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.

18 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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