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It’s (Half) Marathon Season! Get Ready for Your 1st Race with This Training Plan

Fitness Editor
Julia is a qualified fitness trainer. She writes our articles about nutrition and fitness. She also makes free workout plans for our site.

Have your mind set on running a half marathon? You’ll be covering lots of ground: 21.0795 km of it, to be exact. Tons of people have done it, and more are picking up the habit all the time! Being able to run that distance doesn’t just happen overnight, though. It needs a serious amount of prep. The good news is that nearly anyone can do it. As long as you don’t have any health conditions that speak against it, it’s easy to incorporate half marathon preparation into everyday life. And to help you keep going without losing speed, grab yourself a gulp of our Energy Aminos the next time you hit the pavement.

The best amount of time to schedule each week varies, depending on your previous running experience and your ambition. A good guideline is at least three weekly runs, as well as a little time for running-specific strength training and a few short mobility sessions. If you’re going to the gym or doing yoga alongside your half marathon prep anyway, that counts too, of course.

One thing is for sure, it’s worth it! Disciplined prep for a half marathon not only makes you a better athlete but is also a lot of fun. At least, once you’ve overcome your fears and started training, that is. On Race Day itself, you’ll be rewarded with adrenaline, the incomparable atmosphere of competition, and the satisfaction of having reached your goal. All you have to do is start – and we’re here to help you do it right.

Half Marathon Prep: 15 Things to Keep In Mind

With these tips for your half marathon preparation, you’ll be ready for anything on race day, so all you’ll have to do then is enjoy your run.

#1 Keep an Eye On Your Health

Before you start any serious new workout regimen, it’s a good idea to get a sports fitness checkup at the doctor. Double so if you have any health restrictions to keep in mind. Not only can a qualified sports physician give you the go-ahead; they might also have individualized tips for your body’s needs.

#2 Find the Right Running Shoes

Two pairs of them, if you can. And get them at the beginning of your half marathon training to give you ample time to break them in. If you don’t know exactly what to look for, read our tips on how to find the right running shoe and get help from a specialty store. With the number of miles you’ll be covering, getting the perfect pair for you is worth it.

#3 Balance Out Your Training

Running and running and running puts work on the same muscles and joints over and over. Balance it out by mixing in strength training 1-2 times a week to prevent injuries. Regular stretching or full-body mobility training also help! Focus on your legs, hips, and back most, but make an effort to hit all your major muscle groups.

#4 Set a Target Time

That’s part of defining your goal. If you’re running your very first half marathon, it’s fine if the race itself is the goal. But working with a target time helps you to plan your prep more precisely.

#5 Train With a Plan

You’ll need to work on your basic endurance, speed, strength, and mobility in a way that brings progress, plus plan in enough time for your body to rest and recover. A well-thought-out training plan is the foundation of hitting a challenging new goal. It’s the only way you can increase your speed and distance at a realistic pace, plus plan your recovery and compensatory training accordingly. Looking for workouts to get there? We’ve got some in our article on running your first 5k or 10k. Adapt according to your needs.

#6 Work On Your Race Pace

The target time you set will determine the pace you want to run in the half marathon. You should be able to run about 90% of this pace for 17 km without any problems during your training period. Work yourself up slowly. Try interval training Swedish style: the word fartlek sounds hilarious, but it’s an interval workout where you bring your pace up and down over the course of one run. As the weeks pass, bump up the speed in your steady runs, too.

#7 Less Mileage, More Quality

A common misconception about running a half marathon? That you’ve got to do the full distance at least once during your prep. But it’s not actually necessary! If your longest long run ever was 17 km, it’ll be easy to tack on 4 more on race day. Running too much, too fast is a beginner’s mistake that can lead to overuse injuries or have you showing up at the starting line already exhausted.

#8 But Get In Some Long Runs, Too

Even if it isn’t the full 21 km, you do need to practice long runs.It’s fine to start your long runs slowly at first. The primary goal is to get your musculoskeletal system and cardiovascular system used to being on the move for a longer period. Want to run your half marathon in 2:15? Then it makes sense to run for two and a quarter hours at least once in training, even if you manage significantly fewer kilometers, just to get used to how it feels to be in constant motion for that long.

#9 Do a Practice Race

Try running a “practice race” for 10 km. It’ll let you check in with yourself and what kind of shape you’re in under competition conditions. It’s best to run this about 4-5 weeks before the actual half marathon. This will give you enough time to adjust your training if needed and still recover before the real half marathon.

#10 Give Yourself a Tapering Phase

About 2.5 weeks before the half marathon, it’s time to gradually reduce the amount and intensity of your training to get your body in a mode of recovery and gathering strength. This tapering phase is a vital part of half marathon prep.

Take your taper seriously. Use it to get enough sleep and water, go to the sauna, and fortify your nutrition with minerals, vitamins, carbs, and proteins. Also think about what you want to take with you to race day and where you need to pick up your race kit.

