Half Marathon Training Plan 2017-09-08T15:31:00+00:00

Half Marathon
Training Plan

Master 13.1 miles with our free half marathon training plans.

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We strongly encourage you to read the important supplementary information on this page, but if you just want to get your plan, here you go!

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FREE HALF MARATHON TRAINING PLANS

 

With no shortage of challenging and picturesque training routes on offer, the once-neglected half marathon is fast becoming the UK’s most popular running challenge. Perhaps even more so than with 5k and 10k races, however, successfully completing 13.1 miles requires a robust and considered half marathon training plan.

Finding the right half marathon training plan is an important first step, but is by no means the only factor to consider. These plans cover the running part of your half marathon training. What they don’t address are, among other aspects:

  • Strength and conditioning

  • Running technique (running analysis can help improve this)

  • Dealing with injuries

  • Nutrition and hydration

  • Kit

  • Mental aspects of training

  • Rest and lifestyle

These factors will always play some part in your training and preparation, and you need to at least consider each if you’re going to do yourself justice on race day. By far and away the most important factor when considering your half marathon training, however, is getting used to running longer distances. Your half marathon training plan, though fundamental, forms only a part of your overall race preparation. Very eager runners can find a wealth of further information in David Chalfen’s book, ‘Improve Your Marathon and Half Marathon Running’.

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Half Marathon Training Plan: General Advice

  • You don’t have to be a slave to your half marathon training plan. Think of it like a 200 piece jigsaw puzzle; if you miss a handful of pieces you still have pretty much completed what you planned to do. It helps to plan realistically and try to consider how many weekends over half a year may be lost to things like holidays, social events and family commitments. You’re also likely to have at least one weekend in a 6 month period where you have some sort of low level cold/flu.

  • The three levels used below are not intended to cover the entire range of current ‘regular’ runners. At the newer (and, usually, slower) end it doesn’t address those who are just starting to run with no aerobic or endurance sporting or training background. And at the higher faster end it isn’t intended to support the faster club runners who may well be covering close to double the sorts of mileage shown here, and likely to be getting quicker results as a consequence. Also the plans do not, and cannot, precisely guide a runner through the different levels if he or she wishes to raise the bar gradually. It’s not unreasonable that over 18 months someone could happily progress from ‘foundation’ to ‘advanced’ as they are set out here, and good luck to those of you who do so!

  • All mileage figures are guidelines rather than exact numbers and they include warm up and warm down of a mile or so before and after the harder faster sessions, and of course will vary a little depending on a runner’s pace.

  • The starting point for Week 1 in each schedule assumes you have just got back into regular running at the relevant level, maybe after a previous racing goal has been tackled, and a week or so of active recovery. So it assumes that Week 1 is something you are used to doing and can build sensibly from this.

  • A note on Threshold (T) – Even though this may be something that can be precisely identified as the point where your blood lactate level starts accumulating rapidly, you don’t need to run at exactly this pace to get a suitable stimulus. So for instance a 50 minute run at T will likely be slightly slower than a session of 6 x 6 mins at T (70 sec recovery) by virtue of the sustained run being longer and having no recovery at all. Both sessions are fine and fit for the training purpose.

  • A note on Parkrun – Everyone knows Parkrun and it’s hugely and deservedly popular. So any generic half marathon training plan that is for runners who may tackle some 5k running should probably at least try to factor these in. Parkruns are held every Saturday morning and are always 5k, but you won’t normally see a training plan or hear a proven coach suggest that you run 5k as fast as you can every seven days, week in week out. So we suggest that if you wish to dip into Parkruns, use them to replace whatever is the most similar session in the relevant week, and not as an addition to a 5k-type training session. We’d also suggest you don’t do a Parkrun flat out on the day before the key longer runs. It’s not a major worry if you do, but it will probably take the edge off the longer run.

  • After completing any of these half marathon training plans you could readily and sensibly move from your half marathon training goal to a specific marathon plan, for which we would suggest you use the last 13 or 14 weeks of the relevant marathon training plans on this website. In effect, the 26 weeks of the half marathon training plan will then serve as your general build up to then start your marathon prep.

Half Marathon Training Plan: Pace/Effort Guidelines

This half marathon training plan makes reference to four different paces or levels of effort. Experienced runners might be familiar with these terms, but all runners can strive to get accustomed to ‘changing gears’ between these levels. Knowing how each of these levels of effort feels to you will quickly become instinctive. 

S – Steady. A pace at which you can talk but it becomes slightly more challenging. Likely to be mid to high 70s% of maximum heart rate (MHR).

