Half Marathon Training for Beginners: 13.1 Miles to Glory!

half-marathon-training-for-beginnersA half marathon is 13.1 miles and should not be attempted by the faint of heart or the uninitiated. Even though it is the little brother to the monster 26-plus mile full marathon, it should not be attempted by anyone who doesn’t already run semi-regularly. Below we map out a training routine and the physical and mental accoutrements that will be necessary to undertake this serious and fulfilling activity.

Getting Prepared

Before you sign up for a half marathon, check out these guidelines for easing into such a mammoth undertaking. No matter how ready you think you might be, it’s still 13 freaking miles! These tips and guidelines will not only prepare your body for a half marathon, but your mind as well.

  • Motivation is a huge factor. Not only do you need to motivate to begin training, you must have the mental stamina to keep at it long enough to be ready for a half marathon.
  • Set goals for yourself that are achievable. Whether your goals are to lose a certain amount of weight, to run the half marathon in a certain time or to just finish the race, setting attainable goals during this process will keep you motivated and will give you quantifiable reasons to keep at it. Without goals you’re likely to quit when it starts getting tough.
  • Wear the right gear. This includes the right shoes and wearing comfortable clothes that can sustain you for the time it will take to run 13 miles. There are countless kinds of running shoes out there, so make sure you get something that fits you specifically.
  • Eat healthy. When training for a half marathon, your body is no longer just used for walking around from point A to point B. It is now a machine, and machines need to be kept in tip top shape. Keep in mind that carbohydrates provide the fuel runners need. During half marathon training, 65% of your total calories should come from carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates. 10% should come from protein (you need 0.5 to 0.7 grams per pound of your body weight each day). 20-25% of your total calories should come from unsaturated fats. It’s a good idea to eat during the race as well. Compact and energy-laden foods such as bananas, energy bars, dried fruit, oranges or even certain candies will not only take your mind off the race, but will get your energy level back up.
  • Be sure to hydrate. On runs of an hour or more, carry fluids with you and consume 6-8 oz. every 20 minutes. During pre-training and marathon training, weigh yourself before and after each run and get your body weight back to the weight it was before the run by drinking water or sports drink within the first hours after the run.
  • Don’f forget the music! Picking the right jams to get you through the tough parts of training and the actual race can be integral. Not only do you want music that will motivate you, you also might want something with a rhythm that will keep you in pace with your run. Make a playlist that pumps you up at first, then put on songs with similar tempos that will sustain you during the tough parts and finally end your run with some mellow songs that will calm the mind as well as the body.

Pre Training

Before starting a rigid training schedule, you must be able to meet certain physical requirements that are necessary to get you to the next level of training. First and foremost, you will want to consult your doctor to make sure it will be safe for you to run long distances, especially if you are over the ages of 35-40.

Next, you should already be running about three times a week, with weekday runs averaging about 30 minutes and longer weekend runs coming in at about 3 miles. Its important to remember that you may take walk breaks throughout your run if necessary. Once you have a good foundation to start with, it’s time to start training!

Finally, don’t forget to stretch before your runs. This will help prevent injury and get you warmed up for you run.


You’ve got the gear. You’re walk/running three times a week. Now on to the training. The following 12-week training schedule will get you ready to chew up and spit out those 13.1 miles.

Week 1off3 miles3 miles3 milesoff3 miles4 miles
Week 2off3 miles4 miles3 milesoff3 miles4 miles
Week 3off3 miles4 miles3 milesoff3 miles5 miles
Week 4off3 miles5 miles3 milesoff4 miles6 miles
Week 5off4 miles5 miles4 milesoff3 miles7 miles
Week 6off4 miles4 miles4 milesoff4 miles8 miles
Week 7off4 miles6 miles4 milesoff4 miles9 miles
Week 8off4 miles6 miles4 milesoff4 miles10 miles
Week 9off4 miles6 miles4 milesoff3 miles11 miles
Week 10off4 miles5 miles4 milesoff4 miles12 miles
Week 11off4 miles5 miles4 milesoff3 miles6 miles
Week 12off3 miles5 miles3 milesoff2 miles13.1 miles!

Things to Remember

  • Don’t forget your rest days! If you’re following this or any other half marathon training schedule, make sure to incorporate two full rest days into it. This will give your joints enough time to rest. It may even be helpful to taper off a bit near the end of your training in order to let your body recover fully for the actual race day.
  • Pace yourself. When the starter’s pistol goes off, you and everyone else will be hopped up on adrenaline. Don’t forget that long-distance running is all about endurance. Don’t forget to maintain a consistent pace so you can finish in a big way.

There you have it. We’ve covered everything from your kicks to your jams to your training schedule. Make sure to give yourself ample time to prepare for the half marathon. If it’s coming up soon and you have never run a mile in your life, wait for next year – you don’t want to overdo it. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor first, and good luck out there.