Running a half marathon has become a very popular running goal as 13.1 miles is a great distance for anyone–from beginner to advanced runners to tackle! So I’m excited to help you with your half marathon goals! I’m going to do this by giving you access to my 12-week free half marathon training plans (below) from the couch to half marathon and intermediate levels.
I love the half marathon because it is a challenging and satisfying distance, yet it doesn’t require you to overhaul your entire life. And, honestly, it doesn’t hurt as much as a full marathon. After a half marathon, you may be a little bit sore but not so sore that you can’t sit down without holding onto something to brace yourself (like with a marathon).
If you chose the right half marathon training plan, you will get fitter, reduce your risk of injury, and set yourself up to tackle even bigger running goals (such as the marathon distance — or not!).
So, let’s get started!
Related: A New Approach to Goal-Setting
How long is a half marathon?
A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers. A half marathon is half the distance of a marathon which is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers.
How long does it take to train for a half marathon?
It takes 12 weeks to train for a half marathon. Most people need at least 3 months to train for a half marathon safely to gradually grow your longer runs. This timeframe allows for your body to adapt physiologically to the impact of running and to develop the adaptations necessary to run 13.1 miles.
Some of these physiological adaptations from half marathon training include:
- pushing your lactate threshold;
- increasing capillary density and mitochondria production;
- improving cardiac stroke volume;
- increasing glycogen storage (for fuel/energy);
- strengthening muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons;
- bettering muscle activation and neuromuscular coordination.
If you have been running and have base mileage, you can run a half marathon in less time.
However, if you are going for a personal record in the half marathon or have a specific time goal, then you will need about three months to train for a half marathon to optimize these physiological changes.
What makes a good half marathon training plan?
Most half marathon training plans will include at least 2-3 easy run days, 1 long run day, 1-2 complete rest days, 1-2 cross-training days, and maybe one speed day.
More advanced half-marathon training plans will include 2 long runs and 2-3 speed work days.
How do you train for a half marathon?
You should train for a half marathon by running at least one long run a week.
Long runs are the bread and butter of half marathon training because they teach the body how to endure running for longer time spans. It spurs those biological changes that allow your body to optimize energy production and use, and your mind to keep running even when you’re tried.
Related: The Benefits of an Easy Running Pace
How should I run long runs?
Long runs should be done at an easy pace. This is a pace in which you can hold a conversation and when you’re done running, you feel like you could keep going. You should not be exhausted at the end of a long run. If you are, you ran too fast!
Your heart rate will likely be in the 140s and your rate of perceived effort (how hard you run) is a 6 out of 10.
How do I find the right half marathon training plan?
To find the right half marathon training plan you need to first look at your running history and time you have. Then, you need to ensure the training plan progresses your mileage carefully, has rest days, at least one long run day, and cross-training days.
When doing your self-evaluation to pick your half-marathon training plan, look at:
- Your background: How much have you run in the past? How much are you running now? What has been your peak mileage? Do you suffer from running injuries?
- Your training response: How has past training felt like? Do you handle mileage well? Do you like to run speedwork? Do you need extra cross-training days?
- Your ability: How fast is your pace? How long does it take you to do long runs? (if you are a slower runner, you will need a training plan that schedules runs by time rather than distance, for example)
- Your schedule: How much time will you have to train daily? Will you get enough sleep with your training? Will you have time to recover after your long runs and workouts?
Sample Half Marathon Training Schedule
Here is week 7 of my 3-month half marathon training plan for intermediate runners.
The biggest differences between my beginner half-marathon training plan or couch to half marathon training plan is the absence of speedwork and less mileage.
- Monday: Run 5 miles, 4 strides
- Tuesday: warm-up, 30-minute tempo run, 1 min easy, cool-down
- Wednesday: Run 6 miles
- Thursday: 1-2 mile warm-up, 4 by 800 meters at comfortably hard pace (RPE 8), 1-2 mile cool-down
- Friday: Cross-train or walk for 1 hour
- Saturday: Run 10 miles easy
- Sunday: TOTAL REST
13 Half marathon training tips for going 13.1
- Get a good half marathon training plan or running coach
- Have at least one complete rest day
- Warm-up and cool-down before each run
- Foam roll and stretch after each run
- Focus on sleeping and fueling well to allow your body to adapt to the stress
- Lube up with Vaseline or an anti-chaffing stick before long runs
- Get good training gear including a good pair of running shoes
- Run with friends or a training group
- Make sure you do most of your runs easy unless prescribed differently by your training plan or coach.
- Keep a training log to track your progress and celebrate along the way!
- Run the mile you’re in. Don’t think about how much you have left.
- Develop a training mantra to help you keep running when you’re tired.
- Practice race day nutrition on long run days.
Related: 26 Tips for Going 26.2
Download My Free 12-week Half-Marathon Training Plans
Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan
This beginner plan for a half marathon (or couch to half marathon) prepares you to slay a half-marathon in 12 weeks! It safely builds up the distance for those running their first half marathon, and includes cross training and strength training days to ensure you stay healthy and get stronger. It’s also flexible to fit your busy mother runner lifestyle.
What’s more, is it includes training and race day tips to get you successfully to the finish line. You also have full support from me with encouragement to email with any questions. This plan serves as a wonderful starting block for you to conquer even bigger (faster or longer) goals as a mother runner. It was developed by me with input from coaches and elite runners.
Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan
You’ve run 5ks and 10ks. You’ve maybe even run a half-marathon. But now you are ready to get more competitive with yourself and see what potential lies within. This Intermediate Half Marathon training plan is for you (as long as you are running about 15 miles a week already)!
But beware, this plan is not your typical intermediate. It is a bit more challenging because I BELIEVE IN YOU! Over the course of 12 weeks, you’ll hone your speed and endurance with two days a week dedicated to speed and one day a week dedicated to more mileage.
Be rest assured, the intensity is gradually increased with built-in rest days. This Intermediate Half Marathon training plan, developed by me with input from coaches and elite runners, also comes with training tips and encouragement to contact me with any questions.
If you’re looking for advanced and customized training for a half marathon, I highly recommend getting a running coach. A running coach can tailor a plan to your background, needs, goals, and lifestyle. Check out my coaching services to help you reach your goals–along with my 5k to marathon training schedules.