How To Train For A Half Marathon + Sample Training Plan

Running continues to become more popular each year and the number of marathon and half marathon runners continues to increase! I have a lot of friends and clients who have set a goal to run a half marathon in 2012 and have asked for my help. So, I thought I would put together a simple training plan like I did for “How to Train for a 10k in 6 Weeks”, which is my post popular blog post. I’ve run 4 marathons, many half marathons and will be running my first Ultra marathon in February – so this plan is based on my own experiences and what I feel works the best! I welcome feedback!

First things, first…if you are going to set a goal to run a half marathon then you need to make it PRIORITY. This means making it priority over other workouts (you can still cross-train), getting up early a lot, adjusting your diet and spending some money. But, it’s totally worth it.

What you Need:

1) Gear. Get the right shoes for your FEET (not best color, style, etc) and the right clothes. Go to a specialty store like Luke’s Locker and have them take a look at your arch, pronation and gate. My favorite shoe brand is Asics and for clothes I like Nike, Lululemon and Lucy – all of which make great sweat proof and dry-fit clothes. For a less expensive option, check Target and Walmart because they products that mimic Under Armour, which is also a good brand. Also, you may want to invest in a Garmin or use mapmyrun.com, Nike+ or other GPS tracking system. They are pretty accurate and can help you keep track of your progress (and it’s fun!).

2) A good schedule like below. Stick to it as much as you can. You may have an off week, have to go out of town, etc. so you can adjust it. Just make sure you get in your long run that week because that’s the most important!

3) Follow the 10 percent rule. Don’t increase your speed or distance more than 10 percent each week or you may get injured. For instance, if one week you run 10 miles total – don’t go more than 11 the next week.

4) Sign up for a race now so that you know when to start training. Ideally you will need 2-3 months for a half and double that for a full marathon.

5) Safe, planned training routes. I would recommend that you join a running club because they plan everything and will often put fluids out for you so you don’t have to wear a fluid belt. I do Kenyan Way in Houston but one of the largest national organizations is USA Fit. You could also check with your local Road Runners Association. If you don’t want to join a group or club, find some sample routes online or ask friends at your gym. If you are unsure – make sure you test the route out when it’s light outside and be aware of your surroundings (people, cars, bikers, etc).

6) Proper nutrition. You can’t put a bunch of junk in your body and expect to do well. Sure, you could probably finish a half marathon with a normal crappy American diet – but if you want to get a decent time you need to put away the processed food and sweets and stick to a “Clean” diet. But – as a runner you will need your carbs, so please don’t try a low-carb diet or you will not have energy for training or the race. Just know WHAT carbs are good (ie whole wheat vs. white bread). Do your research.

7) Runners World subscription! It does help.

8) Familiarize yourself with GU and other gels. You won’t need them until you are running at least about an hour or so – but don’t wait until race day to try it out.

9) Plan for possible setbacks. You may get runner’s knee, IT band tightness, plantar faciitis or one of the other fun runner injuries! Read up on them, so if you get one you know what to do. Most can be prevented with strength training, the right shoes and avoiding over training.

10) Most importantly – have fun! There are always more races and times to train – so don’t take it too seriously!

The Plan (For Beginners)

You will need to commit to about 3 days of running (if you can do 4 or 5 that’s better). But, even if you can do it every day – you don’t want to increase your total weekly mileage by too much or you will get injured (see 10% rule above). You need to pick one day to do your “long run”, preferably a Saturday or Sunday. The long run is how you build your endurance and is the most important run and it should be run at a CONVERSATIONAL pace (60-120 seconds slower than goal race pace). If you are brand new to running, you can mix in some walking and gradually decrease time spent walking. If you can comfortably run 3-4 miles without resting then do the higher end of the ranges below.

