Completing your first half marathon can seem like a daunting prospect, but rest assured that with a good training plan in place, the 13.1 mile distance is achievable to runners of all levels! For those with busy schedules the training is also requires less commitment and allows more flexibility than a full marathon training schedule.
There are plenty of great reasons to sign up to a half marathon event, including running to raise money for charity, improving your fitness level or taking on your next challenge after completing a 10K. Whatever your reason for running, you’ll want to do some training to be at your best on race day, as well as avoiding any nasty sprains or injuries!
How long does it take to train for a half marathon?
Whilst there are no hard and fast rules about how long you must train to complete a half marathon, it’s worth noting that the majority of training plans available run the course of 10 to 12 weeks. The amount of time it takes an individual to prepare and build up their fitness to run the 13.1 mile distance will also be affected by factors such as your age, weight, fitness level and individual goals.
For total beginners, or those who don’t have much experience with long distance running, it is best to train with the goal of completing the course in mind, rather than aiming for a specific time. Those who have more running experience may want to take on more challenging training programmes that focus on improving speed and endurance. Using fitness apps and trackers throughout your training can help to keep you focused on your progress and make your training more interesting.
Below, we explain some of the different marathon training programme lengths and what you can expect to achieve by following one.
Training plan for a half marathon in 6 weeks
If you want to be ready for a half marathon in 6 weeks, you’ll need to already have a solid base of weekly running to build upon, meaning that this programme is not likely to be suitable for beginners. For those who are already consistently running however, a 6 week training plan can help you to challenge yourself and bridge the gap between shorter runs and longer distances, all the way up to your 13.1 mile run on race day.
The training plan combines strength training, cross training, long runs, short runs and tempo runs to help you to build up to running your half marathon and crossing the finish line comfortably.
Training plan for a half marathon in 8 weeks
Following on from the 6 week plan above, an 8 week plan offers a little more time to prepare for a half marathon, but is still best suited to runners who already run regularly. You’ll be running 4 days per week, including a mix of shorter and longer runs, gradually building up to double figures in miles before you head out and complete 13.1 of them on race day! Additionally, you’ll also be doing a couple of sessions of cross training each week, which could include swimming or cycling. Remember to take rest days too to give your body time to recover from your workouts!
If you are competing in an event that involves a varied terrain, or if you want to help build up your running speed, you can make the programme more challenging by doing more hill runs and tempo runs.
Training plan for a half marathon in 10 weeks
For anyone who has completed a 5K or 10K event before and now have their sights set on accomplishing their first half marathon, a 10 week training schedule is a great place to start! The 10 week training plan will start out with shorter runs in the initial weeks which will gradually build up to longer distances – by the final weeks of the training plan you should be able to comfortably run or run/walk 30 to 40 miles per week.
If you have a few half marathons under your belt already, then a 10 week time period is ideal for working on your running time and overall fitness. Maximise your training efforts by incorporating more challenging elements such as interval training, hill runs and running with small weights.
Training plan for a marathon in 12 weeks
If you are new to longer distance events, 12 week programme will be the most sensible training option, giving you a good head start with your fitness before race day. Although this plan will assume that you are doing at least some running each week already (3 to 5 miles), the build up to longer runs is gentler, with smaller increments of distance added over the weeks.
Cross training and strength training form part of your training too and are an crucial to helping you to build up your overall strength and fitness level. Typically, you will complete 2 shorter runs and 1 endurance run each week, with strength training and rest days in between. Of course, experienced runners can take on longer training plans too, but may want to up the intensity if they are looking to accomplish tougher goals for their half marathon event.
Generally, the more time you have to train for an event, the better – especially if this is your first half marathon. It’s important to note however, that runners of all abilities should make sure they consult a trained medical professional before undergoing any new training programme, and make sure you take adequate rest days to avoid injury.
By race day you’ll have put a lot of hard work into your training, so make it count by remembering to pace yourself throughout the course of the race (don’t use all your energy blasting out the first few miles!). Hydration is also key – so don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
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