Best Half Marathon Training Plan For Beginners (2024)

Half marathon training plan

The half marathon is a great way to challenge yourself. With this simple half-marathon training plan, you’ll not only be prepared to complete the race, but you will have an amazing experience as well.

Whether you’re looking for more structure in your lead-up to a half marathon, or simply need help to cross the finish line, this plan will help.

I have personally used this half marathon training plan to great success many times. I have shared it with many beginners and experienced runners alike and each of them had very successful races with it.

Over the last 20 years, I have tried many other half-marathon training plans, but nearly all of them left me tired. This half-marathon training plan lets me slowly ramp up the mileage each week and allows me to recover well from each workout. I show up on race day ready to compete!

NOTE – Be sure to check out the best half marathons in the US that work well with this training plan.

Let’s go over some key points when you train for a half marathon.

Half Marathon Distance

How Far is a Half Marathon?

half marathon training plan distance
  • 830,016 inches
  • 103,752 bananas
  • 69,168 feet
  • 23,056 yards
  • 21,082 meters
  • 14,280 steps – 26,100 steps
  • 21.08 kilometers
  • 13.1 miles

You’ll be fine.

Before You Start

Some things you should know.

Set a Realistic Goal

Half marathon training plan - boy holding trophy

Before starting your training, it’s important to set a realistic goal. For your first half marathon, I recommend just concentrating on finishing the race. Do not worry about time or your final placing within the race results.

Setting a goal that is too ambitious or unrealistic can lead to frustration and potential injury. If this is your first time running a half marathon, just make finishing the goal.

If this isn’t your first half marathon, check out our half marathon pace chart in miles or half marathon pace chart in kilometers to estimate your finish times.

Get a Friend to Run The Race Too

Half marathon training plan - high five

You can train together and hold each other accountable. Training with a friend can also provide extra motivation to not miss any workouts. You both can support each other during long runs and help push each other to work harder.

Additionally, training with a friend can make the entire process more social and fun, creating a positive experience that is more likely to lead to success on race day.

Be Consistent With Your Training

Half marathon training plan - rubber ducks line

Consistency is key when it comes to training for a half marathon. Each week builds on the previous week. Do everything you can to not skip workouts.

Most of these workouts are under one hour. One hour is less than 4% of your day.

Hopefully, you’ve been active in your winter training and other cross-training activities.

Hydrate Well

Half marathon training plan - water pouring in glass

Proper nutrition and hydration are essential for anyone running a half marathon.

You’ll want to make sure you drink plenty of water even on your rest days so you’re well-hydrated for your running days.

Listen to your Body

man with sore shoulder

During training, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your training as needed.

If you feel tired or sore, take an extra rest day.

Move your long run to the next day if you need to.

If you feel great, don’t be afraid to push yourself slightly harder as well.

If you’re getting sore on a regular basis, make sure you don’t need to replace your running shoes.

Wear Good Running Shoes

Shoes are the impact point for runners

Your feet are the only contact points while running, and you need to make sure they are well protected. If they are more than a year or two old, replace them.

Running shoes wear out. The cushioning in them actually breaks down and becomes less functional, even if you’re not wearing them much.

We have put together some information on how to choose the best running shoes for you.

Good running shoes will prevent so many aches and pains and even injuries. And always wear good running insoles.

Rest Days Are Very Important

Rest A Lot

woman meditating

This half-marathon training schedule has more rest days than running days. That may look strange but it’s for good reason.

Running is hard on the body, especially when you’re just starting out. The impact nature of running sends a lot of force into your feet and knees and hips. This can cause injuries quickly if you’re not recovering from every workout.

Have you tried a cold plunge at home? They are great for recovery days and immediately after a run in hot conditions. They can lower your body temperature quickly to stop your sweating keeping you more hydrated for the next workout.

Get Plenty of Sleep

baby sleeping

Getting enough sleep is crucial for recovery and overall health. You don’t get stronger when you’re running. Your body gets stronger when you’re sleeping.

Use a Foam Roller

TriggerPoint foam roller

Your muscles will be tight and sore after many runs. You will find that a foam roller might be the single greatest invention in the history of inventions.

Foam rolling works by using pressure to release trigger points, or knots, in the muscles and fascia. This can improve circulation and flexibility, allowing for a better range of motion and decreased risk of injury. Foam rolling can also help reduce muscle tension, which can lead to better overall athletic performance.

Foam rolling, when used regularly, can help prevent muscle imbalances, reduce the risk of injury, and improve recovery after a tough half marathon training run.

They’re inexpensive, portable, and holy cow do they work. If you find yourself on the verge of injuries on a routine basis, make sure you have good insoles in your running shoes. They can make a ton of difference as well.

The Half Marathon Training Plan

PREREQUISITES

To prepare for any half marathon, you should already be running consistently. For this plan, you should be able to run 3 miles without stopping. If you’re not there yet, start by building up your mileage slowly over the course of a few weeks before starting this schedule.

Simplicity is key for this half-marathon training schedule. Your running workouts will include one long run that gets progressively longer each week. During the week, you’ll run a relatively short run every other day to keep the body fresh and ready for the long run on the weekend.

If you are interested in adding additional speed, read up on how to run faster. Also, read the article, heart rate zone training for runners.

