How to Pick the Right Training Plan For You

By Carissa Liebowitz

Developing a training plan that suits your needs for your first half marathon is no easy task. Even seasoned veterans require a schedule to ensure they are prepared on race day. There are countless calculators and training plans in books, magazines, and websites available for runners of all abilities.


Free training plans are available at runnersworld.com, jeffgalloway.com, halhigdon.com and on this site. Many training groups exist for runners looking to complete their first half marathon and provide participants a chance to train with a professional.

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

Of course, nothing can replace having a one-on-one coach. Chris, a running coach and specialist from Nebraska, reminds runners, “Having the assistance of a coach allows for feedback and adjustments throughout your program that very rarely go as planned.”

Regular weekday runs, followed by long runs

Beginning training plans can vary widely in frequency and length. Ideally, you should be able to run 15 miles a week comfortably and have been running consistently for a year. Most training plans require 3 to 5 days of running for approximately 12 to 20 weeks of training. Choose a plan that works for your lifestyle. If Sunday is family day, make Saturday your long run day.

Favorite TV show comes on at 10pm on Tuesday? Change your speedwork day from Wednesday to Thursday. There will be no excuses if you ensure you leave room to enjoy other aspects of your life.

Steve Miazgowicz, a four-time half marathon finisher from Lambertville, Michigan, advises, “Do your best and shoot for the longer runs on your schedule. And don’t let the schedule get in the way of enjoying your life and running.”

(MORE: The Best Time of Year to Train for a Half)

Once you have chosen a training plan, use a calendar to track your training days leading up to the day of the race. It can be on your phone, on Google calendars, or in a paper planner. Type or write the schedule into each day and use this same calendar to record your workouts.

By reviewing your workouts over time, you can determine if there is a need to modify the plan. Also, this becomes a valuable tool to refer back to if you decide to race again.

“Training plans are great; training buddies are better.” – Chrstina, five-time half-marathoner from Connecticut.

As you start your official training, tell your friends and family about your plans. They can be a source of motivation and enforcement in your quest to reach the finish line. You make even inspire others around you by discussing your ultimate goal.

The Company You Keep

If you have any runner friends, ask them to keep you company during some of your runs. “Training plans are great; training buddies are better,” states Christina, a five-time half marathon finisher from Connecticut. Also, cyclists make great running partners because they can easily carry your water bottle.

Within the first few weeks, it is likely that something will come along to alter your training plan. It might be thunder storming on the day you planned to do hills or an illness takes you out for a few days. The most important thing is to return to the plan as quickly and safely as possible.

(MORE: 5 Things No One Tells You About Marrying a Runner)

A couple of missed workouts scattered over the course of 3 to 5 months will not result in a bad race. Just jump back into the plan and resume the scheduled runs. Tack on an extra mile or two if you are feeling great, but don’t worry too much about the missed workout.

Finally, as you are completing your scheduled runs, review your performance. Maybe your goal was a bit lofty and you are starting to feel burned out. Perhaps you are nailing every run with energy to spare. Adjust your calendar as necessary so that you can cross the finish line with confidence.


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