Best Half Marathon Training Plan

Hello and Happy Monday!

Run: This morning I ran 6 miles easy, without music. It felt good just to pound it out Smile

Eat: Last night I had a chocolate covered strawberry at my mom’s and the world seemed a little brighter.

chocolate covered strawberry

Every week I get emails and comments asking about half marathon training…

I run xyz miles now, Can I run a half marathon?

How long should I train for a half marathon?

What’s your favorite half marathon training plan?

If I run 13 miles can I eat 13 donuts? (Yes.)

I make no secret about the fact that half marathons are my FAVORITE distance of all time so I love talking (or blogging) about them. Hello 13 half marathon goal for 2013!

half marathon training plan

My name is Monica and I am addicted to half marathons…


Send help.

Or Gu.

girl at half marathon starting line

Anyway – this is one of the emails I got this week that I thought I’d answer for the whole class…

Hi Monica,

Help! I’ve never run a half. Even when I go for a run the farthest distance I usually do is maybe 10 kms (lazy Canadian who won’t be converting to miles for you) and that’s rare. I run maybe 3 times a week. Depending on the weather. Which was okay last winter but this winter Toronto has been on the colder side and we got snow. It’s March and the worst of it is over, the time I’ve lost I probably can’t get back. But I’m considering running my first half on May 26th and would loooooove some training advice.


First if you can run a 10k, or 6.2 miles for my American readers (darn metric system), you can train for a half marathon. You’ll need to give yourself about 12-16 weeks to get ready to run 13.1 miles but you can do it!

Back in the day when I was just a little gigolo I searched the internets high and low for the best half marathon training plan.

After running a half mary or twenty I have come to realize the best half marathon training plan depends on your current ability / goals / free time / preferences. So, you probably want to check out a few plans and figure out what is compatible with your life. It’s kinda like dating – you have to try out a few types before going the full distance with one. Rrrright Winking smile

The most tried and true / popular / respected half marathon training plans are:

 Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon training plans

If you like the Run/Walk method check out Jeff Galloway

Those plans are free.

RunnerWorld has a Smart Coach program that is more personalized, but costs $$$ (or $$$ eh, for my Canadian friends). <-  I’m not in love with their plans.

My friend Coach Steve offers virtual training programs for half marathons / marathons and triathlons. (I’m thinking about hitting him up for a ‘real’ training plan for a full marathon this year. We’ll see if I wake up disciplined one day.)

Now that you have found ‘the one’ – stick with it. We all have days when we doubt our training plan (and our own abilities). At least for your first race commit to a set plan as much as you can without being too rigid and driving yourself crazy.

half marathon finish line

Other half marathon training thoughts:

1.  You do not need to run the full 13 miles before the race – most training plans just have you go up to 10 miles or so. Then, you cut back for a few weeks to rest (or taper) before the race and show up with ‘fresh legs’ to knock out the mileage. I know it seems scary to think that, but the people that wrote those plans are professionals so just trust that your adrenaline will get you to the finish line on race day.

2. Running is supposed to be a fun, hobby. Find a training plan and a race and remember to treat it like hobby not a job. I don’t take anything running too seriously.

3. For your first half I would just focus on finishing not on your time. And enjoy it! You only get one First Race!

PS – If you’re local to SoCal you can join the running group  Sole Runners. They train for the Long Beach Half Marathon (or full)  in October. I will probably be running with their group a lot because I love it!

Question: Runners – What’s your favorite training plan?

Any helpful tips to share?


  1. says

    I second Hal Higdon! I have completed two half marathons using his Novice 1 and Novice 2 plans. I felt prepared for both! I started practicing drinking/eating early on in training. Really glad I did. Helped me figure out what worked best!

    BTW… I am looking for a fun fall half… any suggestions??

  2. says

    I created a hybrid of a few training plans I found online. I do so much better when I stick to a plan than just trying to wing it.

