How to Train for a Half Marathon

Running a marathon has been described as “every man’s Everest”. Even a half marathon is a truly significant challenge, that can seem impossible at times – but it can be beaten.

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Before you can consider how to train for a half marathon, you first have to think about why you are making this undertaking in the first place. 13.1 miles is a long way to run, but this is as nothing compared to the mental and physical distance you will have to cover in training. You will need every ounce of motivation at your disposal but you can succeed.

Allow enough time

You are at the starting line of your half marathon training. You have to be in this for the long haul, there are no shortcuts. Yes, there have been those who have successfully completed a half marathon with little or no specific training, but the likely outcome of trying something like that is failing to finish, or worse, injury.

How long does it take to train for a half marathon? This will vary greatly from person to person, but plans exist that have successfully taken many novices to half marathon condition in under six months. If you have your heart set on completing a distance running, pick one to enter that will allow you enough time for training. Remember that a typical plan for half marathon training doesn’t allow for holidays or illness disrupting you training, so allowing a little wiggle room is advisable.  

Consider working an event over a shorter distance into your training plan. Check the websites of sponsors to find a variety of running events throughout the country. These range from 5ks to half marathons. Doing a shorter race will help give you an intermediate goal, as well as giving you a chance to rehearse all the race day practicalities.

Terrible ‘Toos’

It is vital to take your time. It can be tempting to push yourself, but you have to avoid putting more stress on your body than it can absorb. When we train ourselves for long distance running we are making significant changes to our body to allow ourselves to do it. This cannot be rushed.

If you are running too much, too fast, too soon then you are risking doing yourself a mischief. Running puts enormous demands on bones, muscles and tendons. They must be strengthened but this takes time. Common running injuries include groin strain, runner’s toe, calf strain and ankle sprains.

It is very important to listen to your body. It is better to miss a training session than force yourself to run and make something worse. The golden rule is to never to run through pain and always to seek out qualified medical advice if you think something is wrong.

Fun runners taking part in the 2006 Bristol Half Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Of course the bulk of your training will be running. There are a number of different running workouts that training plans will have you doing. This is so that you don’t fall into the trap of doing ‘junk’ miles that these different workouts are included.

Some non-running work outs can be a part of half marathon training. Strength training with weights is favoured by some runners, and many training programs schedule regular ‘cross training’.

Madison Half Marathon 2000 (Photo credit: midwestnerd)

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