How to train for a half marathon

Essential tips for half marathon running training

The following half marathon training guide features essential advice for people wishing to run a half marathon and includes tips on the following: kick-starting your half marathon training, half marathon training tips and safe half marathon training protocols.

Training for a half marathon: Prepare for your half-marathon training  plan

You need to allow yourself plenty of time to get into half marathon shape. Completing 13.1 miles (21.08km) non-stop and under your own steam should not be taken lightly, so preparation is key. Everyone will be at a different level of fitness before they start training, and your rate of progression will vary considerably depending on your age, current and previous fitness levels, and available training time. 

Follow these guidelines when deciding how far in advance you need to begin your preparations:

  • If you’re new to running or exercise — the longer you train the better — but a minimum period of four months of running-specific training is essential.
  • If you’re already running or carrying out cardiovascular exercise — less than four months preparation is adequate. However, the longer your lead-in period is, though, the fitter you can get, and the easier your race will be. So training for more than four months is a good idea if you wish to record a PB time on race day.

Irrespective of whether you have a running background or not, you will be able to achieve your half marathon goal if you build up gradually within a sensible period of training time.

Before you begin training

Before you think about training, you should take a little time out to check a few safety considerations, because it is vitally important to ensure it’s safe for you to begin an exercise program. You can do this by simply completing the health status checklist below. If you answer YES to one or more questions — or if you are at all concerned about starting training — then make an appointment with your doctor for a check-up before you begin your training.

Training for a half marathon: Health status safety checklist

1. Are you aged over 30 and or or have not exercised for some time? Y/N
2. Do you suffer from any medical conditions? Y/N
3. Are you a smoker or have recently given up smoking? Y/N
4. Have you undergone any surgery in the past two years? Y/N
5. Are you suffering from any injuries? Y/N
6. Are you currently on any prescribed medication? Y/N
7. Are you unsure about beginning an exercise program? Y/N

Once you have the all-clear from your doctor and or or are confident that you are sufficiently healthy, you’ll be ready to begin your running training.

What gear do I need for running?

Running is one of the simplest and cheapest sports and you probably already own most of the gear you’ll need in order to start training. Sports shorts, casual t-shirts, sweatshirts and some sports socks are all you need to get you going. Over time you may wish to purchase more specialist gear, but initially you can get away with the minimum. However, one area where you should not skimp is when you’re buying your running shoes. Good training shoes are a long-term investment in terms of injury prevention and running comfort, and so it is worthwhile visiting a specialist retailer so that you make the right purchase for your particular gait and training requirements.

First steps into running

If you’ve never jogged seriously or been running before, or if you haven’t done any strenuous exercise for a long time, then you’ll need to ease yourself into training. Your body will take time to adjust to the new demands that you’ll be placing upon it, so start slowly and allow plenty of time for rest and for your body to adapt. Your target is to build up your fitness so that eventually you can comfortably run non-stop for at least 80 per cent of the race distance (10.5 miles or 16.9km) in training.


For great articles, tips and advice about all of your half marathon training needs, click here >


Moving up your running training plan

If you’re already doing some regular aerobic exercise (including brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming, rowing, cycling, going to aerobic exercise classes and using cardiovascular exercise machines at the gym), then you are likely to be relatively fit already and will progress faster. Ensure that you still factor in rest days and build up carefully. Eventually covering 80 per cent of the race distance non-stop in training should be your minimum target — but if you can run further than this in training, you will be better prepared and more likely to run a PB on race day. Make sure you get a good half marathon training plan to help you progress.

Eating and drinking during half marathon training

Fuelling your running and keeping correctly hydrated is as important as the training itself, so don’t neglect this area. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your fluid levels topped up, and make sure you carry a lightweight drinks bottle when running — particularly on hot days. For your nutrition, focus on slow release energy foods such as pasta and rice, which will ensure that you don’t run out of gas halfway through a training run.

Half marathon success

Preparing, training for and completing a half marathon involves a number of challenges — all of which are achievable for the majority of people — and will provide you with improved health and fitness along the way.

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