Beginner's Guide to Half Marathon Training

Springtime is the BEST time of year to begin a new training program. It is the season of new beginnings, fresh starts, and not to mention fabulous running temperatures. If you are anything like me, 50-60 degrees is the optimal running temperature. There is NOTHING I love more (exercise wise), than increasing my training plan in the spring, which is why I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog post to spring half-marathon training.

I have received several questions and DM’s from women asking me questions about running. Many are new to running and would like a “beginner’s guide” to their first half-marathon. Having been there myself and experienced some major pitfalls, I thought I would pass along some wisdom, while providing a super easy training plan that anyone with a little motivation and a goal could follow. However, before I begin, let me say this. I am not a trainer nor a coach. I have read many books, blog posts, articles, but really…I learned from fellow runners and through trial and error. I have run more races than I can count. I have trained REALLY hard and taken time off. I run often but I never have considered myself a “runner” (not sure why). I know what works for me and with enough practice and the right training; you will learn what works for you too. That said, before you begin this or any training plan, please consult with your physician.

Half marathon training guide

Ok, let us begin. First and foremost, it is not a sprint; it is a marathon (half-marathon). If you have never run 13.2 miles in a single session, then check your ego at the door and do not be overly confident. “Running” fitness is completely different from “general” fitness. If you go out too hard, too fast, it will be a recipe for disaster and you will likely end up with injuries that take months to heal, thus squashing your half-marathon goals. I say this because I am the stupid woman who thought running was going to be easy because I was an “athlete” my entire life. Instead of easing into my training program, I busted out of the gate like freaking Seabiscuit...too many miles WAY TOO FAST. Which within weeks, landed me with serious IT band and knee issues, not to mention the terrible shin splints, which prevented me from running. I literally could not run because of these injuries. Boy…running looked right at me and handed me a fist full of humble pie. Moral of the story, slow and steady wins the race. Trust me.

half marathon training with a partner

To start, you do need base miles under your belt. You should be consistently running 8 to 10 miles per week. It can be a strong 10 miles or a walk-run for 10 miles in a week. It does not matter, but you do need base mileage to effectively hit the ground running.

A “Plan” Makes Perfect

There are many training programs out there, all run and rest on different days. However, I prefer the Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday routine with rest on Wednesday and Sunday. Feel free to adjust to whatever works for your schedule; however, I do recommend your long-run take place on the weekend, but again, adjust where you need to, but keep to a schedule. Trust me, it will be your saving grace!

  • Monday – Easy (EZ) run or cross-training (CT) day. After a long run on the weekend, take advantage of active recovery with an easy, non-interval run.
  • Tuesday – This is the day where you will begin building your base mileage. For more advanced runners, I suggest that Tuesday be your dedicated interval day. Rotating from 400’s, 800’s, 1600’s, and then 2 mile tempo. For beginners, I suggest Tuesdays be your “race pace”. Faster than your Monday recovery run, maybe 10-15 seconds faster. Example; instead of an average of 9:30, try an average of 9:15.
  • Wednesday – Rest with some CT based on the schedule
  • Thursday – Focus on mileage not speed. Reserve speed for Tuesday allowing your body the week to recover.
  • Friday – Rest or CT based on the schedule
  • Saturday – This will soon be your long-run day. Miles will slowly progress each week until you have reached 12 miles in week 10. The key to successful long runs are three things:
    1. Pre-fuel with complex carbohydrates 2 hours before your run
    2. Hydration & simple carbohydrates (I prefer Stinger Gel) during activity
    3. Post-run protein and simple carbohydrates and continued hydration

