Running a Half Marathon

The half marathon is fast becoming the favorite distance of many runners. It´s long enough to be a challenge to complete, but not so long that you have to make a full time committment to prepare for it.

Give yourself time to train for the half marathon. If you´re currently in great running shape, 6 to 8 weeks should be enough time to train to be able to finish strong. Otherwise, plan on closer to 12 weeks to prepare.

Although it´s half the distance of a marathon, training to prepare for a half marathon must be taken seriously. Select one of the following programs:

If you´ve never run in a half or full marathon and your current long distance runs are under 10 miles, we strongly suggest you begin with the Beginner program and don´t be too conserned with you´re finishing time.

If you´ve been running consistently for at least a couple of years, can run 10 miles without too much difficulty, and want to complete a half marathon comfortably in a good time, the Intermediate program may be for you.

If you´re running at least 5 days a week, can easily run 10 miles, and looking to place near the top of your age group, go to our Advanced program.

Let me know how these routines work out for you. If you want some individualized suggestions, send me an email and I´ll be happy to make some recommendations.



Half Marathon Routines

Actual distances aren´t mentioned in the grids. Nor are times. Other responsibilities may make a structured training routine impossible. So do what you have time for. Just remember 2 things:
1 - Consistency - Make sure you make time to run at least 4 days a week. Five or six days would be better.
2 - The harder you train, the better your race will be.


Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.



Beginner Runner

Beginner Training Routine
Weeks Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 to 6 Off Run Easy Off Run Cross Long
7 to 11 Easy Run Off Easy Run Cross Long
12 Easy Off Run Easy Off Off Race
Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.

You´re primary goal is to finish is to finish. Thirteen miles is a long distance, and you need to be careful in both the training and the race. During training, don´t increase you´re distance too quickly. Only add a mile or so each week on you´re long runs. Don´t add an extra day of running and increase you´re long run the same week.

You´re training goals should be to increase you´re endurance and avoid injuries. To do this, plan on preparing for the race for about 12 weeks. Start slow and easy, even if it means taking walking breaks during your run. Work up to a long run of atleast 10 miles.

At the race, run as much of the race as you can before taking any walking breaks. But when you feel the need, walk. Take your time at the water stations. If it´s hot or you´re thirsty, be sure to drink. But don´t over do it. Drinking too much water is just as bad as not drinking enough.

If at any time during your training you feel any pain, stop. If the pain´s not too bad, take a day or two off then try to run again. If the pain is severe or is not getting any better after some rest, speak to your doctor. Running should be fun and a lifetime activity. Don´t push yourself too hard now.



Intermediate Runner

Intermediate Training Routine
Weeks Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 to 5 Easy Run Off Easy Run Cross Long
6 to 11 Easy Run Run Easy Run Off Long
12 Easy Off Run Easy Off Off Race
Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.

If you´re placing yourself in this category, you run regularly and you´re in good shape. You´re long runs are close to half marathon distance, so adding a few more miles won´t be a problem. You currently are injury free and are confident that you can push yourself a little harder without a problem.

Your primary goal in this category is to run the entire half marathon, no walking breaks, and finish strong.

You should work up to a long run in the 15 mile range. Work up to this distance if you´re not currently there. Most of you´re long runs only need to be in the 10 mile range, but an occasional run of over half marathon distance will better prepare you for the race. You´re weekday runs, by the 6th week, should be in the 6 to 8 mile range.

As with all running routines, if at any time during your training you feel any pain, stop. If the pain´s not too bad, take a day or two off then try to run again. If the pain is severe or is not getting any better after some rest, speak to your doctor. Running should be fun and a lifetime activity. Don´t push yourself too hard now.



Advanced Runner

Advanced Training Routine
Weeks Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 to 4 Easy Run Off Sprint/Hills Easy Cross Long
5 to 11 Easy Run Easy Sprint/Hills Run Off Long
12 Easy Off Run Easy Off Off Race
Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.

If you´re planning on following the advanced program, you run regularly and have run in other races. You´re goal is not to just finish strong, it´s to finish fast. With the popularity of half marathons, winning an award, even in your age group, is a high goal. But with hard work, anything is possible.

Finishing 13 miles should not be a concern for you. You´ll want to pace yourself during the race so you can push yourself the entire 13 miles but not burn yourself out early. This is only possible if you arrive at the race in top condition. So putting in the miles during training is a most. But since speed is also important, there is a sprint/hills day in your routine. Alternate between the two each week.

You´re long runs should be in the 15 mile range. Every third week, cut your long run down to 10 miles to give your body a little rest. Your weekday runs should be in the 6 to 8 mile range.

Since you´re really putting in the miles, if at any time during your training you feel any pain, stop. If the pain´s not too bad, take a day or two off then try to run again. If the pain is severe or is not getting any better after some rest, speak to your doctor. Running should be fun and a lifetime activity.



Definitions

Off Day
Off. Yes Off. No running. Growth, improvements and muscle repair don´t occur when we run. It happens when we rest. So do it. (Or more accurately, don´t do it.)

Easy Day
Do whatever distance you have time for at a very easy jog. Shoot for at least 4 miles. You should be able to have a conversation while running, should never be out of breath and should feel refreshed, not tired, when done. Some call these junk miles. I disagree. You may not be building up your endurance or adding speed, but you are burning calories without putting too much strain on your body. So there is a definite plus to keeping this workout on your schedule.

Cross
Cross-train: Can be considered an off day from running. But this should not be an "off" day. I added this option because we´re not professional athletes so often need to fit our workouts with our other responsibilities. A few options include:

- Swimming (laps or play with your kids)
- Bicycle riding (on the road, on the trails, or ride with your kids)
- Take a long hike (with your spouse so he/she doesn´t feel too neglected by your running obsession)
- Go to a lake and rent a rowboat

You get the idea. Doesn´t matter what you do, just do enough to burn calories.

Run
Good distance. Good pace. If running with a friend, you should be able to do some talking but not have a conversation. Unless it´s real cold out, you should get a good sweat from this run. A good part of this run should be at a pace you expect to run in you´re half marathon. Beginners should plan for 4 miles, intermediate runners 5 to 6 miles and advanced runners 6 to 8 miles. When done, you should feel good, but tired.

Long Run
No matter the distance you plan to race, or even if you don´t plan on any races, the long run is the most important run of the week. This is not an easy run of a long distance. Your running pace should be somewhere between the easy run and the normal run. Slow down if you´re out of breath. Speed up if you´re getting bored. The goal for beginners runners should be to reach 10 miles, intermediate runners should aim try for a long run of 15 miles and advanced runners should complete many runs of 15 miles.

Sprints
Not really sprints for the half marathon. More of a fast run. Run about 1/2 mile (800 meters or 2 time around a track) fast. As fast as you can somewhat comfortably, realizing that you´ll be doing the distance several times. Jog, or walk if necessary, between sprints about the same length of time you just sprinted. Repeat this between 4 and 6 times (starting with 4 sprints if this is new to you or you haven´t done this in a while, then working up to 6). This workout should exhaust you. But you will really see, and feel, the results. Warm up by jogging 1 to 2 miles and finish by jogging 1 to 2 miles.

Hills
Unstructured. Don´t be hung up by time, distance or include. Find a hilly route, or even just a single hill, and run it enough times to exhaust yourself. Push yourself to do one more. Then one more after that. Only you´ll know when you´ve really had enough. If there are no hills near you, use the incline on a treadmill.

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