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Half Marathon Training Schedule for Beginners

Updated on July 5, 2012


Training for the half marathon is no easy feat and will test your limitations if you have not adequately prepared. Of course running any race should be fun and exciting but if you want to finish, then training with some vigor will help you complete the race strong. Beginners should take the time to allow their body to adjust to this distance and strain.

As a beginner you should give yourself about 90-120 days for training or longer if you plan on completing the race jogging and/or running the entire distance. This article is not a couch to half marathon, so if this is your first attempt at running as a sport, please consider the 5K race first and work your way up to this race. For everyone else, keep reading.


Speed work and Long Runs

There is much debate in the running world whether or not speed work is useful when training for races and I can personally attest to their effectiveness. I believe speed work is very important with any running routine because it helps you reach your limitations physically and mentally and can help you improve running times. I will generally start the week off with a 30-20-10 speed workout which is very basic and easy to follow. A schedule I follow is Mondays and Thursdays are set aside for speed work and I start off by jogging about a quarter of a mile and then start my timer. I jog for 30 seconds, run for 20 and sprint for 10 seconds. I then immediately start the cycle over again and this is repeated five times, then followed by a two minute jog. After the two minutes, I start a new cycle of five sets. I complete four cycles of five sets and then a cool down of another quarter to half a mile walk.

So far we have incorporated two speed work days into a routine. The next I would add is one day of a long run. This run should be completed at a slower pace than race day, but should be significant enough to train your muscles for the 13.1 mile journey. If your long run days consist of a 7-10 mile run, then I think you will be fine. If you’re still a beginner and running 3-5 miles on a long run, then build up slowly. To be on the safe side increase your distance by about 10% every week or so until you achieve your goal and make sure to listen to your body. It will probably take awhile for your ankles, calves, and legs to build up strength to run this distance straight through. I know when I was working my way up I pushed myself too much and ended up with some ankle and calf pain that kept me from running for about a week. I was miserable. The lesson here is to take your time!

Have Fun Training

We are up to training three days and this could be adequate for many people but if you want to push the envelope then the next exercise I would include would be a timed 10K run. Act as if you are in a race and your time will either qualify or disqualify you from participating in the half marathon. This is a great way to prepare your mind for race day and will give you an idea of what your time could be. I do this once a week and it’s a great way for me to push myself and lower my time.

We are up to four days of training and for those that want to push just a little harder, we can incorporate a fifth exercise and this can be interval training of just something that you consider to be fun. For intervals, I will sprint 400 meters, jog 800 meters and then sprint 400 meters followed by a two minute jog. Measuring out 400 meters can be easy if you have a GPS watch or phone that tracks your mileage. 400 meters is roughly ¼ of a mile, so if you can measure that out, then figuring the distance is no problem. Another exercise could be running a timed 5K which would hopefully give your confidence a boost. The point is to find something fun to you because training can become dull and daunting at times.

Race Day

It’s now time for race day, so how should you prepare? Well, I stop all training about 2-3 days prior to the race and focus on proper nutrition. I will eat complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, pastas with tomato sauce, rice, and high quality breads. Nutrition is extremely important when it comes to running and if your body is not properly fueled, then your training was almost pointless.

Buying a good pair of running shoes is important as well. It is important to learn how you run and find a shoe that fits that style, otherwise cramping, pulls and strains will become common. Without a good running shoe, you’re taking a huge risk for injury and an awful race.

Be sure to stock up on power gels or liquids to take along on your race. These will give your body calories to help you stay alert and gives your muscles a boost.

Running a half marathon is fun and exciting but does take preparation. Beginner runners need to focus on building up mileage over time and should give themselves at least 90 days to prepare for this type of running. Make sure to run at least days per week and five if possible. Do not underestimate the power of a pair of good running shoes and always be sure to stay hydrated. If you stay disciplined and committed to your training, it will payoff in a big way on race day!



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  • Jason Matthews profile image

    Jason Matthews 4 years ago from North Carolina

    Nice hub! I have run a couple marathons and a few half marathons. They are tough, but with the proper preparation, you can have a good race. Thanks for sharing some great insights on training!

  • jpcmc profile image

    JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

    i used to jog a lot when i was younger. but sad to say work got in the way. I do hope I can startnrunning again especially now that I have a daughter. I want to job with her.