Your Half Marathon Training Plan
Page last updated: 19th January 2023
So you've signed up for a half marathon - congratulations! Whether you're doing it to raise money for charity or simply want to challenge yourself, running a half marathon is a great cause, but one that needs some serious preparation for!
Depending on your current running level, running 13 miles in one go can seem daunting but with a good plan in place and some determination, it's doable. And you can have fun along the way!
In this blog, we've answered some of your most popular questions about half marathon training plans. We've also teamed up with Run Coach and Personal Trainer Ian Scarrott to provide three 16 week half marathon training plans for free, which you can jump straight to here: beginner half marathon plan, intermediate half marathon plan, advanced half marathon training plan.
Half Marathon Q&As
- What is a half marathon?
- Why do I need to train for a half marathon?
- Can a total beginner run half a marathon?
- Why is a plan important for event training?
- How long should my training plan take?
- What is the best training plan for a half marathon?
- Free PureGym Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan
- Free PureGym Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan
- Free PureGym Advanced Half Marathon Training Plan
What is a half marathon?
A half marathon is a road running race or event that covers 13.1 miles or 21 kilometres - as the name implies, it’s exactly half of a full marathon. For anyone preparing to run a full marathon, a half marathon is usually a good starting point, whether that’s forming part of your training, or the first challenge you set yourself on the journey to a longer run. These events take place all over the country in most major towns and cities, or you can even plan your own independent half marathon to complete by yourself.
Why do I need to train for a half marathon?
13.1 miles is a considerable distance to walk in one go, let alone run. While there may be a few people who can manage this without training, it's unlikely most people can run this distance without physically and mentally preparing for it. Running a half marathon without training puts you at a much bigger risk of injury, if you are able to complete it.
For complete beginners, training will allow you to run this distance without pushing yourself too hard or causing an injury. And even seasoned runners can benefit from training for a half marathon to make sure your body is prepared to run for around 2 hours in one go. If you have goal times in mind, training is definitely needed.
Can a total beginner run half a marathon?
With the right training, almost everyone can run a half marathon - even total beginners. If you're completely new to running, allow a minimum of 24 weeks to train, ideally more as this gives you more flexibility to take things slower if needed. Our beginner half marathon training plan is 16 weeks and assumes you are able to run for around 30-45 minutes in one go, so if you're completely new, we'd recommend running an eight week 5K training plan first.
If you are new to running and do want to run a half marathon, following a plan is the best way to ensure you'll be ready for the big day. Signing up for some 5k and 10k races on the way (you could even try virtual races!) is a great way to keep motivated and stay on track with your goal, plus it gives you an idea of how to prepare for a race.
Why is a plan important for half marathon training?
Preparing for long distance runs requires a mix of easy runs, intervals, and distance runs, and these need to be structured in a way that prevents over training and under training to ensure you are physically ready to run 13 miles by the event date, with minimal risk of injury.
While it is possible to create your own training plan, it can be difficult to make sure it's effective without a lot of long distance running experience. Working with a run coach or using an online plan is easier, and means you can focus on just the running element.
How long should my half marathon training plan take me?
The length of time you'll need to train for a half marathon depends on your current fitness levels. For a complete beginner with no running experience, around 24 weeks (5 months) is the minimum length of time you should allow, but 6 months is ideal as it allows for setbacks such as minor injuries, as well as wriggle room for rest breaks or holidays.
For those who can comfortable run 5K, 12-16 weeks should be enough time to build up to 13 miles, but again factoring in a couple of extra weeks will allow for additional rest breaks and plans that might get in the way from time to time. For experienced runners who want to really challenge themselves, 16 weeks is a good amount of time to allow you to safely increase speed and mileage without injuries.
No matter how long you decide to train over, it's important to factor in regular rest days each week - these are vital for allowing your body to recover and rebuild (learn more about why rest days are important with our guide). Listening to your body is also crucial to ensure you don't push yourself too hard. While challenging yourself each week is key to improving, doing too much too soon is more likely to cause an injury than improvement. If you feel any unexpected pains (beyond the usual post-workout DOMS), scale back or rest for a few days and see how you feel before diving back in.
