All about the fitness and health lifestyle
All about the fitness and health lifestyle

What to Look for in a Half Marathon Training Program

Last Updated:
July 18, 2023

What to Look for in a Half Marathon Training Program

So, you’ve decided to sign up for your first half marathon, but now you need a training program. There are so many different training options out there, so how do you decide which is best for you? Here are some key details to look for in a half marathon training program.

Time Frame

When deciding to run a half marathon, consider how long you have to train for it. Most popular training programs are 12-weeks long. However, if this is your very first half marathon, or if you are not currently a runner you may want a 16 or 20 week training program.

Long Run Training

As a beginner, look for a training program that slowly adds mileage to your base distance. Each week you should be incorporating a long run into your training. An easy-to-follow rule is to increase your long run by one mile every 1-2 weeks. The slow increase allows your body to adjust to the new distance without becoming exhausted.  Ideally, you should build up to at least one 10 mile long run to ensure you can complete the half marathon.

Injury Prevention

A training program that quickly increases mileage or speed can cause injuries. Most commonly these injuries are caused by improper form or exhaustion. Look for a training program that gives you rest days and slow mileage increases. Make sure that you are listening to your body, and taking things slower if you are feeling pain.

Strength Training

While a half marathon is a running event, it’s important to add strength training to your routine. Look for a training program that includes strength training, or add an easy strength workout yourself.

Rest Days

Ensure that any half marathon training program you choose has rest days built in. At a minimum, you should have 2 days each week where you do not run. Usually, one of these rest days will be the day after your long run.

Training Program Options

As a beginner, you should set yourself up for success by choosing a plan that offers ample time to get yourself ready. Below are some options to consider;

20-week training program

This is the best option for beginners looking for a very gradual build-up to the race. It typically starts with 4 short runs per week, with 4 and 5 runs per week as you get closer to race day. Additionally, distances will increase closer to the half marathon event. This is a great option for non-runners, or those who have previously sustained an injury.

16-week training program

This training program is great for those who have been running for awhile, but need a structured training plan to build up to the long run. Each week should include 4 running days throughout which also makes it easier to fit into your schedule.

12-week training program

This should incorporate 5 runs a week as part of a structured training routine, with one long run per week. The idea is to increase your overall fitness using conditioning runs 4 days per week. Then, use your long run day to prepare mentally for the big day. A 12-week training program is suitable for dedicated beginners or those who run regularly.

8-week training program

This is not recommended for beginners, but can help regular runners prepare for a race coming up quickly. Typically, this length of training program has 4 shorter runs, and 1 long run per week. Ideally, you use your shorter runs to build up speed and work on the correct form. The long run will then help increase endurance.

Choosing to run your first half marathon is exciting, but can be overwhelming. However, by keeping the above considerations in mind, you can choose the best half marathon training program to suit you and your fitness levels.

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