Beginner's Guide to Training for a Half Marathon

Beginner's Guide to Training for a Half Marathon

Jul 17, '20

Thinking about joining the half marathon club? We understand why! About two million people run half marathons in the U.S. each year, making it the second most popular race distance in the country, only behind the 5K. The thrill of accomplishing a half marathon is like nothing else in the world. And once you do it, you’re halfway to The Big Kahuna — the 26.2 miler!

Half Marathon Training

It takes about 12 weeks for most people to get to the half marathon mark if they can start out at three miles. Here’s our guide to a 12-week half marathon training to help you get started.

The Best Half Marathon Training Plan

  • Consider Doing Some Pre-Training — There’s training and then there’s pre-training. Before you hop into your 12-week program, do some pre-training to figure out what gear works for you and to help identify where you want to focus your training energy. For about a month before beginning, test out different running shoes and find your ideal running phone armband to set yourself up for success when the true training begins.
  • Aim for a Weekly Mileage Increase of a Mile — If you’re starting out comfortable running about three miles, aim for an increase of about three-quarters of a mile to a full mile each week or two. This will help you inch your way to the full 13.1 while giving you a few weeks at the end of your training to work out any kinks. Consider running Tuesday and Wednesday at the same pace and then adding a longer run on Saturday or Sunday.
  • Take Different Kinds of Runs — One of our best half marathon training tips is to focus different goals on different runs throughout the week. This will help ensure that you feel comfortable no matter what race day throws your way.
    • Tempo Runs — Tempo runs, also known as lactate-threshold runs, are slower runs that train the body for a faster speed while holding lactate levels steady. A good tempo run for beginners is a 20-minute or three-mile run around your half marathon pace race. Consider adding one tempo run a week to your plan.

    • Long Runs — We probably don’t have to explain this one! For one or two of your weekly runs, focus on boosting your distance and time. These runs should be significantly longer than your other easier days and should stress stamina.

    • Speed Intervals — Occasionally doing some sprinting or fast-paced running at a speed faster than your tempo pace or half-marathon pace can seriously improve your running technique. Intervals can help train the legs with greater push-off force, improve form, and bring more benefits so race day feels a lot more manageable.

Half Marathon Training

  • Don’t Forget Strength Training — On the days you’re not running, alternate with rest and strength training. Try to add two strength-training sessions of 20 to 30 minutes into your schedule each week. Build muscles and improve flexibility with full-body strength training. Squats, burpees, push-ups, and planks are great options for building a runner’s body.

FAQs About Beginner Half Marathon Training

Got questions about running a half? We’ve got answers.

QCan You Run a Half Marathon Without Training?

A. If you’ve never run before, the answer is a hard no. We hate to disappoint, but unless you’re already pre-conditioned as an elite athlete, you likely won’t be able to run a half marathon without training. With that said, if you’ve recently trained yourself for another long-haul run, you may not need to do any special training to master the half. 

Q. Can a Beginner Run a Half Marathon?

A. Absolutely, if you’ve got the time to put into training. For those who can already run about three miles straight, training takes at least three months. If you aren’t a runner at all — as in, you haven’t even tried to run a mile recently — then you can still attempt to conquer the half. We’d recommend giving yourself about six months to get ready for your marathon debut.

Q. Can I Run a Half Marathon If I Can Run Six Miles?

A. Not immediately, but you’re off to a great start! A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers, so you’ll need to essentially double your distance in order to complete a half. If you can run six miles and want to enter a competition, consider the 10K. This kind of race features a 10-kilometer course, which is about 6.2 miles.

 Half Marathon Training

Q. What is the Average Half Marathon Time?

A.The average time it takes for a runner to finish a half marathon comes out to somewhere around two hours, give or take. Specifically, the average finish time for men is 1:55:26, while the average finish time for women is 2:11:57, according to Runner’s World.