How To Create a Half Marathon Training Plan

half marathon training plan

So, you’ve made up your mind to run a half marathon…Congratulations! 

Running a half marathon is something to be proud of. Less than 1% of the American population can claim they’ve completed one! 

To ensure that you get the best possible outcome (which might just be finishing!), following a half marathon training plan is highly recommended whether you’re a beginner or veteran runner. This is the time of the year to solidify your half marathon training plan to be ready for the 2023 racing season

Why is a Half Marathon Training Plan Important?

A half marathon, which may otherwise be identified as a 21K, requires a runner to have solid muscular and cardiovascular conditioning. It’s crucial to train to be well positioned to conquer the 13.1 miles physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Part of the preparation process for your first half marathon is to create a training plan. 

Race training is designed to help a runner work out running mechanics issues, build up weekly running mileage, and prepare the mind for the stress of a demanding race. 

How Do I Choose a Half Marathon Training Plan?

Choosing a half marathon training plan may seem overwhelming at first. But fear not. 

There are four points that a good half marathon training plan will include:

  • Cross-training time
  • Long runs
  • Rest days
  • Taper

A good half marathon training plan should incorporate nutritional guidelines and equipment recommendations for training and for race day. Half Marathon Guide has prepared a beginner’s 12-week half marathon training plan to get you started. 

If you’re more advanced, take a look at this intermediate 9-week half marathon training plan.

Next, let’s look at common questions asked by runners when it comes to half marathon training.

How Many Months Do You Need to Train For a Half Marathon?

It typically takes about 12 to 16 weeks to train for a half marathon. That’s roughly three to four months. The longer training plans allow for more flexibility in training and may be preferable if you’re a less experienced runner.

How Many Miles Should I Run a Day to Train For a Half Marathon?

Newer runners should start with between 10 and 15 miles per week. That’s about two to three miles per training day. A new runner should plan to run every other day. Most training plans will gradually increase mileage to between 25 and 30 miles per week or  five to six miles per day with a long run in the mix. 

Tips For Creating a Half Marathon Training Plan

Let’s now discuss your personalized half marathon training plan. 

Set Up a Training Schedule

It’s easy to get motivated and excited at the beginning of your half-marathon training. However, it’s important to manage energy and enthusiasm in a structured manner. 

A weekly structure is important for a half marathon training plan. Good race training schedules have between four and five training sessions per week. Nevertheless, building your plan around what you can realistically handle from time and physical capability is extremely important. 

Be honest with yourself. If you can only commit to three training sessions per week, build your plan around that schedule. Otherwise, you’ll become frustrated if your day-to-day activities don’t allow you to stick to your training plan.

To help with your training schedule, go so far as to schedule the time of day you prefer to train. 

If you’d like a detailed half marathon racing plan, check out this 16-week beginner plan. This training guide includes four training sessions per week and three off days, which you can incorporate either cross-training workouts or recovery. You can also check out this more robust 20-week half marathon training plan, especially if you need to ease into high-mileage workouts gradually.

Understand Pacing 

Pace refers to the speed at which you run in miles or kilometers per minute. Many training plans will set a target pace per run. Long runs will have paces that are 20%-30% longer than mid-distance runs. Mid-distance runs will be run 20%-30% slower than tempo runs, and so on. 

Many runners aspire to run a half marathon in under two hours. More advanced runners may shoot for a one-hour and 45-minute half marathon pace. You can train at paces that are meant to give you confidence that you’ll be able to sustain a “race pace” on half marathon day.

Pacing is an important part of any racing strategy. If a runner begins the race too quickly, they’re at risk of burning out as well as risking injuries. On the opposite end of the spectrum, running too slowly may frustrate you since you could end up feeling like something is holding you back.

A good way to measure your comfortable training pace is to make use of the “conversational pace” test. This test simply is – what pace can you run and sustain a conversation without gasping for breath. 

If you find that you cannot engage in a conversation without struggling to breathe easily,  you’re running too fast. 

Another great test is to monitor your heart rate. Using a smartwatch with a heart rate monitoring feature can help determine if you’re running too quickly. A general rule of thumb is to shoot for about 60% of your maximum heart rate. To give you a more concrete example, take 220 beats per minute and subtract your age to calculate a reasonable heart rate goal for you. 

For example, a 40-year-old’s maximum heart rate should be 180, which is 220 minus 40. In this example, 60% of the maximum heart rate would be 108 beats per minute. This rule is a general standard. Individuals in top physical condition for their age group may be able to push their heart rate higher. 

Practice Speed Runs and Hill Training

One of the most effective half marathon training workouts is the inclusion of speed or tempo runs into your sessions. Speed runs are shorter runs that push your pace to a manageable but elevated limit. Speed sessions should last for about one-third of your longest distance runs. 

If you run 10 miles during your long runs, speed runs should be about three miles at your maximum pace. Speed runs help build stamina at an elevated lactic threshold. 

Speed runs should be followed by a rest day that incorporates some type of cross-training, whether that be weights or non-running cardio, such as swimming or yoga. 

Hill training is another effective half marathon training technique. Hill training pushes your body to support elevation gain and higher aerobic demand due to the effort required to overcome a steep slope. 

Incorporating hill training, especially into your long runs, will help you build leg strength. 

Avoid dragging your feet or hanging your head, as bad posture can cause your body mechanics to get out of sync. It’s better to walk than to keep pushing with inappropriate form. 

Supplement with Cross Training

Cross-training is an important piece of a solid half marathon training plan. For runners, cross-training consists of any training that isn’t running. 

Cross-training includes weight lifting, non-running cardio — such as swimming, stationary biking, and calisthenics — yoga, walking at a moderate pace or playing sports that don’t involve running, like golf or tennis. 

Incorporating cross-training into your half marathon training plan will allow you to stay active without putting additional stress on your legs and joints. Furthermore, cross-training, such as lifting weights, allows your muscles to continue building mass and strength. 

Core training, which focuses on the abs and back muscles, is essential to proper running form. A strong core will help you maintain proper form, particularly on long runs.

Take Rest Days

There will be days when you simply need to rest. These maintenance or rest days will provide your body with a chance to recover and regroup for the next training session. On rest days, your body will have the chance to repair tissue damage and make muscles and bones stronger. 

Your joints and ligaments need a break from the eccentric load that comes with running. Eccentric load refers to the downward motion your legs engage in every time they hit the ground. Consequently, rest is crucial in helping muscles, bones and joints recover so that they can come back stronger.

Running every day can lead to overtraining, one of the leading causes of injuries. 

Getting Ready for Race Day

Now that you have the inside scoop on how to craft your personalized half marathon training plan, it’s time for you to get moving. The right half marathon training plan will set you up for personal success, but it’s nothing without action. 

Above all, your personalized race training will provide you with the structure you need to achieve your goals. Check out this great article, which offers a host of additional training plans and tips. Here, you will find a comprehensive guide to help you find the half marathon training plan that’s right for you.

FAQ

How long does it take the average person to train for a half marathon?

It takes approximately 12 to 16 weeks for the average person to train for a half marathon.

Is running a half marathon worth it?

The experience of completing a challenging task can be extremely rewarding. Plus, regular exercise can yield significant health benefits.

Is a half marathon a good achievement?

Completing a half marathon is one of the most impressive achievements anyone can accomplish. Running a half marathon requires a mix of mental, physical, and emotional strength.

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