Finding a half marathon training program can be slightly daunting especially if this is your first 13.1 mile race.
You want to be sure that you find the plan that will help you reach YOUR goals. You probably don't want it to consume your life (like training for a marathon might). Instead you want to have fun while training, have a blast at the race, stay healthy and continue to have a loving relationship with your running.
This 12 Week Program will hopefully deliver that to you!
Be sure to get your free training plan download at the bottom of this page!
If you find that you might need something different, you can see all the half marathon training plans that I offer on this page + a step by step guide of how to train for a half marathon!
I find that 12 weeks is an ideal amount of time for a half marathoner to train for.
Therefore, I'm going to tell you below how you can modify this training plan whether you be a beginner or more intermediate runner.
Of course it is best to have some running under your belt before you begin any race.
To help you determine your readiness, here are 5 questions to help you consider if a half marathon is a good fit for you at this point in time.
As you see there are 3 rest days during each training week. This is because rest is one of the most important aspects of a training program.
Not resting will wreak havoc on your body and bring you down from par. Resting will not set you back (unless of course you become an excessive rester) it will in fact make you a better, potentially faster runner and definitely healthier runner.
If you don't have a strong running background when you begin this training program then rest can be very important for you as your body makes changes to adapt to all of the running.
If you really want to include a shorter run during the week and keep your rest days to 2 days per week then this is definitely an option. Just listen to your body and give it some love if you find yourself becoming worn out.
Cross training (XT)
Cross training (or XT on the training plan) is scheduled for once a week.
Aim for about 20-40 minutes of aerobic activity or if you choose strength training then keep it to about 20-30 minutes.
The purpose of cross training is to increase your cardiovascular endurance while taking away the stress of running. Cross training should consist of an aerobic activity. Make it fun and creative - swimming, skiing, rowing, biking.
Try and avoid stop and start activities such as tennis and soccer as this can cause injury and you don't want to encounter that.
Here are more guidelines on cross training as a runner.
Your Long Run Day is scheduled for Saturday although you could potentially shift your training week in order to do it on Sunday (or really any day of the week).
Each week you will increase your long run by 1 extra mile until you have built your endurance up to the half marathon mark! Be sure to never skip a long run as these are the best "practice" that you will get before the half marathon!
Here are some long run tips to help make them your best friend!
There are 2 short runs scheduled during the week to help keep your body and muscles in running mode while also helping to build running volume and maintain running fitness.
As I mentioned previously, if you want to add in another short run to your week then feel free to do so. Keep it around 3-4 miles. The best days to add this in would be either Wednesday or Friday unless you wanted to substitue a short run for your cross training workout on Tuesday.
During the last week of this training program you are tapering your mileage so that you are well rested and energized.
Don't skip your rest days for a workout this week! This is bad decision and one that can make all the difference on race day! Read more about tapering before a race here.
For Beginner or First Time Half Marathon Runners: The biggest suggestion I have for you is to work at your own pace and just follow the program laid out for you.
That means that if you feel as if you need to repeat a week then do it.
If it feels like you are pushing the pace/mileage to much then back off.
This is more important then sticking exactly with the program. You are still following the program you are just modifying it.
Also if you want to speed it up or feel like you need to add more miles then do so. This is your plan so work through it on your own schedule.
1. Follow the plan from Weeks 1-3.
If you want to add in a shorter run during the week then feel free to do so. Keep it around 3-4 miles in length.
2. Add in one hill repeat workout during Weeks 4-6.
You can read all about hill training and how to perform a hill repeats workout on this page.
This will help you gain strength in your legs and set you up to begin speed training during the next couple of weeks. It's very important to always gain leg strength before doing a cycle of speed training. It will also make your speed training much more effective the stronger you are!
3. Add speed training to Weeks 7 - 12.
I would recommend doing 1/2 mile to 1 mile interval workouts if you were trying to reach a half marathon time goal although you could do tempo runs or fartlek runs as well especially if you were just trying to increase your speed.
What day should you include your hill or speed workout?
It is best to add your hill and speed training to either Tuesday (in place of your cross-training), Wednesday, or Thursday. (You could add in another short run on one of those other days.)
You do not want to perform a hill workout or speed session too close to your long run and you also do not want to substitute an intense workout like speed or hill training for a rest day. Your body needs that break!
Here is a mock-up of the 12 week half marathon training program. If it looks like a good fit for you then be sure to grab the free printable copy down below this plan!
Good luck with your training! I would love to hear how your half marathon goes!