  3. says

    I’ve been using the Women’s Health half marathon training plan. I really like it so far… I actually found it on Pinterest. The longest you run on any given week night is 4 miles. The long runs go up to 11 miles.

  4. Jill says

    I looked up several plans when I decided I wanted to train for my first half marathon but didn’t follow any of them to a T. I kind of created my own hybrid plan which basically had me running 3x a week, and cross training once or twice in between. I think the main thing for anyone training for the first time is consistency. As long as you commit yourself to a regular running schedule for at least 10-12 weeks and gradually increase your mileage each week, you will have what it takes to cross the finish line!

  5. says

    I third Hal Higdon’s plans! They’re all I’ve used since Day 1 and I just love them – they’re perfect for kicking your own tail but also allow some wiggle room for a newbie.

  6. says

    When I first got into racing I used Hal Higdon and loved them. Now that I’m more into it my training programs are specifically designed for me.

    I agree though, your first 1/2 or full should always be focused on finishing running YOUR race for you.

  7. Tracey says

    I see you have been at a lot of the Rock n Roll races…my first half is the Dallas Rock n Roll (in 19 days) will you be there?

  8. says

    How about the Sole Runners Virtual Training Full and Half Marathon Training Programs where you actually get to talk to your coach. If you live in the area train with our group.

    Check out or contact me for more information.

    Train Focused, Coach Steve

  9. Sarah says

    Your timing is impeccable! I was just looking at 1/2 marathon plans this weekend.

    I have been injury prone in the past and I’ve learned that cross-training is really important to me. Obviously most plans have 3-4 runs a week to get the mileage built up, and then they add additional days of cross-training/strength/stretching on top of it. A 6 day per week plan just does not work for me, I need more rest and sleep than that so…

    Question: If my training plan calls for a short/easy run one day, and a short/easy cross train the next day, can I combine them into a single day? This would give me more rest days (e.g. more sleeeeep!). Or do you think it could lead to injury?

  10. says

    I think you are reading my mind! I was about to email you to ask you about doing my first half marathon. I’m gonna see if I can do the Disney World marathon in January. **fingers crossed**

  11. says

    I love half marathons! I’m training for my 7th right now… and I NEVER use the same training plan twice! Clearly I like to switch it up 😉 I started out using the runner’s world one, then I did Team in Training and followed their plan, I did another runner’s world plan, then I made my own modified TNT plan, um… then probably made up a few… this fall I went with an plan (haha) and I actually PR’ed more out of sheer will than anything, and right now I’m using my running store’s plan. any of them will get you there if you give yourself enough time to train… I’d say plan on three months for your first one, starting from a low mileage, or two months if you’ve already got 15 miles/week.

  12. says

    I love the FIRST program – 3 challenging runs a week, cross training 2x as well. Also, you could just train for a triathlon and just make sure you’re running a lot. That’s what I’ve done the last few years. I don’t recommend it for PRing, but it’s fun. :)

  13. Michelle Martin says

    You always give just great advice! I’m a bit like Karen, I use a mix and just try to have fun.

  14. says

    Just like you I’m crazy for 1/2’s! When I ran my first ever, I just ran to 11 miles. I wanted to run the 13.1 the day of the race. I am so glad I did this, it made the race that more special! And I feel if you can run 11 miles, 2 miles is nothing! Half the time you are on a high anyway and 2 miles seems like a blip!

  15. says

    Thanks for all the helpful tips! I’m actually currently training for my first half – the More/Fitness Women’s half in NYC! I’m really excited for it, and in preparation, I’ve done a ton of research on how to safely and effectively train for it.

    I’ve found that I always run my best when I don’t run two days in a row – so I went in search of a beginner-ish training plan that was 3 runs per week, which would work very well with my schedule. I found this great one from Women’s Health Mag online, and so far I’m loving it! I’m on week 5, and so far feeling great and staying injury-free.

  16. says

    What great advice! I strongly second #3 (just aim to finish, don’t aim for a time). That “first time” should be about enjoyment above all else. And the pressure to do anything other than just cross the finish line will get in the way of that enjoyment.

