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Completing a half marathon is a great accomplishment. Running over 13 miles is a significant test of endurance and willpower. A half marathon is a great goal, but it requires much more preparation than a 5- or 10-k. That’s why beginners need to employ solid strategy when training for a half marathon.

The first thing to establish is that most healthy enough people to run regularly can do a half marathon. Anyone starting from scratch should get cleared by a medical professional beforehand. There are plenty of great training plans out there. New half marathon runners should find one and follow it. These typically last 12 to 16 weeks.

Three to four months is a long time, but it’s essential to step up gradually when adding distance. One common error first-time half marathoners make is asking too much of their bodies. They try to add too much mileage too quickly, and they ignore small injuries instead of adequately resting. All of this can be a recipe for disaster. Remember, it’s always possible to tweak a program while using it or after finishing the half.

More experienced runners may be able to use a shorter training program. Training plans for true beginners work up to a 3 mile run during the first week. People who routinely complete 5ks can already do that. Instead of using a beginner plan, they can expect to spend about eight weeks training specifically for their first half. These runners already have a base level of fitness and knowledge as a foundation. Using a training plan is still recommended for them, though.

Not all training plans published online are equal. Consider who wrote the plan and what their experience is. Are they an accomplished runner? They don’t have to be, but if not, are they a certified trainer? An established coach? Also, consider the tasks involved in the plan.

A half marathon training plan is not just about running. Cross-training is incredibly important. Improving flexibility and building strength through resistance training makes people better runners. Running all the time can lead to injury. It will overuse some muscles and neglect others. Too much of any one activity can lead to overuse injuries.