This article is about how to prepare for a marathon using a half marathon training plan.
“Today’s run was horrible. I could barely finish it.”
“I need to catch up on my long runs this week.”
“It is time for a speed workout, but I am too busy with work”.
OK- now imagine one of your training partners (or friends) saying those words after each and every workout. You might feel like you are alone in the struggle. How do we push ourselves beyond what we think we can do? How do we overcome our own struggles and challenges? How do we learn to run pain free, injury free and achieve peak race performance?
Man (and women)- these questions hit home with me as well! And that is why I absolutely love having a plan I can follow through! I am asking you- how do YOU push yourself?
This question is even more relevant when it comes to running, because there are no two runners alike! One runner trains with a strict plan and reaches certain milestones mentally and physically by achieving specific race day results.
Another runner might train on feel alone, which is great for learning your body’s limits first hand. Then again, that type of approach might lead to overtraining or injury if not done correctly.
Would it be safe to say than an ideal situation would include some planning (even if it is just knowing what pace group you fall into), but also honoring what you body is telling you on given training day? If so, then I have some great news for you!
Is Running a Marathon Hard?
First things first, let’s talk about the marathon itself. Yes, it is a long race- 26.2 miles to be exact! But trust me, you can do this! People run marathons every day and they make their bodies stronger and healthier through training and patience (sound familiar?)
It may take months of preparation and hard work (it definitely will if you want to achieve your best time), but no matter what- YOU CAN DO IT! If I can do it as an overweight teenager with asthma who couldn’t pass the Presidential Physical Fitness Test at school; then anyone can do it!
It all comes down to taking care of yourself one step at a time: that means getting rest when you need to, eating right food, staying hydrated… you know the drill! If I can do it, than so can you!
Why Prepare with a Half Marathon Training Plan?
Preparation for any race is extremely important. Whether you are preparing to race an ultramarathon or your first 5k- training is crucial! The great thing about running is that anyone has the ability to do it at any time and find success with a few simple guidelines: train consistently, challenge yourself, don’t overtrain and keep running fun.
While there may be many roads leading to Rome when it comes to making progress as a runner- some sort of plan/goal may definitely help. It does not have to be set in stone- some flexibility will benefit you as well, but a road map will help you reach your goals.
So why should you consider preparing for a half marathon with a training plan? There are several reasons:
1) You have been running consistently and have built up enough endurance to push yourself further
2) You crave having a structure/goal that will motivate you throughout the process of achieving it
3) The idea of following a training schedule for 16-21 weeks does not sound so bad because it takes away the guess work and helps you stay focused on the big picture (a PR!).
If this is your first half marathon- I promise there is no need to worry about trying to set any records! In fact, my best advice would be to treat it as if it were your first race. You will learn so much about yourself through the training process and it will be something you will never forget!
4) Your priorities are shifting this year- instead of focusing on just one big marathon, you want to get in some good runs throughout the spring/summer leading up to a half or full marathon in the fall/winter. Training for two races is always an option if that works better for you!
I am not saying there is only one way of doing things- quite the contrary actually! There are many different training plans out there but I did my research (trial and error) and picked what worked best for me when I decided to make running my passion years ago ( finishing grad school).
While I do not follow the program I designed for myself anymore, it taught me so many lessons and helped me grow as an athlete. Because of this- I want to share my training plan with you!
The Half Marathon Training Plan
This is mainly meant to help you get started on your journey if you are just getting into running or perhaps looking for a new approach. Keep in mind that everyone is different but this plan will give beginners what they need to improve their endurance/speed over time.
Please note: This training plan should be treated as a rough outline, NOT set in stone. You may need to make minor adjustments (for example switching days around) based on how often you train each week or what your schedule looks like (a holiday a few weeks out, a big work project due etc.).
Just remember to take into account how many days per week you have been running and whether or not your schedule allows for a certain day of the week to be an easier day.
Monday: 3 miles easy (low end/mid range effort)
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 4 miles easy (progress from mid range to low end if possible)
This is where you get started with consistent training! I always start off on a Monday because it is out of the way and provides a fresh start for a week of working towards a goal. Don’t worry about trying to run fast on this day especially if this is your first time running. The most important thing is that you get out there and do it!
Tuesdays are usually a brisk walk or easy pace run for an average of 30 minutes. This will gradually increase in length as the weeks go by- aim to work up to 45 minutes before continuing on with the schedule. Wednesdays are your speed workout days which can be completed in any way possible (track, hills, tempo etc.).
Aim for 1-4 miles worth of intervals at an effort level that is 5-10 notches higher than comfortable. I would not recommend running more than 4 miles worth of intervals per day because this tends to be too much stress on your muscles/joints when starting out especially if you are new to running altogether.
