How to Train for a Half Marathon

So you’re signed up for a half marathon and ready to start training. Where to begin? First, it’s important to identify your goals for the race.

Are you looking to complete your first half-marathon? Maybe your goal is to get to the finish line without any walking. If you’ve already completed a few half marathons, you might be looking to shave a few minutes off your time. Whatever your goal is, having the right training plan is key to helping you achieve it.

Training for the half marathon requires a balance of endurance and speed. You want to build your aerobic base while incorporating speed workouts to fine tune your engine. Adding strength training into your routine will help reduce the risk of injury while you build up mileage.

Most half marathon training plans are twelve weeks long and incorporate a mix of easy runs, long runs, speed workouts and rest days followed by a taper. Whether you want to set a new PR or simply cross the finish line, you can find a half marathon training plan that suits your needs.

Finding Local Training

Members of a Fleet Feet training group smile after their run.

When you’re sweating through workouts and pushing through long runs, it helps to have company. Finding a local training group can help you take your running to the next level while meeting new friends and having fun.

Many Fleet Feet stores have local training groups that can help you train for your half marathon. These groups are led by experienced run coaches who can provide you with advice and insight into your training. You can find your local Fleet Feet here. If you don’t live near a Fleet Feet, check with your local running store about training groups in the area.

When all else fails, you can use the Road Runners Club of America website to find a club near you.

Increasing Your Mileage

One of the key components of half marathon training is increasing your mileage. There’s no standard number of miles to run each week for half marathon training. Your mileage sweet spot will depend on your running background and experience. For many runners, figuring out their base weekly mileage can take some trial and error.

The Long Run

A woman running during a half marathon race.

Long runs are an opportunity to prepare your body - physically and mentally - for the hard work on race day. Depending on your weekly mileage and your goals for the half marathon, long run distances will vary. Most beginner and intermediate runners will cap their long run at ten miles during half marathon training, while advanced and elite runners may run as many as 16. Planning ahead for your long runs will help you get the most out of your training.

How to Set a Goal

Setting a goal for your half-marathon will help you dial in your training and run with purpose. And making sure these goals are realistic will go a long way towards enjoying the process. Aiming too high can lead to overtraining, burnout, or cause you to go out too hard in the beginning of the race only to blow up at the end.

If you’re new to distance running, getting to the finish line is a reasonable target. Some runners want to finish the race without any walk breaks, while others consider the sub-2 hour half marathon a significant milestone. And some runners just want to see a lower number on the clock than they did last time.

No matter what your race-day goals are, knowing the correct paces is key to achieving them.

A pack of runners run along the road.