12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan

Man running while checking his watch

Half Marathon Training can be daunting, especially if you are not a runner or just starting out.  As I discussed in the previous blog post in this series, you have to be to a certain level of activity and fitness before really beginning specific training leading up to the half marathon. 

In that post, I mentioned that to start this 12 week training plan you need to be able to run at least 3 miles without stopping.  If you are there, read on!  If not, you may need to go back and check out my previous blog post to get prepared to train. 

If you are having pain currently, or wondering about your running form, Download myFREE Running Tips Report to get on track! Click HERE

Running 3 Days a Week!

In 2012 I ran my first half marathon, and I remember seeing so many different half marathon training plans out there, that it got confusing and hard to know which one to follow.  There were some that had you run 6 days a week, and some that even had you ramp up in your running to 13 miles many weeks before the race. 

At that time, I was busy with work and didn’t have time to run 6 days a week.  Also, being a physical therapist, I wanted to increase mileage gradually to avoid injury.  At that time, I didn’t really have a good option for a training plan, so I made one up. 

Since then, I have run many half marathons, and have tried out a variety of training plans.  Below is what I feel will help you get to the starting line without injury, and ready to run a good race. 

This training plan can be modified to fit your needs. For example, there are days for cross and strength training, but if your schedule doesn’t allow for those, focus on the running days.

But First!  let me discuss a few things….cross training and speed work.

Cross Training

Cross training means you are doing something other than running.  The reason we cross train is to stress the body in a different way. This helps build muscle as well as give our body a break from the stress of running. 

One reason I am an advocate of cross training is that it reduces the risk of injury.  Running puts specific stress on our tissues and if that is the only stress we put on them, it can lead to overuse injuries like tendinitis. 

Another reason is that cross training can help to strengthen the body in ways running can’t.  This results in improved stability of the body and less strain.  For example, strengthening the hips can help to reduce the forces at the knee, resulting in less chance of developing knee pain. 

Cross training doesn’t have to be anything crazy.  Biking, weight training, spin classes, workout videos, swimming….can all be great cross training ideas.  Think of something you like to do and start there. 

In the 12 week plan, I put in 2 days a week that are specific for “Cross or Strength Training”.  This is where these activities would go.

Speed Work

As the name implies, this is where you work on increasing your speed.  There are many effects of doing speed work, with only one being increasing speed. 

There are many physiological benefits to doing speed work, but we don’t need to go into them here.  Basically, you are training your body to push past its comfort zone.  As you feel the burn and learn to push past it, you train your body to deal with fatigue. 

Someone told me once that if you want to run faster, you have to…run faster!  Sounds simple, right?  Well, yes, in theory, but how do you do it? 

There are many ways you can do speed work.  Here are a few:

Tempo Runs

These are runs where you warm up for 10 minutes with a slow jog, and then run at a faster pace than your normal. This pace should be something you can maintain for 20 minutes, and is meant to be somewhat uncomfortable.

You then cool down for 10 or 15 minutes with a slow jog.

Repeats

As the name implies, these are repeated faster runs.  These are best done on a track so you know the distance, but can also be done anywhere.

You start with a warm up and then sprint a specific distance, usually 400, 800, or 1600 meters. This is followed by a 2 minute walk to cool down, then you repeat the sprint.  This can be repeated 4, 6, or even 8 times depending on the distance or how long you are wanting to train.

You then finish with a cool down for 10-15 minutes with a slow jog. 

Intervals

These are specific duration of time at higher effort, followed by an equal or slightly longer duration of recovery.  For example, after a slower warm up run, you run hard for 2 minutes, then walk or jog slowly for 2-3 minutes to allow recovery.  Then you repeat.

Just like the above workouts, you end with a cool down.

Fartleks

Swedish for Fun Run, these are less structured workouts.  You get to choose the distance and duration of the higher intensity running, as well as the slower pace or walking.

For example, you would decide, “I am going to run as fast as I can to that tree”.  Then, after starting to walk at that tree you pick another object where you will start running.  Repeat.

As with the other speed workouts, you start and finish with a slower jog to warm up and cool down. 

These options for Speed Work are explained well in an article on the Runners World website.  You can access it HERE.

Stretching, Yoga, and Mobility

On the half marathon training plan, I put a day focusing on mobility.  This really can be anything you want to do for mobility.  Yoga and stretching are great ways to increase mobility, but you can really do anything you want for this.

If you are very flexible, you may want to use this time to do some strengthening.  If you are very tight, you may want to focus more time on this. 

Rest Day

For my training plan I picked Sunday as my rest day because it works with my schedule.  You could change this up and put it anywhere in the week, but the important thing is that you have a rest day.  This allows your body to recover from training during the week.

Easy Day

On this half marathon training plan, I have a shorter run day on Tuesdays.  These runs are shorter and are meant to be easy runs.  Don’t think of these as speed work runs. 

Easy Days allow the body time to recover while still reinforcing running mechanics and strength.  Make sure you are taking these easy days easy.  Your body will thank you for it.

Long Run

The cornerstone of the week is the Long Run.  I usually have these on Saturdays when I have more time.  This run is meant to be run at or near the race pace you are wanting to maintain. 

This run helps to build your endurance and gets you closer to your goal or running a half marathon.  Remember to listen to your body during this run and back off if you feel like you are having more pain or not ready. 

This half marathon training plan is meant to provide a guide for your first Half Marathon.  If you are a veteran half marathoner, and you are looking to shave time off your last race, this may not be the right one for you. With that said, this plan can be modified to fit your needs.

If you want to modify this training plan on an Excel file, you can Click HERE to download it now. 

Good Luck Training!  I hope to see you at the starting line. 

For more Running Related Information, check out our RUNNERS PORTAL!

If you have any specific questions on training or injuries that come up, feel free to email me at [email protected]

David Butler, Physical Therapist

Part 1 – 6 Month Couch to Half Marathon
Part 2 – Nutrition Golden Rules