How You Know You’re Ready to Run a Half Marathon

How You Know You're Ready to Run a Half Marathon

© Sam Wordley |

So you’ve landed yourself at and aren’t sure you are “ready” to run a half marathon?

How do you know? Is there a time you are 100% prepared? There is never a perfect time to run any race, but it’s important to know if you are truly ready to run.

One of the most prominent mistakes runners make when signing up for their first half marathon is not respecting the distance. The race itself is even called a “half” marathon. It’s not half of anything, it’s a full 13.1 miles, and that is a long way to go!

Like with any race from the 5K to an ultra-marathon, it’s important to respect the distance. Each distance takes training to cover the mileage.

It takes time, dedication, and hard work. Of course, you won’t be out as long as a full marathon, but you will be on your feet for a long time. If you don’t train properly, you could end injured.

So how do you know you are ready?

You should be able to run/walk 90 minutes. Covering the distance doesn’t necessarily mean just running, but you need to be able to continue to move for 90 minutes. If your goal is to run the entire race, it’s recommended you are able to run for 90 minutes without stopping.

This should be easy, and you don’t have to sprint for 90 minutes, but you should feel comfortable walk/running for 90 minutes while also fueling correctly.

The most valuable and critical workout of your training is the long run. That is when you build endurance and stamina to run the entire race to get to that 90-minute point. The long run is known as the bread and butter of the training for any runner.

The long run also helps improve your body’s ability to store glycogen and burn fat as fuel when you deplete other types of fuel.

What if you have never run a half before?

If you are new to running and your goal is to finish with walking/running (which is totally fine!), it’s best to start with blocks of running that include walking breaks.

Walking is always okay, but it’s important to make sure that you are moving. As weeks of training go by, the goal should be to gradually increase running while decreasing walking.

Consistency is key

Consistency is the most critical piece of advice for any training cycle with any distance. It’s okay to miss a run or two, but when it becomes a habit it starts to hurt you.

Elite runners will tell you, the goal race is more of the culmination of all your runs and training cycles, not just a single 2-3 month period. PRs aren’t made in a day, and keeping the big picture in mind is most important.

Most training plans advise 12-16 weeks to run a half marathon successfully. It may seem daunting, but if you take it week by week, it’s much easier to feel accomplished.

If you miss a run here or there, that’s okay, and you don’t have to stress about it.

3 pieces of advice to run your best half marathon

  • Run on the terrain you are racing! Many new runners, myself included, started running on the treadmill. Unless your race is on the treadmill, it’s a good idea to get some running wherever your race is. That could be on the roads or trails but make sure to run on that specific terrain at least once a week. The more, the better!
  • Race experience: While it’s not necessary to run a 5 or 10k before a race, I highly recommend it. There is something different about pinning on a race bib. It’s a feeling you cannot get from an everyday run. Running a race will also give you an accurate indication of your current fitness level.
  • It’s always better to be under-trained than over-trained: If you are over trained you risk injury or burnout. The best piece of advice my college coach ever gave me was rest days save entire seasons. If you feel an injury or issue popping up, taking a rest day to make it to your goal race healthy is critical. If you aren’t healthy, you won’t make it to the starting line.

Always keep in mind to have fun! The half marathon is a challenging but rewarding distance. It’s the perfect blend of both speed and endurance, but you must adequately train for it.

Hollie Sick is an avid New Jersey-based runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

4 comments… add one
  • Dwayne moore November 9, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Thanks for the information just started training again

  • William B. (Bill) Brown November 9, 2018, 12:25 pm

    I really appreciate this article. Having done quite a few halfs, it’s refreshing and validating to read about the fun and honorable part of it. Longer runs don’t have much of a place for an ego….willingness to train and get to the starting line, then finishing relatively comfortably is plenty. Thank you for the re-assurance. Respectfully, Wm A. Brown (age 67)

  • Doug Smith November 8, 2018, 2:57 pm

    My two cents:

    This is an excellent article full of advice that I wish somebody had told me before I started training for my first half. Even though, I’ve run several halves, I still the following rules. My training goal is to simulate race day as much as possible both physically and mentally. Here are my goals in no particular order:
    1. I think of a half marathon as a 5k with a 10 mile “warmup” — all of it at half marathon-pace.* That gives me confidence that I can trust my training and makes the race feel more manageable.
    2. I know that I’m physically ready when I can finish my “warmup” with a 5k in the tank. It mentally breaks down the run into chunks.
    3. As tempting as it can be, I never pick up the pace near the end of my long runs. This takes discipline, but it helps me simulate race day. (I train for marathons the same way–being able to run 20 miles with a 10K still in me. Keeps me from “hitting the wall.”)
    4. I only mention this one because the article didn’t: Start with really short distances and slowly increase your distance. Starting too long or too fast is asking for injury. There are a ton of training programs online. You’ll quickly learn that every one of them follows this rule.

    I can’t really call this a rule, but have fun!

    *If you’re training for your first, it’s hard to know what that pace is. A good starting point is that a 5K pace means you can’t carry on a conversation; A 10k pace means that you can get out partial sentences; A half marathon pace means you can carry on a conversation. I usually train on my own, so I “fake it” and talk to myself out loud. Seriously. It works. 🙂

    • Terrell Johnson November 8, 2018, 10:58 pm

      Doug, this is great feedback and you yourself have provided some great training advice here. Thanks so much!

Leave a Comment