Half Marathon Training: The Ultimate Guide + Training Plans!

How to Train for a half marathon

Half marathon training is a sweet distance for long distance runners who don't want to commit to the full marathon.  

As half marathon lovers say, "Half the distance and twice the fun". 

A lot of runners (about 2x as many in fact) believe that 13.1 miles is the way to go.

The benefits of running a half marathon vs. running a full marathon are numerous:

And, it's one of the best stepping stones to completing a full marathon.

If you still aren't sure if you should run a half marathon then here are 11 reasons why you should!

On this page though, we will cover:

  • What you should do before you begin training for a half marathon
  • Half marathon training plans for any levels 
  • Things you should be doing while you are training for a half marathon
  • What you need to be doing the week before your race
  • What to do on race day
  • How to recover properly
  • + lots of supporting resources for you to run your best race!

Let's get to work!

things to do Before you Begin half marathon training

 1. Ask yourself if you are really ready to start training

The first step when setting any goal is to make sure that it is a realistic goal.

Is your body up to the challenge?

Can you run (or run/walk, or walk) 3-4 miles at one stretch?

Can you mentally tackle the distance?

Are you at a good point in your life to juggle all of the training? 

Here are 5 questions to help you consider if a half marathon is a good fit for you.

2. Gather any gear that you might need

As a runner all you need is some guts, motivation, and a good pair of running shoes.

Do a quick shoe assessment to see if you are wearing durable, healthy shoes.

Here's a list of the best running shoes for distance runners (+ both men & women). I talk about what to look for in a running shoe + some tips to help you find the best fit. 

Think about what other things you might need along the way. 

Sunscreen, hat, a better running watch? Do you need to carry supplies in your car? Bandaids? 

Think ahead with this running gear list!

STEP 3: Choose the best half marathon training plan!

We have several half marathon training schedules from beginner to intermediate levels!

They all very in length depending on how many weeks you need to train for the half marathon.

What is a good length of time to take for half marathon training?

It depends on you, how long you have been a runner, how far you can run or walk at this point of time. 

Many beginner half marathoners do well with a 12 to maybe 16 week training plan.

More intermediate and advanced runners can do well with much shorter training lengths, as short as even 6 weeks but up to 12 or 16 as well. 

If your body is strong and healthy it can be challenged and adapted at a fast rate to the distance in a shorter amount of time.

Here's a list of all the half marathon training schedules I have designed for you!

4 of the most popular half marathon training schedules:

Here are the top 3 most popular half marathon training programs on this site;

other half marathon plans you can find on this site:

If you are looking to lose weight while running a half marathon:

4. Write down your half marathon race goal + your WHY

There is a reason why you have chosen to run a half marathon.

Maybe you are doing it to challenge yourself.

Maybe you want to lose some weight.

Maybe you are doing it with a group of friends.

Maybe you are raising funds or awareness for a certain cause.

Maybe you are doing it to beat your last half marathon time.

Whatever it is, write it down.

Having a specific goal that you want to accomplish will increase your chances of success. 

Here is a goals setting worksheet and thought pattern you can use to really hone in on your WHY.

what you should do while training for a marathon

5. practice mental training techniques

Mental training is a huge aspect of running long distances.

How you THINK is how you will FEEL!   

Here are some reasons why you should include it to become mentally strong . 

Be proactive in learning how to:

  • set expectations
  • self-talk 
  • stay positive and keep a positive attitude
  • use running role models

There are so many tools that you have access to if you take the time to learn and then practice them.

The stronger you are mentally, the better apt you will be to have a wonderful half marathon race!

I have a mental training workbook for marathoners that half marathoners could also benefit from!

6. keep a record of your training runs & workouts

Running a half marathon will probably be one of the coolest things you will ever do!

Document it.

Having something that allows you to go back and assess what worked for you and what didn't work is one of the best things an aspiring runner can do.

Some things you might want to include in your running log are:

  • mileage
  • your time and pace
  • your nutrition wether before, during or after your run
  • how you felt
  • the route you took

I talk about the benefits of using a running log on this page, some things you might want to record and some other tips for using a running log. 

7: Focus heavily on your nutrition

As a runner in half marathon training, you need to eat as a half marathoner should.

What your body needs in order to train and run a half marathon is critical to your success.

What your body essentially wants as a long distance runner is complex carbohydrates as they are the macronutrient that your body burns the fastest and most efficiently to sustain your high intensity running. 