    The Schedule

    Week

    Mon

    Tues

    Wed

    Thurs

    Fri

    Sat

    Sun

    1

    20 to 30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    2 miles

    Rest

    2.5 miles

    Rest

    3 miles

    Rest

    2

    20 to 30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    2 miles

    Rest

    3 miles

    CT or Rest

    4 miles

    Rest

    3

    20 to 30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    2.5 miles

    CT

    3 miles

    Rest

    5 miles

    Rest

    4

    20 to 30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    3 miles

    CT

    4 miles

    Rest

    6 miles

    Rest

    5

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    3 miles

    CT

    3 miles

    Rest

    7 miles

    Rest

    6

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    4 miles

    CT

    4 miles

    Rest

    8 miles

    Rest

    7

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    4 miles

    Rest

    4 miles

    CT

    9 miles

    Rest

    8

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    4 miles

    CT

    3 miles

    Rest

    10 miles

    Rest

    9

    Rest

    5 miles

    CT

    4 miles

    Rest

    11 miles

    Rest

    10

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    4 miles

    Rest

    3 miles

    CT

    12 miles

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    11

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    CT

    Rest

    3 miles

    CT

    5 miles

    Rest

    12

    30 minutes EZ run or cross-train

    2 miles

    20 minutes

    Rest

    20 minutes

    Race Day

    Rest Day


    Running Gear

    Through trial and error, I eventually found my running favorites when it comes to my running gear. Below are my favorites. I suggest you go to a running store and get professionally fit. They will evaluate everything about your foot, stride, and gate and will recommend the perfect fitting shoe and insoles. It is an investment, but it is worth it in the end because you definitely get what you pay for where shoes are concerned.

    Shoes: I am a ride-or-die Mizuno fan. Over the years, I have worn several models from Wave Rider to Wave Inspire 14. Once I find a version that I love, I will buy multiples, as you should only wear them 300 to 500 miles. Essentially, if you are running 15 miles per week, you should replace your running shoes every five to six months.

    Mizuno Running Shoes - Wave Inspire 14 and Wave Rider 22

    Socks: One word – wicking! As with my shoes, I am a die-hard Balega sock fan. They wick, they cushion, they DO NOT ride down, and I have NEVER had a blister. I highly recommend the Balega Hidden Comfort style. They come in 12 colors and are a bit pricey at $13.00 a pair; however, they wear like iron. I purchase six pairs at a time so that I have enough for the entire week and one spare (just in case I slack on laundry day). I have not replaced a single pair in over a year.

    Balega Hidden Comfort Running Socks

    Watch: I am partial to Garmin watches and I have owned three separate models. The very first one I purchased for around $100 and that watch lasted me for three years until I upgraded. My current watch is the Garmin Forerunner 930, which is a triathlon (multi-sport) watch. Garmin has upgraded my version, with the current being Forerunner 935. You absolutely do not need to invest in a $700 watch. They have several GPS Forerunners that start at $169 new. However, .I would recommend searching your local classifieds for a used version until you REALLY want to invest in a high-tech device.

    Garmin Running Watches with GPS

    Sports bra: Find something that is supportive yet is not constricting around the rib cage. I personally am small chested (32A), so a light to medium support works for me. My favorites include the Fire Bralette, Half-Moon Bra, Heart Bra from Trinity Clothing, as well as the Energy Bra from Lululemon. Each of these bras wick sweat, do not constrict my rib cage (thus…my breathing), and are supportive for the toughest of runs. If you have a larger chest and need more support, I suggest the Enlite Bra or To The Beat Bra

    Fitness bra Tops

    Leggings: On colder spring days, I swear by three leggings. High-Rise Basic Midi (reflective print), The Fire Leggings and Energy Legging. If you often head out for runs at dusk or in the dark, then you will ADORE the reflective leggings. These are fabulous as the entire pattern is reflective!

    Fitness leggings good for running

    Shorts: I will keep this one short and sweet because there is only one short that works for me and that is the Speed Short 2.5” by Lululemon. They update this every year and have launched The Speed Up Short 2.5” and 4”. These are good too, but I’m partial to the Speed Short 2.5”

    Lululemon Speed Short

     Celebrate Your Accomplishment!

    Now that you have successfully trained and completed your first half-marathon, sit back and celebrate. This is a HUGE accomplishment. I remember the first time I crossed that finish line, I was exhausted beyond belief, my body ached, and I was overwhelmed with joy. I cried like a baby and am unapologetic for it. I could not believe that I outlined a plan, stuck to the schedule, and completed my first half-marathon. This WILL BE YOU! You are unstoppable and you can do anything you set your mind to. Celebrate your accomplishments, big and small and continue on your running journey. I would LOVE to hear what worked for you and most importantly, your achievements. Leave me a comment below!

    #beunstoppable

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