T – Lactate Turnpoint (‘threshold’ in old terminology). This is about the pace you can maintain in an all-out effort for about 50 minutes (or maybe 35/40 minutes for newer, less established runners). For many runners this will be fairly close to 10k race pace. Coaches who are really keen to stress the positives about structured running describe this as the fastest pace at which you remain comfortable. Whereas coaches whose real idea of comfort is sitting in a padded sofa, left hand cradling a glass of wine while the right one clutches a large piece of cake, will more likely view this as when it just begins to get uncomfortable. Typically around low 80s% MHR.

R – Repetitions. Let’s call this your 15 to 20 minute race pace, so it’s clearly going to be quite tough. If you have just 20 minutes to give your all, and you are trying to do this at an even pace, then after 3 or 4 minutes at the right level of intensity your breathing will be at an intensity that will restrict any chat to fairly rushed half sentences. Typically high 80s – low 90% MHR.

I – Interval. This is fast; it will be at about 100% of your velocity at your maximal oxygen uptake, or vVO2 max. It’s about your notional one mile race pace, or perhaps a little quicker. Within about 3 minutes of starting this sort of effort it will be extremely hard work. Hence when you train at this sort of pace, the bursts will be fairly short, with a recovery long enough to enable you to repeat the effort. Do be aware that Interval training is not, either technically or metabolically, sprinting. Sprinting is your absolute maximum speed, so, give or take, what you can muster for about 15 to 20 seconds. Interval training is clearly a sub-maximal speed. Simplifying and generalising, as you get fitter aerobically the difference between your Interval speed and your sprint speed should become narrower. Mid 90s% MHR.

Typically the difference between each of the paces in these levels of effort is about 20 to 25 seconds per mile. There’s no need to agonise over the exact numbers session by session, whatever level of complexity of Garmin you may be using, but do try to be aware of the clear difference of perceived effort as you move between the different paces.

“Which Half Marathon Training Plan is Right for Me?”

The information below will help you decide which half marathon training plan is right for you. Importantly, though, each of these plans assumes a baseline level of fitness which not all readers will have. It’s important to be honest with yourself when deciding which plan is right for you, as jumping in at the deep end will leave you wide open to injury, and will probably mean you enjoy your training much less. If you’re not yet at the level required for Half Marathon Training Plan 1, you could perhaps look to complete a 5k/10k race as preparation, and use our free 5k training plan or 10k training plan to help you prepare.

The assumption is that this will be your first half marathon and that you have not yet currently run further than about 9 or 10 miles. You are regularly running three times a week, can do four runs some weeks, are comfortable running up to 7 or 8 miles on a weekly basis and have some ability to manage your running at different paces.

For you, ‘steady’ and half marathon pace are likely to be similar paces, and so your typical half marathon time is likely to be in the region of 115 to 135 minutes. Your priority is to build up and recover from the longer runs and therefore there is less initial focus on faster ‘interval’ type training as the balance between quicker improvement and an overuse injury is more likely to be unfavourable if you do too much too fast too soon.

There are weekly sessions of Threshold running, which is likely to be somewhere between your 5k/Parkrun and 10k race pace. Mileage calculations are on the notional basis that you will do about a 2 hour half marathon. This level of runner is more likely than the higher levels to make really substantial progress over 26 weeks so that T (Threshold) pace in week 24 may be significantly quicker than what T was in week 1.

The headlines for this half marathon training plan are:

  • 3 or 4 runs per week, each week
  • 26 week average = 23 miles per week
  • Single week max = 29 miles

If you are over 40/45 years old you might think about replacing one steady run per week with aerobic cross training to keep the aerobic load high without the frequent impact of running.

Very roughly we would expect most people using this plan to run a ‘normal’ road half marathon between about 95 minutes and 115 minutes, though there will be some who are either quicker or a little slower depending on factors such as gender, age, running experience, weight for height/Body Mass Index and, let’s not forget, better or worse endurance genes.

The headlines for this half marathon training plan are:

  • 4 runs per week, each week
  • 26 week average = 27 miles per week
  • Single week max = 33 miles

If you are over 40/45 years old you might think about replacing one steady run per week with aerobic cross training to keep the aerobic load high without the almost daily impact of running.

Generally we would expect most people using this plan to run a ‘normal’ road half marathon between about 80 and 95 minutes, though there will be some who are either quicker or a little slower depending on factors such as gender, age, running experience, weight for height/Body Mass Index and, let’s not forget, better or worse endurance genes.

The headlines for this half marathon training plan are:

  • 4 or 5 runs per week, each week
  • 26 week average = 36 miles per week
  • Single week max = 44 miles

If you are over 40/45 years old you might think about replacing one or two easy/steady runs per week with aerobic cross training to keep the aerobic load high without the almost daily impact of running.