Some examples of complex carbohydrates are:

  • brown rice
  • oatmeal
  • sweet potatoes
  • quinoa

Learn about what you half marathon nutrition should look like on this page including how to fuel before, during, and after your longer half marathon training runs!

Here are some other guides that I have on the site that deal specifically with half marathons:

8. Become great at pacing yourself

Your pace will make or break your half marathon race.

One of the biggest mistakes half marathoners (and marathoners) make is starting out too fast and sustaining too fast of a pace at the beginning of the race.

Pacing can be a difficult thing to harness especially when you are excited about the race atmosphere, your fellow runners, and all the excitement in those first several miles.

While you are training, focus on learning what your "normal" running paces are. 

Then you refer to these paces during your half marathon race to make sure you are not going too fast (or too slow!).

Here is a free finishing time calculator and a half marathon pace/mile splits chart.

Here is a half marathon prediction chart for you to also use to see what a realistic goal pace for you might be based off of your 1-mile time.

Refer to this page for tips on how to pace yourself as a runner and keep that pace steady.

9. include some cross training

Cross training allows your body to workout other muscles that you don't use when running.

It ultimately will help you to prevent injury by strengthening all of your muscles.

However, if you are working off of a short or intense training program then it could be in your best interest to skip your cross training workout.

Here's a guide on cross training + the best cross-training activities that will benefit your half marathon training and the ones to avoid while in training.

One of the best forms of cross training is strength training for runners! You will find beginner and intermediate training guides as well as other strength workouts.

Be sure to bookmark my list of favorite YouTube cross training for runners videos especially if you cross-train at home or need a suggestion for when the weather isn't cooperating. 

10. Be Pro-active in avoiding injury

Yet another challenge you will run into while training for a half marathon is being able to successfully avoid injury.

What are you worried about?

  • shin splints?
  • achilles tendonitis?
  • stress fractures?
  • knee pain?

If you know you already have a weak area in your body, consider doing some strengthening exercises in those areas.

If you feel like you might be coming down with something, don't wait for it to be a full-blown injury to do something about it. 

It never hurts to apply some ice, elevate and get some extra rest. 

Better to be conservative than to wish you had been!

Since you are putting in so much time into your running, injuries can and will crop up from time to time and can range from minor to chronic.

I talk about the most common running injuries here, the most common types and what you need to do about them to prevent them and care for them. 

Things you need to do the week before your half marathon

11. Plan out what you need to accomplish the week before the half marathon

See this guide on what  you should be including in that last week of half marathon training.

It includes:

  • a packing checklist, 
  • what you should be eating, 
  • how to get completely psyched up, 
  • some running and race tips, 
  • how to mentally get your mind ready and what your nutrition should look like the day and night before and morning of the race

One of the most crucial aspects is to implement proper nutrition during this final week. 

On this page we talk about what to eat the week before a race.

It will take some planning but failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Give this week your best!

Here is also a guide on how to taper before a half marathon.

12. set EXPECTATIONS for race day

Don't go into your half marathon race day without some sort of plan.

It's good to read up on other's experiences and get tips on what you should do and what you shouldn't forget to do.

Follow these tips for staying cool, calm, and collected before, during and after the marathon, how to put the race in the bag, how to deal with setbacks, and how to recover.  

Nutrition and hydration on race day are probably the most important aspects to keep at the front of your mind but also dealing with the heat, pain, mind block, and in general just having a good time!  

STEP 13: Relax + Recover!

Before you reach the starting line, consider what your recovery period needs to look like.

How long will you take?

What will you do?

Reward yourself! Relax and take a break from any intense running for at least 2 weeks.

Here is a guide on How to Recover from a Half Marathon! 

Be sure to look at the recovery essentials list to help you feel your best quickly after the half marathon!

STEP 14: Stay in Shape in Between Races! 

Don't lose all of your hard work and fitness that you have gained while half marathon training.

Commit to continuing your exercise and even running! 

If it's time to run a full marathon, I hear you loud and clear and have your ultimate marathon step by step guide right here!

If you just want a bit of structured advice on how to take a bit of a break but also keep some running in your life after your race then this page is for you.

It talks about how to stay in shape in between your races and training cycles and includes what a sample workout week might look like to help you keep your running fitness in order to be able to begin training at any point in time! 

Other pages on the site to help you have the best half marathon!

Half marathon nutrition resources:

How to prepare yourself mentally

How to have the best long training runs

Running workouts that might be included on your half marathon training plan

helpful Training + running Tips

half marathon training & running gear

avoiding running injuries

Extra resources on half marathon training

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