Half Marathon Training Program

After running a few years for fun and fitness, my competitive side began to emerge and I dabbled in a few 3K races, then 5K, but still didn’t feel challenged enough.  I wasn’t going for first place; I wanted to go the distance, to experience how it feels to push my body to its limits and succeed at something most people only aspire to.  I suppose it is the same drive that compels climbers to hike Mt. Denali or Everest, or finds astronauts probing the secrets of the stars.  A goal began to emerge in my mind—someday I want to run a marathon.  How do I get there?  The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.  I’d been nibbling on a few appetizers, and now it was time to take my first bite of real racing!  A half marathon training program seemed like a hefty heaping of the main course, so I began my search.


Distance—13.1 miles pounding on pavement, gasping for breath uphill, “controlling the fall” downhill, trekking along dusty and sometimes muddy trails to the finish line.  That is a half marathon, the gatekeeper race to a full marathon.


There are training programs galore and a whole galaxy of experts willing to sell me the perfect training program.  Ranging from first time novice to advanced, the prices range from $24.99-$39.99 on several different major running websites such as Runners’ World, Chi-running, or Hal Higdon Training plans.  There are also specialty half marathons for teams that add obstacle courses and other challenges, namely the Tough Mudder half marathon.


Before beginning a half marathon training plan, there are several steps that are important to take.


  1.  Determine your goal.  Do you want to just finish your first 5 K or be in the top ten qualifiers for the Boston Marathon?
  2. See a Doctor for a health check.
  3. Find the right shoes for your foot and style of running.
  4. Learn how to run with the correct form.  This is one step that many runners omit and seek out after they have suffered injuries caused by misalignment or improper landing. , Pilates or Yoga classes can help.
  5. Determine your level:  Are you a novice, intermediate or advanced runner?

A beginning runner should be running a total of 10 miles per week for several months and finished a few 5k or 10k races before considering themselves at the beginner or novice level for the half marathon.

An intermediate runner is defined by Hal Higdon as follows: “You should be running five to six times a week, averaging 15-25 miles weekly training. You probably also should have run a half dozen or more races at distances between the 5-K and the Half-Marathon.”(Over40runner.com 3/13/12)

Advanced runners are competitors that run at least 35-40 miles/week (5 times a week at 7-10 miles per run) for the past 2-3 years and have run several races, including two or three marathons for time.  Interval training is also a regular part of their training plan.

  1. Purchase sports watch or have another method of monitoring pace and distance.
  2. Pick a training program/plan that will fit my goals and fitness level and available training and rest times. BEGIN!


Several runners recommend finding a local running club to train with.  Their fees will provide pace setters, coaches and camaraderie that can help motivate you to stick with it.

If running clubs are not available in your area, try some of the Webs’ most sought after training programs for beginners, intermediate and advanced runners—yes they all cost a bit, but less than most clubs. Be your own mentor and cheerleader and have the expertise of veteran runners at the same time.


Hal Higdon Training programs

Running World Training programs

Chi-Running sports several training programs for all levels as well.  These are recommended for older runners or people that are injury prone as they teach and reinforce the correct running style.

If cost is a factor, try Jeff Galloway’s free half marathon training plan.  Jeff is a former Olympic runner and has written several books on distance running.  Find his plan at jeffgalloway.com/training/half_marathon.html

Typical elements of a basic beginner’s program include:

Program Length:

12 weeks-19 weeks

Weekly Routine:

Run 3-4 days, Rest 3 days

Weekly Mileage:

9-26 miles


Includes hill workouts, different terrain

Long Runs:

Start at 4 miles, peak at 10-14 depending on the plan


Sample week


Rest or do cross-training with a no-impact activity such as swimming or yoga.


2 miles

On these shorter runs, maintain a conversational pace. These runs strengthen muscles, build endurance, and burn fat, but the key is to keep your easy runs comfortable to conserve energy for the harder runs ahead.


Rest or Cross Train with no-impact.


3 miles

Run at a pace for conversation. You can also cross-train on an easy day using an aerobic exerciser like an elliptical or bike for variety.


Rest or cross train with no-impact




4 Miles

These are long, slow-paced endurance building miles.  Later in the program, you can quicken your pace in the last 2-3 miles for a faster finish.

The important thing to remember in each training program is that the days off are as vital as the days you run.  The time/pace increases incrementally to avoid injury until you are running 10-14 miles before your first big race, depending on the beginner’s plan you use.

Once you finish your half marathon training plan, it’s off to the races!  Here is a sampling of the most famous races around the world.


Rock & Roll Half Marathons              13.1 Half Marathons                        Tough Mudders

Edinburgh UK                                    Boston Half Marathon                        Melbourne

Madrid            ESC                                    Dallas                                                Sydney

Seattle                                                Miami                                                New England

Chicago                                                                                    Scotland /UK

Denver                                                Divas Half Marathons                        Nevada

Philadelphia                                    Honolulu                                    California

Montreal                                     Myrtle Beach                                    Vancouver

Lisbon                                                Puerto Rico                                    Minnesota

Watching or running, half marathon races bring out the best in spectators and runners alike.