WeekMonTuesWedThursFriSatSun
1Rest3 milesRest3 milesRest4 milesRest
2Rest3 milesRest3 milesRest5 milesRest
3Rest3 milesRest4 milesRest6 milesRest
4Rest3 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest7 miles
Same pace for every mile
Rest
5Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest8 miles
Same pace for every mile
Rest
6Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest9 miles
Same pace for every mile
Rest
7Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest10 miles
Same pace for every mile
Rest
8Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest11 miles
Same pace for every mile
Rest
9Rest3 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
Rest4 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
Rest7 miles
Same pace for every mile
Rest
10Rest3 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
Rest3 miles
1 mile slow
1 mile fast
1 mile slow
RestRestLet’s Race!
  • “slow” = slightly slower than your expected race pace
  • “fast” = slightly faster than your expected race pace

Try and run the entire distance for each workout without stopping.

Start Slow

I recommend running the first mile of every run (and race) at an easier pace and slowly building up to the pace that you’ll maintain for the rest of the run. Starting off easy will allow your body and heart rate to slowly increase.

Starting too fast will cause your heart rate to jump too high too quickly forcing a “gasping” reaction that may force you to walk.

Also, if it’s warm out, you will be slower. There’s no way around it. Read some tips on how to survive the extreme heat when running.

Nutrition and Hydration While Running

On your long-running days, you’ll need to consume some nutrition to keep your energy high. During a long-distance run, the body quickly depletes its glycogen stores, which can lead to a loss of energy and endurance. This is where nutrition while running comes in.

By consuming carbohydrates during each long run, you can replenish your glycogen stores and maintain your energy levels. Additionally, electrolytes help to maintain fluid balance and prevent cramping, while fluids prevent dehydration and help maintain body temperature.

The nutrition that you ingest should be easily digestible carbohydrates (gels), electrolytes, and fluids.

Make sure you find out exactly what works for you during training. You don’t want to try anything new on race day.

Energy Gels

energy gels

These are a popular choice for runners because they’re easy to carry and eat while running. Energy gels are designed to provide a quick burst of energy and contain easily digestible carbohydrates. They are basically straight sugar, so you’ll feel a burst of energy within 5 minutes or so.

I will take an energy gel immediately before the race, and then every 3-4 miles during the race. So that’s about 4 gels total. It provides ample energy and they’re easy to carry on me. I will eat one right before an aid station so I can discard the wrapper legally and wash it down with some water.

Sports Drinks

Gatorade endurance formula

Sports drinks contain electrolytes and carbohydrates, making them a great choice for maintaining energy levels and preventing dehydration.

Not all sports drinks are created equal. Gatorade from the store is good, but they actually make a Gatorade endurance formula that you can only buy online. It contains 3x as many electrolytes and is better if you’re in a warm environment and sweat a lot.

Water

Staying hydrated is crucial during every long run. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and after your run.

Race Day Strategy

Race day can be hectic. Here are some things to remember.

Pick Up Your Race Number Before Race Day

Half marathon training plan - race bib

Try to pick up your race number before race day if possible.

You really want as few things to worry about as possible.

Picking up everything early will allow you to show up at the race site ready to run.

Lay Out All Race Day Gear the Day Before

Half marathon training plan - race day gear laid out

Prepare everything ahead of time so you minimize any worry. Do this during the day, not at night in case you need to run out and get something you’re missing.

  • Clothes you’ll wear
  • Pin your race number to your race shirt
  • Sunglasses
  • Vitamins you’ll take race morning
  • Gels and sports drink
  • Running watch
  • Headphones

Doing this beforehand can alert you if something is missing, or if you don’t have any clean running socks, or something else.

I might even create a checklist for things I need to do race morning just so I don’t forget anything. It really helps.

Eat Breakfast Three Hours Before the Race

Oatmeal

If you typically eat breakfast, make it a light one. I aim for 300 calories maximum. Avoid the pancakes with heavy syrup type of meal.

Anything you eat for breakfast won’t be able to be converted into energy for the race, so keep it light.

Use the Bathroom. A Few Times.

dog pooping

During a half marathon, the body experiences a variety of physical stressors, including jostling of the internal organs and changes in blood flow. These stressors can cause gastrointestinal distress and even lead to an urgent need to use the bathroom. You want to avoid this.

It’s important to make sure you’re “empty” before starting your race. This means having a bowel movement (or two or three) in the morning, beginning at least a few hours before the race starts. This can also help prevent discomfort and cramping caused by a full or upset stomach.

Tip – Coffee helps a lot.

Enjoy the Experience

happy child

Always remember to enjoy the experience! This is an incredible adventure you have chosen to undertake.

You should be proud of yourself for all the hard work you put in to get there. Take in the scenery, cheer on other runners, and enjoy a sense of accomplishment as you cross the finish line.

Summary

Training for and running a half marathon takes dedication, commitment, and a well-planned training program.

Set a realistic goal, build up your base mileage, follow this training program, focus on nutrition and hydration, get enough sleep, listen to your body, and most importantly, enjoy the experience.

Remember to trust the process, listen to your body, and enjoy the journey. Good luck, and happy running!

P.S. When you’re ready to try a marathon, check out our bucket list of marathons including many ways to qualify for the Boston Marathon!

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