Your First Half-Marathon – A Detailed 20-Week Training Plan

Posted by on Feb 10, 2011 in Fitness | 6 comments


You’ve been running for a while, and still enjoy it, but maybe it’s getting just a little bit boring? What you need is a goal to work towards, like a half-marathon.

The half-marathon is a long enough race that it’s important to go into it properly prepared. Without proper conditioning, your race experience may be a painful one, and that pain may last for days after the race. Consider, for the moment, that during a two-hour half-marathon, you are going to be taking over 20,000 steps. That’s over 10,000 times that you’re going to be lifting your right leg, driving it forward, and taking the next stride. It’s a lot to ask from unconditioned hip flexors. Shoulders, core, and, of course, heart and lungs, all need to be trained for the upcoming event.

Training components

1) tempo runs – medium-distance, sustained-pace run. These workouts “improve your lactate threshold pace.”

2) speed work

  • short intervals – run 400m, then cool down by walking 2 minutes; repeat. Intervals “improve our anaerobic capacity”, as well as promoting muscle development, and building speed.
  • hills – find a hill, roughly 5% grade, and mark out a 400m length on the hill; starting at the bottom, run up at a pace you can barely maintain from bottom to top, then cool down by jogging slowly to the bottom; repeat. Hill training “improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, expands stride length, develops your cardiovascular system, enhances your running economy and can even protect your leg muscles against soreness.”
  • Yasso 800 – run 800m, then cool down by jogging for the same number of minutes; repeat. Yasso 800s have the same benefits as shorter intervals, as well as improving the ability to buffer lactic acid.

3) relaxed run – medium-distance, relaxed-pace run. These are ‘recovery’ runs – they provide additional aerobic conditioning, and keep the muscles loose, without causing fatigue.

4) distance run – long distance, relaxed-place run. This is where you build your endurance.

Don’t neglect stretching – all that running can lead to seriously tight neck, shoulders, lower-back, and hips!

Format each week

Monday – rest day
Tuesday – Tempo training
Wednesday – Rest day
Thursday – Speed work
Friday – Relaxed run
Saturday – Rest day
Sunday – Distance run

Continue on to page two for the Half-marathon training schedule.

Note: before entering into an intense running training program, you should consult with your doctor.


  1. Good training plan. Too many people fail to incorporate any kind of speed or interval training into their half marathon plans and are therefore missing out on the V02 max benefits that these kind of sessions have.

    • Agreed! My first few half-marathons I just focused on doing longer and longer training runs. When I added speed/hill/interval training, I found I started speeding up quite dramatically – and I could maintain those faster speeds for longer!

  2. This is rubbish. It suggests beginning training at the speed you want to run the half marathon at. How crazy does that sound?

    • Thanks for the feedback, dec 🙂

      In fact, if you were to read the training plan carefully, you would notice that it has four components – tempo runs, speed work, relaxed runs, and long distance runs.

      Speed work is at faster-than-race-pace, but for very short distances.
      Tempo runs are at race-pace, but start out at only 3km, and gradually increase in distance.
      Relaxed runs and long distance runs are both slower than race-pace.

      I don’t suggest that you start your training by going out and running a brisk 20km at race-pace.

  3. Just what I was looking for, a nice build up for someone who is past the beginner running stage. I was wondering, though, about running 20km one week before the race. Do you think it is too much?

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