      • christy muccillo September 5, 2014, 11:40 pm

        I dont understand your walk 10 minutes walk 1 minute method? Please explain.

        Reply
        • Barbara September 6, 2014, 9:24 pm

          Hi there. I am confident she meant run 10 minutes walk 1 minute. And repeat.

          Barbara

          Reply
  • Jenieve Holder August 10, 2014, 11:08 am

    Hello MR Johnson, I am a 46 year old mom of five who would like to start training for the half marathon. I live in the District Heights area in Prince George’s County and would like to know if there any marathon training held in my area. Thanks in advance for your respond.

    Jenieve

    Reply
    • Severina September 4, 2014, 3:53 pm

      Hi! I’ve been using Garmin’s 16 week Half Marathon Training (free) for beginners..uploaded the calendar to my watch so that I stay and keep my schedule.
      Try your local running store….they usually have (free) group runs and will give you an opportunity to ask questions, get advise, and info on local running clubs.
      Also check out Road Runners Club of America (http://www.rrca.org/find-a-running-club/) …they have a pretty comprehensive directory of local running clubs too. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • Colleen Brennan August 10, 2014, 5:24 pm

    Hi,

    I just signed up for my first half marathon in November. It will be an evening race. Should I prepare differently the day before/morning of?

    Reply
  • Marc-E-Marc August 19, 2014, 9:54 pm

    Do you have this schedule ready in Km? Yes I’m Canadian, we like to run here too. lol

    Reply
  • Pedro August 25, 2014, 4:31 pm

    First of all this training plan is great. I am running a half marathon on Oct. 5th and all is going well so far. However, I will be going on a business trip for week 9 and I am afraid I won’t be able to log in as many miles throughout the week.

    Do you have any recommendations on how I can have a “light week” but without it affecting the training regimen too much? Is there anything you would recommend?

    Thank you.

    Reply
  • Lily August 26, 2014, 10:21 pm

    I’m 14, run four miles daily (+2 on days I have cross country, would this work for me? I’m just curious as to the age group for this specific entry.

    Reply
  • Angie August 29, 2014, 11:06 am

    I am running my first half marathon on December 7th and I’m super excited! Thank you for this training schedule. I’m sure it will help a lot!

    Reply
  • Bradley Berkebile September 5, 2014, 12:03 pm

    I used this training program in 2012 for my first 1/2 marathon. I was pretty sedentary before starting but set an aggressive goal to finish the race in under 2 hrs. I finished the race in 1:59:30!!! It was close but I hit my goal. I have run a few 10 and 15Ks since then but haven’t stayed as active so I am starting from scratch using this plan again. 2 weeks in and I am down 6lbs and getting my pace back.

    I would love to build in some CT to keep my core strong but just following this plan will get you to the finish line. Best of luck runners – B-rad

    Reply
  • shad September 11, 2014, 10:35 am

    Would it be better to prepare on official track or stick to hard surface roads? Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Mark October 13, 2014, 2:32 pm

      Mix it up. But you should do most of your training on the surface you will be running.

      Reply
  • Tam September 11, 2014, 1:57 pm

    Angie-Good luck on your first 1/2. I am 60 and ran marathons when I was young. Just started doing 1/2s about 5 years ago. It is a great distance! I am also doing my next 1/2 on December 7th. I will think about you during the race. You will do great!

    Reply
  • Shay September 11, 2014, 2:17 pm

    Hello, I was wondering when you reach 12 miles how should I run weekly to maintain it. I feel like running 12 miles is a skill and I don’t want to lose it!

    Reply
  • Heather October 7, 2014, 2:15 pm

    hello,
    I do yoga religiously about 3-4 times a week…Sometimes deep stretching yoga sometimes power/flow yoga.. I really want to accomplish a half marathon but My question is would it be outrageous to do a schedule like this along with my yoga. Should I cut back on the yoga in order to make it through a whole half marathon?

    Reply
    • Dale October 12, 2014, 3:01 pm

      Hello Heather,

      My wife, a recreational runner for most of her life is also a certified yoga instructor. At times she’s deeper into her running than her yoga, and vice-versa; over the years she’s found that the two, while on the surface are seemingly compatible, in reality “not so much” is a better way of describing it. Long story short, she needs to back off on one to excel in the other.

      As an aside, earlier this year she ramped down on her yoga and started upping her mileage to the 25-35 mile per week range (with no specific goal in mind), and two weeks ago (she was 56 at the time) the two of us ran our first half marathon; she crossed the finish line in a very impressive 1:49. While I have no doubt her strength and flexibility from her yoga was a great asset during the race, it was the miles she’s logged over the last six months which allowed her to maintain such a fast pace.

      Reply
  • Flora Jones October 8, 2014, 10:51 pm

    I just turned 69, I want to train to walk a half marathon before my next birthday. I want to start training within the next couple of months. Where do I start?

    Reply
  • Art Williams October 10, 2014, 11:11 am

    I’m 61 years young and just had my annual physical and my Doctor has given me the green light to train for a Marathon. I want to participate in a 10 mile event called ‘Broad Street Run’ scheduled for May 2015 in Philadelphia, PA.

    What training schedule should I incorporate as a beginner? Thanks

    Reply
  • Tate October 10, 2014, 12:11 pm

    i want to do a half marathon next spring but i don’t really have money to spend on the right gear, is that a big problem?

    Reply
  • Dale October 12, 2014, 3:06 pm

    Hey Tate,

    Other than two or three proper sets of shoes, and clothing appropriate for the weather conditions in your area, you really don’t need any special gear. In reality, all you need is to start a training plan, g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y ramp up your mileage, log several good months of long slow miles, and then enter a race. If you have some specific time related goals in mind, run a few 5K or 10K races, and then use some of the race pace calculators to determine how close you are to hitting your goal time.

    Reply
    • Di Lun October 23, 2014, 2:03 pm

      To add to Dale’s comment… You will need SOCKS! and I am not referring to the hanes, fruit of the loom, regular-everyday cotton brand. I am a newbie to distance running and I have learned the importance of wearing the correct socks as my mileage increases. You can always find clothing deeply discounted online and sometimes in the store but I would strongly suggest investing in a good pair of running shoes and socks. Your feet will thank you later. Plus you can get roughly 300 miles out of pair of shoes.

      Reply
  • Kelly October 14, 2014, 9:23 am

    Hello,

    I plan on following this plan for my first half marathon in January. My question is, at what pace should you run these miles? I read that you should run them at race-pace, but another website said slower than race-pace. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you.

    Reply
  • A Brown October 14, 2014, 10:24 pm

    What should I be eating. I am 58 and training for half marathon.

    Reply
  • LUKE RICHARDSON October 16, 2014, 12:26 pm

    think this is a little unspecific. I need to know more things to like what to eat afterwards and stuff like that

    Reply
  • Chris M October 23, 2014, 10:21 am

    THANKS SO MUCH!
    I followed this plan for my first half marathon, and was very prepared. Physically and mentally. Way to go!

    Reply

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