Half Marathon Training Schedule for Beginners

Fall is here, and maybe the sweet breezes and chirping birds are calling you outdoors to hit the pavement. If that’s the case, you may want to consider training for a half marathon. If you aren’t sure whether distance running is right for you, a half marathon can be a good, manageable goal to set for yourself this year. And who knows? Maybe you’ll awaken your inner runner and ditch the weight room forever!

I’ve put together a 12-week half marathon training schedule for beginners that should prove effective for you if you are new to the half marathon, new to distance training, or new to running in general. More ambitious than a 5k or 10k but still not quite the granddaddy of them all, the half marathon is a great entry point for runners and want-to-be-runners alike.

This particular training schedule assumes that you can run for two miles comfortably. If this isn’t the case, repeat the pre-training week with a combination of walking and running, gradually increasing the amount of running you can do, until you reach the point of being comfortable running the whole time. And of course, before beginning any new training regimen, you need to have a current physical and a conversation with your doctor about the possible effects to your health. This is especially important if you have never run before, if you have any joint, spine, or heart issues, or if you’ve had surgery fairly recently.

Pre-training:

Monday: 2 miles
Tuesday (and every subsequent Tuesday): REST
Wednesday: 2 miles
Thursday: 2 miles
Friday (and every subsequent Friday): REST
Saturday: 2.5 miles
Sunday (and every subsequent Sunday): REST

Once you have completed the pre-training – it’s time to start the actual training.

Week 1:

Monday: 2.5
Wednesday: 2.5
Thursday: 2
Saturday: 3

Week 2:

Monday: 3
Wednesday: 3
Thursday: 3
Saturday: 4

Week 3:

Monday: 3
Wednesday: 4
Thursday: 3
Saturday: 5

Week 4:

Monday: 3
Wednesday: 4
Thursday: 3
Saturday: 6

Week 5:

Monday: 3
Wednesday: 5
Thursday: 3
Saturday: 8

Week 6:

Monday: 3
Wednesday: 5
Thursday: 3
Saturday: 10

Week 7:

Monday: 4
Wednesday: 5
Thursday: 4
Saturday: 10

Week 8:

Monday: 4
Wednesday: 5
Thursday: 4
Saturday: 11

Week 9:

Monday: 4
Wednesday: 6
Thursday: 4
Saturday: 12

Week 10:

Monday: 4
Wednesday: 5
Thursday: 4
Saturday: 9

Week 11:

Monday: 3
Wednesday: 4
Thursday: 3
Saturday: 8

Week 12 (RACE WEEK!):

Monday: 3
Wednesday: 3
Thursday: WALK 2
Saturday: 13.1

After weeks of rigorous training, you will be in great shape and ready to conquer the race.

A few notes about this schedule, and about running in general:

– You’ll notice that the total hours of training tapers off in the last couple of weeks. This is meant to continue increasing your stamina but allow your body to build up reserves of strength for the race itself. This tapering off is highly recommended for you to be at your peak on the day of the race.

– Saturdays on this schedule are reserved for your LSD – your long, slow distance run. Run these days at an easy pace – you should be comfortable carrying on a conversation while you run these, not gasping for air and exerting yourself too hard.

– If it works better for you to have your training and rest days on different days of the week than they are on the schedule, go ahead and switch. You don’t want to have three days of running in a row, though, and you NEED to take your rest days to avoid harming your joints.

– Ideally the rest days will mean you don’ t exercise at all, but if you need (or want) to do something, make sure it is a zero-impact exercise (like yoga or swimming). Keep in mind, though, that your body needs these days off to recover. Pushing it too hard could lead to injury and/or poor health. If you are feeling fatigued on a rest day, do absolutely nothing.

– Always do a warm up before each run and a cool down afterward. These are critical to protect your body from injury as a result of launching into a high-impact run and to keep your heart safe after a long run. The warm up should last about five or ten minutes and incorporate a light, low-impact aerobic exercise like a brisk walk or a spin on the stationary bike. The cool down should also be five or ten minutes, and you can walk or do a light jog. You may want to incorporate stretches into your cool down – with your muscles completely warm, stretching will be most effective at this time. You don’t want to stretch cold muscles, so if you decide to stretch during your warm up, do them at the end and not the beginning.

– In addition to adhering to a training schedule to prepare for your half marathon, take a close look at your diet. The fuel you need for running distances comes from carbohydrates, especially complex carbs, so these need to make up a large portion of your diet. Some experts recommend as much as 65% of your calories come from carbohydrates. Be sure to talk to your doctor and do some additional research before beginning your training so that you are setting yourself up for success, not injury. Diet is a critical element!

– Hydration is another key to maintaining your health while you follow a training schedule. A general rule of thumb to keep in mind while you’re running is to drink 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes to replace the fluids you’re losing so rapidly. I’ve also known people to weigh themselves before running and then weighing immediately afterward, setting the goal of getting their body weight back up after the run by drinking the requisite fluids within about 3 hours of the run.

All in all, training for a half marathon can be a great way to introduce yourself to distance running. Sometimes setting that goal is all you need to take your fitness to a new level. Happy running!

For more information about racing schedules: Check out Marathon Rookie and About.com


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