If you are not sure how to complete speed workouts/intervals, please check out my post on speedwork. Thursday is your rest day! I like to take Friday’s off as well (although after many years of training I now do 3 easy miles, 20 minutes of strength training , and some yoga ) because it allows for muscle repair before the weekend.
Saturday is time for another outing- aim for 3-5 miles at an effort level that is just below what you would consider “redlining.” If this feels too difficult towards the beginning then don’t sweat it. Less than 50% of runners run under their potential in their first few months so keep trucking along and you’ll find yourself flying up that pace soon enough! Sunday should be another rest day to allow your muscles to recover.
Monday: 4 miles easy (Nearing the end of training- focus on mileage, not speed)
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 7 miles at an average pace that is just below what you would consider “red lining.” This means running faster than comfortable for this day only because it is supposed to feel a little difficult. If this workout feels too difficult then push the pace back until you find something that is manageable with little stress but still challenges you.
You can also split this workout into two separate runs if necessary (for example one long run in the morning and one in the evening when your legs are fresh). Sunday be another rest day to allow your muscles to recover.
*Even though the training plan only calls for 4 days of running per week, I always encourage runners to run 5-6 days per week if they can manage it. This will help with recovery time and overall endurance/speed!
While there is no “magic bullet” workout that you must complete each week, try to include some type of speedwork (intervals) at least every other week and a long run at least once a month on the weekends.
*After months of training consistently, you may notice your short speed workouts get easier but longer runs feel more difficult- this means you’re doing something right! As runners become more advanced their body reacts differently than beginning runners so focus on increasing your weekly mileage instead and the speed workouts will eventually show some progress.
*If you are new to running, please consult your doctor before beginning this training schedule. It is always smart to push yourself on the weekends but take it easy during the week especially if you are not used to running more than 3-4 times per week!
Always make sure you are listening to your body on rest days as well because it needs time to recover from all of that mileage! I hope you enjoyed the post and good luck with completing your first 5k or half marathon!
*As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the training schedule or if you are interested in coaching! I will be holding an online running clinic soon so stay tuned for more details!
What is the Best Marathon Training plan?
There is no one-size-fits-all training plan that guarantees you a Boston Qualifying time so it takes some experimenting to find your perfect schedule. The temperate in most parts of the country fluctuates at either end of the spectrum which can make training difficult because heating or cooling equipment are not always readily available!
For example, yesterday was 75 degrees Fahrenheit but today it dropped down to 50 degrees…is this considered “bad” weather? Not necessarily. But if your body is not used to running races in cold weather then you should expect to run slower times compared with when its 80 degrees FD .
How does Weather Affect my Training Plan?
The best marathon training plan for beginners should be based on mileage AND intensity, not just on mileage.
For example, if your plan has you running 10 miles tomorrow and 8 of those miles are supposed to be at an easy pace (8:XX min/mile), but its supposed to be 65 degrees FD, then some speedwork (intervals) would be smart for you today to make up some time since it’s probably way too hot for an easy long run right now!
*Weather is not just important for training runs but races as well. If the forecast calls for rain on race day then forget about that PR because it can be incredibly dangerous- especially if there isn’t any place that provides shelter along the course.
Unless you enjoy running in snow or subzero temperatures, I wouldn’t try a marathon in below freezing temperatures either. It will be too difficult to stay warm and if you start shivering it’s a sign that you are going into hypothermia which is dangerous!
Race organizers will sometimes offer jackets along the course or they may recommend wearing extra layers to keep your body warm, but there always needs to be a contingency plan in case runners get cold- especially toward the end of the race when their bodies are fatigued from running for over 2 hours.
It’s very important to know what your body can handle, how much rest it needs, and how much training you need/want to do before attempting long runs at marathon pace- this takes time so don’t rush anything.
When it comes down to it training plans should never pose an injury risk to the runner. For example, if you are working with a coach or training plan that has you running 7 days/week- this already poses an injury risk because your muscles need time to recover!
Having said all of that it’s also important to know what pace your body can comfortably hold for long periods of time which will help you determine what type of marathon training schedule would be best for you.
You may want to run 1-2 really long runs per week at 8minute mile pace and then do 2-4 shorter workouts (typically 30 minutes) each week like tempo runs and intervals (refer back to Week 1 in my previous post on 5k Training).
Or maybe you can run 3 times/week max and that’s your body’s limit so you should focus on doing quality workouts twice per week while running at an easy pace for 6 miles the other day.
Or maybe your schedule allows for more days of training but you’ll need to lower the intensity by increasing the amount of time spent running at an easy pace.
It all depends on what you can handle and how much time/energy you have because marathon training is no joke! Take every precaution you can think of even if that means cutting out some activities like weight lifting or yoga- it’s worth it because not only will this help prevent injury, but it will also improve your overall mental health which is important for marathon runners .
If you want to get the most out of your body then you have to treat it with respect and give it time to recover through proper nutrition, rest, and hydration.