#11 Stick to Your Rest Days

Regeneration is at least as important as your runs themselves. Running is a sport that lets you make pretty rapid progress. After just a few weeks, your cardiovascular system and muscles get used to the new intensity. As it gets easier, you’ll want to run even faster and further.

Your skeletal system – meaning your bones, joints, ligaments, cartilage, and intervertebral discs – takes much longer to add strength to. Without taking breaks, you run the risk of gradually overloading it and developing an injury. Even apart from that, training nonstop doesn’t help much: overtraining is a classic phenomenon among newcomers that makes you worse, not better.

#12 Love Your Carbs

Carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for your runs. They form the basis for storing energy reserves (glycogen) in your muscles and provide you with energy the fastest during exercise. The more whole grains they contain, the more nutrients and fiber they contain and the slower they are digested.

In practice, this means: while you’re training, keep complex carbohydrates from whole grains, cereals, etc. on the top of your meal planning. 1-2 days before your race, you can fill your carbohydrate stores with simple carbohydrates. Drink a pressed juice rather than a smoothie and eat white flour instead of whole grains. You want to have enough readily available energy on hand.

Eine junge Frau kocht in der Küche
©Matt Lincoln

# 13 Don’t Eat More or Less: Eat Smarter

Hit your body’s energy needs fully while you’re training for your half marathon. Now is not the time to run a calorie deficit if it’s not medically necessary. Your body needs all the energy it can get for training and recovery. Just as importantly, be conscious that you drink enough water and stay hydrated.

If you’re hoping your half marathon training plan will lead you to losing some body fat along the way, eat healthier calories rather than fewer. It will make a noticeable difference, without denying your body the nutrition it needs to focus on progress!

Replace classic sugar-packed snacks with high-protein snacks. Cook healthier overall. Find inspiration in our free recipe database.

#14 Test Your Race Fuel

During your half marathon prep, test out various gels, bananas, and sports drinks to see how your body takes them during a run. Not all snacks are good for everyone. Find out what works for you before race day. It might be a shaker of Energy Aminos, or it might not!

# 15 Get Into Your Race Day Routine

Most races start in the morning. Think about when you’ll have to get up, when you have to get there, start, and be running. Get used to that wake-up time, and do as many regular runs as you can at race time so you won’t still be half-asleep when the big day comes.

12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan: Here’s How It Works

This half marathon training plan will get you to the half marathon in 12 weeks. This plan assumes you can already easily run 5k, and want to take your fitness to the next level and improve your endurance.

If it gets too much, work in walking breaks or an extra rest day. If you’re finding it easy, increase the distances or pace or adjust the plan to keep it a challenge.

Which training plan works best always depends on you: your running experience, fitness level, health, age, weight, and habits all play a role, as does your goal time.

How to use the training plan for your half marathon preparations

  • There’s no rule saying Day 1 of the week has to be a Monday. Choose when your week starts so you can fit in the workouts easily.
  • Before starting your workout, set up a runners’ strength training routine that lasts about 30 minutes and a mobility routine that lasts about 15 minutes.
  • Do your mobility routine after every run.
  • If you’re working through the plan quickly, pay attention to your running pace. Do the endurance runs at about 80-85% of your race pace, the interval training at 90%-95%, and from week 6 on do them at your race pace.
  • The speeds here – moderate (approx. 75%), medium (approx. 85%), and fast (approx. 95%) – are in relation to your race pace (RP). For weeks 1- 6 your 10-kilometer target time is your race pace, and from weeks 7-12 it’s your 21-kilometer target time.

Your 12-Week Half Marathon Training Plan

W Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
1 Interval training

3 x 2 km moderate

Rest Endurance run

4 km

medium

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

6 km

moderate

Rest
2 Interval training

3 x 2 km

moderate

Rest Endurance run

4 km

medium

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

8 km

moderate

Rest
3 Interval training

6 x 1 km

medium

Rest Endurance run

5 km

moderate

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

9 km

medium

Rest
4 Interval training

6 x 1 km

medium

Rest Endurance run

5 km

medium

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

10 km

moderate

Rest
5 Interval training

6 x 1 km

fast

Rest Endurance run

6 km

fast

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

10 km

moderate

Rest
6 Interval training

6 x 1 km

RP

Rest Endurance run

5 km

swiftly

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

12 km

moderate

Rest
7 Interval training

6 x 1 km

RP

Rest Endurance run

5 km moderate

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Practice race: 10 km RP Rest
8 Rest Endurance run

5 km

moderate

Endurance run

5 km

fast

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

14 km

moderate

Rest
9 Interval training

8 x 1 km

fast

Rest Endurance run

5 km

fast

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

16 km

moderate

Rest
10 Interval training

8 x 1 km

RP

Rest Endurance run

5 km

fast

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

17 km

moderate

Rest
11 Interval training

4 x 1 km

RP

Rest Endurance run

10 km

fast

Strength +

Mobility

Rest Endurance run

8 km

moderate

Rest
12 Interval training

4 x 1 km

RP

Rest Strength +

Mobility

Endurance run 8 km

moderate

Rest Rest Run

 

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