Fit Life,  Health & Fitness

Half Marathon Training Guide

Running a half marathon is increasing in popularity. It offers a challenge both mentally and physically but, can still easily be accomplished. Most people run their first 5k and then search for longer distance races to continue the hype. The truth is, it isn’t that difficult. All you need is a plan and the right mindset. The rest will come with practice.

How far is a half marathon

A half marathon is 13.1 miles

What is the average time to run a half marathon

The average person can finish a half marathon in 2 hours and 22 minutes. However, most try to break the 2 hour mark. But, remember this is your race and your first half marathon. Don’t be so tough on yourself.

Why run a half marathon?

Yeah 13.1 miles might sound a little crazy…maybe even scary. The perks and exciting emotions are endless though. The training and breaking down and building up of your mind and body is completely worth it!

Where Do I Start?

Here’s the truth. I have always been active, I take Pure Barre on a regular basis. However, I hated running for two reasons. One, I would get bored and just stop and two, I could barely make it to a half mile before feeling like death. I always wanted to be a good runner and envied those who talked about completing a half or full marathon. I always thought that it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I attempted to train on multiple occasions and quit every time.

One day a friend was searching for an accountability partner to train with for her first half marathon. I wanted a new challenge and figured hey why not. She backed out of it a few weeks in due to health complications. So, I joined a 12 week training group at a local running store. At this point I really had no idea what I got myself into, but I signed up and was committed.

Tip: Running is a learned skill. It takes time to learn and progress. Stay consistent and do not give up. 

I didn’t realize there was actually more to running then just lacing up your shoes and taking off. I learned quickly that taking off fast from the start was only going to cause me to stop at less than half a mile. By slowing down I proved to myself that maybe I could do this and was surprised to see the accumulation of miles I was actually able to run. Like everything in life, I had good and bad days. There was days I wanted to quit, but I didn’t let that stop me. The “little wins” each day I ran encouraged me to keep going. If I can do it, you can too. I learned a lot along the way and want to share my 5 best tips to help you train for your first half marathon.

Best Half Marathon Training Tips

1. Be held accountable

You can create a schedule and plan out every run, but how will you stick to it? Find an accountability partner or a local running group. Self motivation can only take you so far. Especially on rough days when you want to throw in the towel. We all need a little push sometimes. Scheduling a run with a someone else or a group of people will keep you accountable. You wouldn’t want to let your friends down.

Tip: You can find a virtual running partner by logging your miles and goals into an online app

I had scheduled group runs 2 days a week. One day scheduled for speed training and the other day for long distance. Seeing 1-2 hour runs planned ahead scared me and that little voice inside my head said I could never do it. But I showed up because I told them I would be there and knew I would never do that on my own. Well guess what? I showed up and ran the long distance and proved that voice inside my head wrong.

2. Stay consistent

It takes time and practice which will not happen overnight. Even with prolonged training not every run will be easy and you will experience tough days. But don’t quit, lace up your shoes and try again. Pick what works for your schedule and continue to show up each week to see the results.

Set your goals ahead of time. Check your schedule weekly and block out 3 to 4 time slots a week to run. I was able to block out 4 time slots each week. I snuck in 3 days during the week and 1 long run on Saturday mornings. The consistency of keeping early weekend morning long runs, turned into a habit that I surprisingly fell in love with. My work schedule changes so at the beginning of every week I would sit down to look at my schedule. I planned my running week out ahead of time to make sure I got 4 runs in.

Do what works best with your schedule, but aim for 3-4 times a week.  Treat it as if it were your job. Keep consistent to see results. 

3. Keep it slow…easy pace is key

Wait, whats easy pace? Easy pace is a running speed that you can carry on a conversation without being out of breath. It is different for every on. Go for a run and talk to figure it out. Running at this pace helps to build your engine and increase your endurance. Easy runs use mostly slow twitch muscle fibers which have more aerobic capabilities than fast twitch muscle fibers. When you run slow and train these fibers you increase your bodies ability to better utilize oxygen intake, thus improving blood flow to your working muscles. So build your endurance first and work on tweaking and increasing your speed later. It’s your first half, there is no pressure to beat Shalane Flanagan.

Also, remember you have to start somewhere. Acknowledge where you are and train from there. Pushing yourself too hard in the beginning will only lead to unwanted injuries and a lack of drive.

4. Fuel your body for success

If you feed your body junk,  expect to get junk right back. Also, if you think you can run without water or nutrients, you’re wrong. Think of your body as a gas tank. You fill up with nutrient dense calories pre-run in which are burned while you run. If the fuel gauge gets low during your run, you need to be prepared to refuel. Experiment with various race fuels during your practice long runs to find what works best for you and your stomach. There are many options including; powder drink mixes, gels, sport beans and chews. My favorite go to’s are Tailwind and Muir energy gels. Both have proven to be easy on my stomach and provided lasting energy through the entire run.

5. The first few miles are a liar

During the first few miles of a run your body is adjusting. Your heart, lungs, and muscles are working at a higher threshold and need to accommodate. Not going to go too in depth here, but your body needs to break down glycogen and get oxygen to the muscles that are working. It takes time for your body to adapt and adjust to the increased need of oxygen and energy sources. Eventually your body will settle into a sustainable cycle of breathing, breaking down glucose and sweating which will in turn make it easier after the first mile or so. Consistent training helps this process to be achieved faster and last longer. Be sure to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. No need to take off fast.

How long will the training process take

I recommend training 3 to 6 months prior to running your first half marathon. This time frame allows your body to adjust both physically and mentally. It also lowers the risk of injury due to over training. You will notice cardiovascular changes pretty quickly. However, it takes at least 8 weeks to build muscle strength. Your ligaments, tendons and joints need to adjust as well and build up overall tolerance.

Now what?

Use these tips, lace up your shoes and just do it. Go run before your mind makes excuses. Get out there, slow it down, and listen to your body. I decided to go for it one day and now I absolutely LOVE to run. I actually look forward to long early morning runs. After envying long distance runners for years, I changed my mindset and went for it!

I have complete faith in you and know you can do whatever you set your mind to!

  • What are your running goals or greatest running accomplishments?
  • Where did or will you run your first half marathon?

Please share!