  17. says

    I have combined a few different programs into one that works from me. I like a plan that actually goes beyond the distance, so the longest training run I have is 14 miles. Helps me mentally to know I can complete the distance and then some. Part Galloway, part Higdon, part Bingham (probably).

    The Kidless Kronicles

  18. says

    My biggest advice for people trying to train for a half, or any race is to be flexible. Have a plan but be ready to change it if you’re having an off day, or if life’s schedule interferes. I have ran 10+ halves, 4 fulls (5 and 6 are this year), and over 50 5k/5m/10k/other smaller races, the biggest thing I have found is sometimes you have to alter the plan, and sometimes you just need to listen to your body, even if it means not getting the numbers for the week.

  19. says

    There are actually free Runners World Smart Coach plans – I love that they give you pace estimates for your runs. I have such a hard time knowing how hard is hard enough (TWSS!). I also like that you have several choices in terms of intensity – moderate, really difficult, etc. You just have to register on the site, but your plan is free. If you want additional features, like the ability to adjust your plan mid training, you will have to pay for that. Or, just create a new plan from that date forward like I do, and avoid paying for the subscription :)

  20. Steve says

    I’m using HH’s Novice 1 to prep for my 1st Half the end of this month. Seems to be working – I exceeded my expectations on my 1st 5K and 10 Miler (yesterday). I have a strong cycling background and some experience with training programs for long rides and races, so the biggest challenge for me has been to let my legs catch up to my aerobic capacity – running puts more stresses on different areas vs. cycling. My other challenge is recovery – one needs more as one gets older, and I had to back off my cycling to give myself time to recover and allow more energy for running.

  21. says

    Thank you so much for the half marathon tips! I want to run one in October and I will certainly be putting these to use :) I ran without music for the first time today and I surprisingly loved it. Definitely will be doing that more often!

  22. Cate says

    The farthest I had ever run when training for a half was eight miles and I was able to run the whole 13.1. I think anything past a 10k is all mental anyway! 😉

  23. says

    This post is perfect timing as I am running my first half in less than two weeks (The Shamrock in Virginia Beach)! I am in the midst of “taper crazies” and it truly is that! I SO wanted to run longer yesterday but had to stop at 8 due to sore quads and today is the ever-torturing recovery day! I did 12 last weekend as my highest mileage. My questions for you- any tips for those of use prone to blisters? I wear special shoes, second skin and wrightsocks, but I still get them! It’s been so annoying when I feel great cardio-wise but have awful pain in my feet! This is my first half coming up:)

  24. kat says

    I’m also in Toronto, training for an early May full (though the women’s half on the 26th, which she mentioned, may also be in the cards) and I’ve reached the point of absolute boredom with the same route, weather, snow, and company. Any way you can send the emailer my email address to see if perhaps she’d be interested in mixing up training runs?

    Also, I used Hal Higdon’s novice 1 for my first and only half. I finished faster than I expected, though with a bit more pain/fatigue than expected… it worked for me though, because it was three times/week.

    (For fellow Torontonians, High Park is a good place to go to be relatively shielded from cold winds, and to have ploughed streets to run on)

  25. says

    in my opinion (to date) the best plan that i’ve followed are the ‘ryan hall’ training plans from the nissan innovation for endurance site. definitely worth checking out!

  26. says

    Thanks for this post! I’m training for my first half marathon later this year and I’ve been looking at different plans but there are so many! This makes it a bit easier :)

  27. says

    Ah! I’m running my first half in Charlottesville, VA on April 6th and I’m puuumped! So far I’ve been trying to run 3 times a week including one long run and then CrossFit and yoga the rest of the days — with one off day, of course. However, being a college student, my schedule can get pretty hectic so as long as I make a run or two I’m cool with it!