Whether you follow our 16 week plans or another training plan, remember they are not set in stone so if you're struggling with one week, feel free to repeat it until you feel more confident to move on.
What is the best training plan for a half marathon?
You'll find a wide range of different training plans available, some which focus solely on building speed, some which are aimed at increasing distance, and some which include other elements to training like strength and mobility. Building strength and mobility is really important for runners; it helps to provide power and endurance for your runs, and also helps prevent injuries.
A good training plan should also slowly build up the time and distance you're running each week, with your longest run (usually around 12 miles) taking place a couple of weeks before your race. That gives your body time to recover before you run the full 13.1 miles on half marathon day.
There are other elements you may also want to consider, when shaping your plan. Key things to bear in mind that will affect how, when and where you train include:
- Terrain - think about where your half marathon will be taking place; will there be hills or is it likely to be flat? Whether on a treadmill or outside, you can reflect this in your training.
- Your objective - is it your intention to simply ‘get around’ the half marathon course? Do you want to finish without walking? Are you keen to run it in a sub-two hour time? Each of these objectives will require a different approach to training.
- Weather - what time of year will your half marathon take place? If, for example, it’s on a breezy seafront in February, you may want to include some outdoor training to ensure you’re ready for the differences the elements can make for your run.
Our free training plans cover all of these areas to provide a well rounded plan which will help you to achieve your best possible half marathon for your starting point. We've also included nutrition advice, and Q&As with Ian.
We've also included a ‘best workouts for half marathon training’ section below gives more information and advice on other types of workouts to include if you are following a different training plan.
Free 16 week half marathon training plans
Half Marathon Training Plan For Beginners
Our 16 week plan for beginners is designed for those who can comfortably run 5K. If you’re unable to run this far, check out our 5km running tips for advice, then come back here when you’re comfortable with that distance.
The plan includes everything you need to run a half marathon, including strength workouts, mobility sessions, and a mixture of runs to improve your distance and speed.
Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan
This plan is aimed at runners who have completed a half marathon previously, or close to this distance, and are ready to push themselves.
We've combined speed, endurance, and recovery runs with mobility and strength training to help you get your best half marathon yet.
Advanced Half Marathon Training Plan
This is a high level training programme designed for individuals who are well seasoned in running, have run several half marathons, and want to get their best time possible.
As the above plans, there is strength, mobility, speed, endurance, and easy runs in this plan.
The best gym workouts for half marathon training
In our training plans, we've included four sample strength training workouts to compliment your running, but if you'd prefer to create your own workouts, here are some tips to help.
- Include a mix of active and passive stretching. Stretching and mobility work helps to improve your range of motion, reduce stiffness, and can help prevent injuries. Before running, active or dynamic stretches can help to prepare your body for a run, and passive stretching after a run can help with recovery.
- Include conditioning work (cardio). Cardio is a great way to improve endurance and aerobic capacity, which will help with your running ability. By doing non running cardio activities, like cycling or using the crosstrainer, can improve your fitness without over training the muscles and tendons involved in running. As you get closer to the race, you'll want to reduce or stop this.
- Strength training. Strengthening your lower body muscles will help to improve your running speed and power, strengthen the joints and ligaments which can help to prevent injuries, and improve endurance. You should schedule your weight training for days you aren’t doing long runs as you’ll find adding weights to an already physically draining exercise day can risk over-stressing the body. Find out more about training with free weights or how to brave the weights room with our guides.
- Work the core and glutes. All round strength training is important, but the glutes and core are key when it comes to running. The glutes are an important source of power, while having a strong core helps with stability, posture, balance, and running speed.
Need to work on your leg strength, functional fitness or core for your next trail run? Why not book in a session with one of our Personal Trainers? From ultra trail challenges to shorter cross countries they can put together a plan to get you over the finish line. Or visit our online running hub for more inspiration.