Half Marathon Training Plans

Half marathon training plans. The world’s biggest half marathon, the Great North Run, usually occurs in September each year in North East England. It attracts over 50,000 participants ranging from international athletes to the overweight joggers who are running for a charitable cause. Each of the entrants will have followed some form of half marathon training plan just to be able to stand on the starting line. Although most plans will have some consistency, they will all vary in time allocated, distance covered and the speed of the training sessions. Devising a schedule for so many people is not an easy task, although training is not as intensive as that for a full marathon.

Some participants in long distance running events may have followed a strict training regime, while for others preparing for an extreme distance entails making up the schedule as the training weeks progress depending on the state of body and mind. Target times and ultimate goals are an essential part of devising a plan for preparing to run half a marathon. There are several types of runner for whom a schedule needs to be created.


International Athtletes   


Far from determining an appropriate half marathon schedule for these runners, it is probably best to assume that they will have a suitably qualified coach to work with. They will expect to cover the half marathon distance in close to or under an hour, and will be running an average of 150 miles per week in training often twice a day. Work will include one long training run per week of 20+ miles, several quicker runs of between 14 and 15 miles and a mixture of interval sessions and sprint work.

Normally, these athletes are professionals with no day job to worry about and so will be conscious about their diets, living quarters and specialist training areas (including altitude). Half marathon training plans are only a small part of their job, as they are racing at other distances throughout the year.


Good Club Runners


These athletes will usually belong to a club where there may also be a resident coach devising the plans. Alternatively, experience will have taught these runners the most suitable regimes. The majority will have day jobs and so will need to find sufficient time for high mileage training. Weekly amounts will vary between 50 and 120 miles with the same principles as the international athlete but on a smaller scale. An expected target time will be in the range 65 to 80 minutes.

Club runners may be using the half marathon as a stepping stone to the full marathon distance in which case their mileage will tend towards the 100+ mark. Essentially, the long Sunday morning run of between 12 to 16 miles accompanied by fellow club runners is the norm, with sessions of faster work and hill work during the week, sometimes twice a week. Current work practices may necessitate going for a training run at strange hours of the day just to maintain the correct mileage. It would not be unusual to see a good club athlete running at 6 am in the morning on their first session of the day.


Average Runners


Within this range there consists a broad spectrum of runners with target times for the half marathon varying from 80 to 120 minutes. For some people, they have been training consistently in previous months while for others training may be starting after a period of rest, enabling the body to recover from any injuries.

Mileage rates will varying depending on target times, but will vary between 30 and 45 miles per week. Once again, one long run during the week is an essential part of building endurance. A maximum of 11-13 miles would be an ideal distance to cover in final weeks before the race, preferably at the weekend, although this long run should be built up gradually over a few weeks if returning from a layoff.

Two faster intermediate runs of 6 and 8 miles should become an integral part of midweek training with a short quicker session incorporated within plan.

Endurance is the key factor as 13.1 miles is a long distance to run and being confident in the ability to finish the course is more important than time. With increasing amounts of steady running, speed often increases imperceptibly.


Charity Runners 


Many of the runners lining up at the start of a high profile half marathon are competing for a worthwhile cause and it may be their debut in a race. They may also just run one race per year for their nominated charity, and so will need a specific half marathon training plan. A schedule for approximately 15 weeks will need to be devised…

  • Weeks 1-3 – Slow steady jogs of no more than 15-25 minutes just to allow the body to adjust to running once again. Attempt these runs approximately 4 days a week with rest days. Walking allowed.
  • Weeks 4-6 – Build up to one long run of 4-5 miles with 3 to 4 days of shorter runs.
  • Weeks 7-9 – A 6-7 mile run should now be achievable with longer intermediate runs, but continue with rest days.
  • Weeks 10-12 – This is where it begins to get serious and weekly mileage increases. One long run per week of at least 8 miles becomes essential and it might also be worth investing in a hand water carrier to avoid any potential dehydration.
  • Weeks 13-15 – Week 13 should contain the longest run of the training plan, with 11 miles covered. After this the training should taper down to allow the body to rest before the race.


As with any of these runners preparing for the half marathon, endurance levels are an integral part. There are no set in stone training schedules as there are various levels of need but what is important is to prepare for the course, especially if it is undulating, and to respect the distance. It may not be a full marathon, but serious preparation is still required.

Run the race as per training performances and everything should to plan.