Training for Your First Half-Marathon
May 3-4, 2013

Register Now


Early registration discounts available!
The training advice that follows assumes that you’re healthy and physically fit, even if you are just starting to run. If this is not the case, then you’ll need to spend an extra couple of months getting into shape to tackle the training needed to run a half marathon. Ideally, you’ve already incorporated some running into your regular physical activities; if you’ve run in a few shorter races such as the Chileda Classic 5K or the Oktoberfest 5 Mile Run that’s even better.

Whichever situation applies to you--someone who has run in a few races, someone who runs for fitness, or someone who is about to begin to run--the first thing to realize is that 13.1 miles is a seriously long distance to run! To visualize its length, look at the map of the Festival Foods Grandad Half Marathon Course Map; it essentially follows the perimeter of the entire south side of La Crosse. Many, if not most, first-time runners in a half marathon will require about two hours or more to finish.

Below is a 16-week plan that is intended to get a healthy, fit individual, but perhaps inexperienced at running, sufficiently physically fit so that he or she can complete a half-marathon with a minimum of difficulty (no time guarantees though!).

The plan is deliberately conservative: some individuals will find that they are able to progress faster than the schedule calls for; if so, they can increase the distances, frequency, or the intensity of their runs. On the other hand, if someone finds that he or she cannot progress at the rate the schedule calls for, he or she should probably switch to the Three Rivers 5K, and tackle the half-marathon at another time.

Some basic principles of training for distance running include:
  1. The first several weeks are primarily light running, a “base-building” period before the more serious training starts.
  2. After the base building weekly mileage generally increases, but with occasional easy weeks for recovery.
  3. A ‘hard’ day should always be followed by an ‘easy’ day, or a rest day.
  4. Schedule the days and times of your workouts so they best fit your schedule; morning, noon, or evening, it doesn’t matter.
  5. Getting your intended mileage is more important than the speed at which you run.
  6. DO NOT be a slave to a daily schedule! Some days you may find that you simple lack the energy or will to complete an intended run. Or, events or inclement weather can require an occasional cancellation. When these things happen, make reasonable adjustments in your schedule (but don’t fall into a habit of postponing or skipping workouts).
In the following, a “rest day” means “No running!” or other aerobic workout. An “easy run” means at a slow, comfortable pace. A “tempo run” means a short run in which at least some parts of it is done at a faster than normal pace. The “moderately long” and the “long” runs are intended to build the endurance you’ll need to run for 13.1 miles; they should be done at a steady, comfortable pace with brief breaks for water or other stops as needed.

After the base-building period, each week will contain some common components: a long run, a moderately long run, three or four short or easy runs, and one or two rest days. For someone who opts to do harder days, say by running up and down hills or running on forest trails (say in Hixon Forest), limit such workouts to one or two days a week.

A weekly schedule might look like this:
Sunday: Rest
Monday: Easy or tempo run
Tuesday: Moderately long run
Wednesday: Easy run or rest day
Thursday: Easy or tempo run
Friday: Easy run or rest day
Saturday: Long run
If for any reason you prefer to do your long run on Sunday, or another day of the week, you can easily adjust your own weekly schedule as needed. Whatever fits your personal needs or desires is how you should plan your week.

Example 16 Week Half-Marathon Training Program
Download as PDF Download as PDF

Week 1:
Run 2 to 4 miles (or run and walk, if you’re not ready to run that far yet), four or five times.

Week 2:
Run 3 to 4 miles (or run and walk, if you’re not ready to run that far yet), four or five times.

Week 3:
Run 3 to 5 miles five times. Weekly mileage: 15 or more miles.

Week 4:
Run 3 to 5 miles five or six times. Weekly mileage: 16 or more miles.

Week 5:
Run 3 to 6 miles five or six times. Weekly mileage: 18 or more miles.

Week 6:
Run 4 to 6 miles five times. Weekly mileage: 20 or more miles.

Week 7:
An easy week. Run 3 to 5 miles four times. Weekly mileage: 12 or more miles.

Week 8:
Base building is over! Long run: 6 to 8 miles; moderately long run: 5 miles; easy or tempo runs: 3 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 20 or more miles.

Week 9:
Long run: 7 to 8 miles; moderately long run: 5 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 24 or more miles.

Week 10:
Long run: 7 to 8 miles; moderately long run: 6 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 25 or more miles.

Week 11:
An easy week. Long run: 6 miles; moderately long run: 5 miles; easy or tempo runs: 3 miles. Two rest days. Weekly mileage: 20 miles.

Week 12:
Long run: 7 to 8 miles; moderately long run: 6 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 24 or more miles.

Week 13:
Long run: 7 to 8 miles; moderately long run: 6 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 or 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 24 or more miles.

Week 14:
Long run: 8 to 9 miles; moderately long run: 6 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 or 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 26 or more miles.

Week 15:
Time to taper off the hard training. Long run: 7 miles; moderately long run: 5 miles; easy or tempo runs: 3 to 4 miles. Two rest days. Weekly mileage: 21 to 23 miles.

Week 16:
The Half Marathon is Sunday! Taper off the training. Do a few easy runs of 4 to 6 miles, maybe one tempo run. Rest on Friday and Saturday. Have a nice pasta dinner in the days leading up to the race and get a good night sleep prior to race day.


« go back