  28. Jackie K says

    Hal Higdon has some great plans that allow people to build mileage slowly and confidently. I used them for half and full marathons. I used the “Train Like a Mother” Finish It plan to train for my third marathon, and ended up burning out and having to drop to the half. Not sure if that was a lot of life events happening or the structure of the training plan. Regardless, I’ve always loved Hal’s predictable plans. They are super beginner friendly and have served me well.

  29. Gillian says

    Hal Higdon got me to the finish line of my first half and first full marathon and I’ve been a fan ever since. I think the plans are doable and allow some flexibility for a busy schedule. I’ve worked up from the Novice plans to the Intermedjate and seen improvements in my endurance and speed.

  30. says

    I like the less is more plans. I have only used them for marathon training. but they have a plan that is similar for a half program!
    You run 3x a week: a speed work out, a tempo work out, and a long run. No extra nonsense miles. plus you cross train 2x a week.

  31. says

    Maybe you’ve said this before, but I’m new to your blog… are you a Half Fanatic? I know a few people who are, but I’m not sure what the benefits are, other than being part of a group of people who are equally crazy. I mean, dedicated. =)

  32. says

    I used a Nike + half training plan that was great. I am currently looking for a free full marathon training plan that provides paces(i.e. I want to finish in under 4 hours) so I want a plan that tells me what pace to run on each run. I found the runners world one, but it cost $$, no thank you!

    • says

      There are free Runners World Smart Coach plans with paces. You have to subscribe and pay if you want additional features, but I have created several plans, and all I did was create a member log on, never paid for it. I love them!

  33. says

    Hal Higdon is my main damie—as they say. Did my first have in Jan, and a month later my second. It’s safe to say, 13.1 is my favorite distance. For me–it’s JUST long enough to hit the “I hate my life” point, to “I AM A RUNNING GODDESS” by the time you cross the line. Love ’em!

    • says

      “For me–it’s JUST long enough to hit the “I hate my life” point, to “I AM A RUNNING GODDESS” by the time you cross the line.”

      Haha! I love that.

  34. says

    I’m running my first half marathon in 3 hours! I felt really prepared and ready to race until my 6 year began puking last night and I’ve only had 4 hours of sleep. Now I’m worried that my lack of sleep will affect my race pace.

  35. says

    I have thus received online coaching for my first Half marathon of 2013 in April. My long run peaked at 16 miles. But for the 15 mile run, I would run, say, the first 10 miles at a steady pace, then the last half at HMP. If it’s your very first Half marathon, then a long run of 10-11 miles is fine and should get you to the finish line. I applaud anyone who wants to make running and going to races part of their lifestyle. Thanks for posting this. Dont know about the 13 doughnuts though. lol. For training, it all depends on what your goals are.

  36. says

    I ran today 9 miles, I’m getting ready for the San Jose rock and roll half of marathon, would be my first one but I runs a lest 5 days a week around 30 miles. I’m 60 years old. I’m been running the 10 k in 9 minutes a mile so I think for the ache of 60 is ok… Good Luck for everybody do not give up!!!!!

  37. Susan says

    I am doing the Navy Air Force Half in DC on Sept 14 and want to do the Sweet Tea Half in Charleston, SC on Nov 15. How do I train for the second race? Right now I run 5x a week going up to 12 miles 2 weeks before the first race.

  38. Deanna says

    I’ve signed up for my first half marathon in September. I’ve decided to follow Hal Higdon’s Novice 1/2 Training plan…mostly because it seems popular, its free, and my friend used it.

    Its a 12 week plan. The race is 14 weeks away but I’m sort of ready to start training now! Where should I add in the extra weeks? Just do week 1 a couple times to get used to the schedule (although the training distances won’t get too challenging for me until about week 5). I’ve heard of drop back weeks but wouldn’t know where to put them.


    • says

      Hey Deanna,

      Chances are you might have to travel or get sick or ‘insert life here’ situation at some point over the next 14 weeks so having a cushion is good. I might suggest repeating one of the first weeks and giving yourself an extra week cushion in case something else comes up down the road. Good luck!

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