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Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan

Marathon
(Image credit: Unknown)

Target time: Sub-2hr 15min

Race pace: 10min 18sec/mile

This plan is for you if: You can run comfortably for at least 30 minutes.

This 16-week training plan is aimed at people who might be new to the half marathon, but are running already and want to complete the 13.1-mile (21.1km) distance in under 2hr 15min.

The plan has been designed by running coach and co-founder of Advent Running James Poole and involves running four or five times a week. Don’t be daunted if that seems like an awfully high number: the sessions are mostly easy runs and relatively short, and if you don’t feel up to completing that many you can sub in an extra rest day or a cross-training session like cycling or swimming for one of the easy runs on the plan.

However, if you can complete all the runs on the plan as prescribed you’ll be putting yourself in the best possible position to succeed on race day (in fact, we’d wager you’ll smash your expectations), and you’ll also build a running routine that will help make running a part of your life even after the event.

How The Plan Works

The plan follows four key phases. Within each phase there are three weeks of progression and one easier week to give your body chance to recover. The four phases are:

  • Base phase: This is the most important stage of your training as you’ll build an aerobic base and get into the habit of running regularly.
  • Build phase 1: In this stage you’ll work on endurance and start to increase the distance of your longer runs.
  • Build phase 2: Now you’ve got a solid base and can cover longer distances, it’s time to up the intensity with quicker runs to build aerobic endurance and speed.
  • Hone and taper: You’re on the home stretch and you’ll start to decrease distance and dial down the intensity so your legs are fresh for race day.

There are four different types of run – easy, steady, tempo and long – plus rest days. Each run has a specific purpose and should be completed at a different pace, detailed below. Make sure you warm up before and warm down after each run.

  • Easy run – 10min 30sec/mile: Designed to give you a good aerobic engine, these should be easy and enjoyable. You should be able to hold a conversation on an easy run, so they’re a good one to do with friends.
  • Steady run – 10min/mile: Harder than easy runs, steady runs should be similar to your half marathon pace. Steady runs leave you more fatigued than easy runs so they feature less in your training.
  • Tempo run – 9min 30sec/mile: These improve your aerobic endurance and speed, and should be run at a challenging pace – if you can hold a conversation then you’re going too slow. If you find you’re struggling to complete tempo runs at first, try alternating between five minutes at tempo pace and five minutes at easy pace.
  • Long run – 10min 30sec/mile: Long runs should be slower than race pace to minimise wear and tear on your body. These runs are a great opportunity to test your nutrition and clothing to make sure everything works on race day.
  • Rest: The best day of the week, rest is vital to give your body time to recover. Rest days on this plan are scheduled for Mondays, to give you a break after Sunday’s long run.

Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan

Base Phase

Week 1: 17 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday3 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday5 miles long

Week 2: 17 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday3 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday5 miles long

Week 3: 19.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday6 miles long

Week 4: 18.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday5 miles long

Build Phase 1

Week 5: 19.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday6 miles long

Week 6: 21.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday8 miles long

Week 7: 23.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday10 miles long

Week 8: 21 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday4.5 miles easy
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles easy
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday6 miles long

Build Phase 2

Week 9: 21.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles steady
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles steady
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday8 miles long

Week 10: 23.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles steady
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles steady
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday10 miles long

Week 11: 25.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles steady
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles steady
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday12 miles long

Week 12: 21.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles steady
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles steady
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday8 miles long

Hone and Taper

Week 13: 23.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles tempo
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles steady
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday10 miles long

Week 14: 21.5 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles tempo
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday4.5 miles steady
FridayRest
Saturday3 miles easy
Sunday8 miles long

Week 15: 15 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles tempo
Wednesday3 miles easy or cross training
Thursday3 miles steady
FridayRest
SaturdayRest
Sunday6 miles long

Week 16: 6 miles

MondayRest
Tuesday3 miles steady
WednesdayRest
Thursday3 miles steady
FridayRest
SaturdayRest
SundayRace

Charlotte Thomas is a freelance journalist and health and fitness blogger at Lunges & Lycra (opens in new tab).