Month 1 (always warmup walk/jog for first 1/2 mile or first 5-10min)
Mon: Easy/Medium pace run (1-3miles)+ weight training
Tues: Fast intervals/tempo or hills* (1-2 miles)
Wed: Easy/Medium pace run (1-3 miles) + optional weight training
Thurs: Fast intervals/tempo or hills* (1-2 miles)
Fri: cross training (elliptical, spinning, yoga, etc) or  OFF (Don’t do anything that will make you too sore)
Sat: Long run. Start the first week at like 2-4 miles or however your current longest run is. NOT how far you “think” you can go.  Then each week you want to add 1/2 mile. When you get up to about 6 miles, you can increase your long run every week by 1 mile until you reach 13 (see below)
Sun: OFF or yoga
*Fast Intervals mean warmup for about 0.25-0.50 mile and then alternate 1-2 minutes fast running with 1-2 minutes slow jog or walk. As you gradually get faster each week you can increase your speeds and also decrease the time you spend on the slow portions. This should not be full-out sprint but at “Tempo” pace. You can also substitute fast intervals with a “hill workout”. This can be done outside or on the treadmill. Just warmup and then alternate a hill run around 10% incline for 1-2 minutes and then flat for 1-2 minutes. Don’t be afraid to play with it. Interval training can be fun!
Months 2 & 3 (always warmup walk/jog for first 1/2 mile or first 5-10min)
Mon: Easy run (3-4miles)+ weight training
Tues: Fast intervals/tempo (2-3 miles)
Wed: Easy/Medium run (3-5 miles) + weight training
Thurs: Fast intervals/tempo or hills (2-3 miles)
Fri: cross training (elliptical, spinning, yoga, etc) or OFF. Don’t do anything that will make you sore.
Sat: Long run. **see below
Sun: OFF or yoga
The two weeks before the race you should not do any hard runs – so just run easy 1-3 miles once or twice a week and your long runs the 2 weeks before will be shorter. This is referred to as the “Taper” and it will give your legs time to recover fully before race day.

Sample Long Run Schedule:

Your long run should be super slow and at a conversational pace. Increase your run for 3 weeks in a row and the drop it back for a “recovery week” like this:
Week 1: 3 miles
Week 2: 3.5 miles
Week 3: 4 miles
Week 4: 3 miles (recovery week)
Week 5: 5 miles
Week 6: 6miles
Week 7: 7miles
Week 8: 4 miles (recovery week)
Week 9: 8 miles
Week 10: 9miles
Week 11: 10miles
Week 12: 7 miles (taper)
Week 13: 4 miles (taper)
Week 14: RACE
If you can run 10 miles, you can run a half marathon!

The Plan (For Intermediate Runners)

Follow the same plan as above – but to increase your speed you need to focus on those interval/tempo and hill runs and push yourself out of your comfort zone. I wouldn’t do too much more mileage – just make sure it’s quality mileage.

Months 1-3 (always warmup walk/jog for first 1/2 mile or first 5-10min)
Mon: Easy/Medium pace run (3-5miles)+ weight training
Tues: Fast intervals/tempo or hills* (3-4 miles)
Wed: Easy/Medium pace run (3-5miles) + optional weight training
Thurs: Fast intervals/tempo or hills* (3-4 miles)
Fri: cross training (elliptical, spinning, yoga, etc) or  OFF (Don’t do anything that will make you too sore)
Sat: Long run. Start the first week at your current longest run that you’ve done in the last month. Probably around 5-6miles.
Sun: OFF or yoga
For your intervals, I would mix in some sprints at the end, weather it’s flat or hill sprints. For your hill runs – vary the incline from 5-15% and just adjust your speed. You may also want to start training based on heart rate.
The two weeks before the race you should not do any hard runs – so just run easy 2-3 miles once or twice a week and your long runs the 2 weeks before will be shorter. This is referred to as the “Taper” and it will give your legs time to recover fully before race day.

Sample Long Run Schedule:

Your long run should be super slow and at a conversational pace. Increase your run for 3 weeks in a row and the drop it back for a “recovery week” like this:
Week 1: 5 miles
Week 2: 5.5 miles
Week 3: 6 miles
Week 4: 3 miles (recovery week)
Week 5: 6 miles
Week 6: 7 miles
Week 7: 8 miles
Week 8: 6 miles (recovery week)
Week 9: 10 miles
Week 10: 11 miles
Week 11: 12miles
Week 12: 7 miles (taper)
Week 13: 6 miles (taper)
Week 14: RACE

 

 

 

 

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