Half marathons are a great distance to race and train for. And following a structured half marathon training plan will help you to get the most out of your training time.
Whilst running the half marathon distance (21.1km or 13.1miles) is a significant step up from a 10km, it’s an achievable distance for runners who are prepared to put in some consistent training miles.
What’s the best approach to half marathon training?
Clearly, there’s many different training approaches that can be used for half marathon training.
Is one better than the other?
Well, yes and no. It depends on a number of factors, such as….your training experience, your level of conditioning, how much time you have to train, whether you get injured easily.
But most importantly, not every training approach works for everyone. We’re all unique and we all respond differently to training. And no generic training plan can claim to be the ‘best’.
Having said that, there’s a number of ways to approach training, that will help you to get the most out of your half marathon training. So, let’s take a look.
How many weeks should you set aside to train for a half marathon?
Really, this depends on your level of conditioning before you start your plan. It also depends on whether your goal is to complete the half marathon distance, or run a fast time?
Ideally, you’ll want at least 8-12weeks of training to prepare for your half marathon. But, even if you have a good level of conditioning it’s wise to set aside 12weeks to prepare for your half marathon. And, if you really want to be in the best possible shape…then 16weeks, or even 20weeks will help to put you in the best possible place to run a fast time.
How much weekly training should you complete?
Again, this largely depends on your race goal, training experience and available training time.
If your goal is to complete your first half marathon, then (Ideally) you’ll want to be running around 3-4 days a week. And gradually build your training volume to around 20-25miles/week by the end of your plan.
If you’ve already completed a half marathon and are looking for a faster time, then your training volume will be higher. For, a typical club runner, they might be running 4-5 days a week and completing 30-40/miles a week. Whereas for an elite runner this could be 6-7days/week and 80+miles/week.
How long should your long run be for a half marathon?
Not surprisingly, fitting in a weekly long run is a key part of half marathon training. How long this is, really depends on whether it’s your first half marathon, or, if you’re training to run a fast time.
If your goal is to complete the half marathon distance, then running close to race distance during your training plan is a good approach.
However, if you’re looking to run a fast time, then you’ll want to be able to comfortably complete race distance. So, extending your weekly long run beyond race distance is a good approach. You may also choose to run your longer run off road – read more about the benefits of trail running.
You may also choose to add in some faster running at the end of your weekly long run.
What about faster training?
If you want to get the most out of your half marathon training, and especially if you’re going for a fast time, then you need to look beyond just logging miles. Some of the best approaches involve supplementing your training with a combination of intervals, hill running and tempo or threshold training.
Interval training for half marathons
Interval training can be really effective for improving half marathon race times. To get the most from these you’ll want to run these at speeds that are faster than your current, or goal race pace. Examples of intervals that work well for half marathons, include:
- 10k pace intervals such as 1km, mile, or 2km repeats
- 5k pace intervals such as 600m, or 800m
- 3km pace intervals such as 400m repeats
Hill training for half marathons
Hill training is another important workout for half marathons, helping to build strength, muscular endurance and running efficiency. Examples include:
Including regular tempo runs and threshold intervals is another key approach for successful half marathon training. Essentially tempo running involves continuous faster running at a pace that’s close to your half marathon pace.
This helps to build fatigue resistance, muscular endurance, running efficiency and improves your ability to sustain a faster pace for longer periods.
Threshold training is similar to tempo running, but involves running at a slightly faster pace – normally slightly slower than 10k race pace. And often broken up into smaller intervals such as mile repeats or 10minute intervals.
What about cross training for half marathons?
Cross training is also an important training for half marathons. Here, we can break it down into:
- Cross training for strength – weight training, circuits, core strength exercises
- Cross training for aerobic fitness – cycling, swimming etc
Developing functional strength, and core strength, will go a long way towards maximising your half marathon training. Helping you to strengthen muscles, reducing your injury risk and building fatigue resistance.
Cross training is also useful for further developing aerobic fitness. And if it’s a low impact activity, like cycling, or swimming, then it can be a useful way to enhance recovery and reduce the risk of impact injuries from running.
Below are links to our half marathon training plans.
Half marathon training plans: