December 24, 2017

A First Timer's Half-Marathon Training Plan (for new runners)

I've written a few different half-marathon training plans--one for walkers who want to walk a half-marathon; one for the very beginner, a non-runner who wants to run a half-marathon in six months; and one for experienced runners who want to finish feeling strong.

It's about time I wrote one for the average novice runner who perhaps wants to step up their game and run a half-marathon. Maybe you just finished your first 5K, and you're feeling that runner's high that gets ahold of all of us at some point--you get a little crazy and sign up for several more races after having a couple glasses of wine and announcing it all over Facebook.

(Oh, is that just me?)

This plan is for you. If you can run 3-4 miles at a time, 3-4 days per week, then you can complete this plan and run 13.1 miles 13 weeks from now.

First Timer's Half-Marathon Training Plan PDF

Or maybe you're not a beginner, but you just want a simple, minimal training plan.

This is not an intense, rigorous training schedule. It has four runs per week--two very easy runs, one speed work run (either intervals or tempo), and one long run. The speed work is optional--if you don't care about your speed at all, then you could simply run 30-45 minutes at an easy pace instead.

There are three "step-back" weeks--weeks where the mileage and/or intensity is decreased to allow your body a chance to recover a bit before picking it up again the following week.

The long run builds up to 12 miles before the taper, and then you'll be ready to run 13.1!

I am always stressing the importance of running the easy runs at a truly EASY pace, so I highly recommend--no, I insist--that you read my post called The Importance of the Easy Run. Easy runs are what build up endurance, and the endurance is what will keep you going for 13.1 miles. If you run your easy runs too fast, you will not be conditioning your body in the ideal way necessary to run long distances. So please read it!

In addition to that post, here are a few more that may be helpful for first timers:

50 Tips for Running
All About Fueling for Runs
Tips for Running (and Training for) Your First Half-Marathon
My Favorite Running Stuff (clothes, gear, etc.)

I welcome feedback about my training plans--good or bad--so please let me know how it goes for you! Best wishes as you train for your first half :)


  1. HI Katie,
    I'm going to start this training plan tomorrow! Eek! I am going to be on the treadmill, and I want to know what percent of maximim heart rate should you be at for easy, tempo, hard and walk paces. If you could please answer that for me, it would be most helpful. Thank you!

    1. While it's important to keep your heart rate low during easy runs (it should stay at no more than 180 minus your age), your heart rate during the speed work doesn't really make a difference, as long as you're working harder than normal. You can use the perceived effort scale to get the correct "zone"--tempo runs should be roughly a 6 on a scale of 1-10, hard effort should be a 9, and walking should be the same as easy runs--lower than 180 minus your age, but the goal is to lower it to recover for the next hard segment. Hope this helps. Good luck with training!

  2. Katie,

    Do you typically do any strength training during your half or full marathon training? Thank you!

    1. Personally, I do not... but that doesn't mean other people shouldn't! ;) I just have never been able to get in the routine of strength training, so I don't do it.

    2. Thank you for the response! I was also wondering about the length of the midweek runs. I've noticed in researching plans that the length of the midweek run gets up to about 5 miles and stays there from about week 6 onward. Can you explain your thoughts on why your plan is slightly less? To be honest, I'm thrilled about it, as I think I will struggle with staying consistent during the week. I'm actually really excited to get started, even with all the snow we're currently getting in Iowa. Your plan actually makes me believe I can do this! Thank you for any insight!

    3. No problem! Since the plan is for first timers, my goal is to get them to the finish line feeling good and not hating running ;) So, as long as you aren't skipping any of the workouts, you'll be doing enough to complete the race. I wanted to write a plan that would keep people from getting burnt out and quit training--so I hope that works out for you!

  3. Hi, Katie! I'm doing your plan in 2022!
    OCD question, though... do you have a schedule that ends with race day being on a Saturday? (I'm rolling my eyes at myself!)

    1. Hahaha! Since most longer-distance races are on Sundays, I just usually have them end on a Sunday. But to modify this half-marathon plan, you can just skip the 3-mile run on Friday (use it as a rest day) and then run the half on Saturday. It'll be just fine! :)


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