How to train for a half marathon
How to train for a half marathon
A half marathon (or a half-marathon, as some people like to call it!) is a running event that’s exactly half the distance of a marathon: 21.0975 kilometers or 13 miles 192.5 yards.
It’s a distance that’s achievable for most runners – if you can run a 10k, you can definitely prepare for a half marathon – but still remains a challenging one, requiring a good training program and steady commitment. Many runners use it as a stepping stone towards longer distances, while others see it as an end goal and simply work on improving their personal best.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts of training is staying consistent and holding yourself accountable. To achieve this, you need to develop a weekly running routine and get used to lacing up for a run two, three, or more times a week – plus, you can also sign up for a half marathon race: Having a specific deadline can really help you stay on track.
Here are some strategies that can help you prepare for your race:
- Add your running sessions in your calendar to integrate them into your daily routine
- Track progress to stay motivated and see how far you’ve come
- Make your training social by sharing your goals with close friends or family, joining a community of runners, or running with people you know
The best way to do all this is to use a dedicated running app like Runna to create a personalized half marathon running plan that sets out all sessions for you and adjusts your mileage to your goals.
Half marathon cross-training and strength training
Adding cross-training and strength training to your half-marathon running plan helps you achieve two things: reduce injury risk and improve your performance.
Cross-training can add variety to your half marathon training and keep things interesting. There are plenty of options to choose from – cycling, elliptical, rowing, or swimming are just a few – but ultimately, what’s most important is to pick something you enjoy. This will also help you stay in shape if you get injured and get back on track quickly.
Strength training is also a great way to complement your half marathon preparation. It enables you to enhance your performance and improve your running economy by 8-12%, making those 13.1 miles a lot more manageable. Plus, it helps protect against injuries.
In fact, while running a half-marathon, your calf muscles can take up to 11 times your bodyweight in force, and your quads up to 4 times. The best way to manage those loads is to condition your body with strength training; otherwise, when your muscles start getting tired, other muscle groups such as your skeletal system will need to compensate and absorb those loads, which might lead to potential injuries.
With Runna, you can balance your half marathon training with a fully customized strength and conditioning plan, which fits seamlessly with your running workouts. This plan will be adapted to your strength level, desired weekly workout frequency, and the equipment you have available.
Types of runs for half marathon training: speed work, long runs, easy runs
To prepare for a half-marathon, you need to vary your workouts and incorporate different types of runs to your regimen.
To run faster, you need to practice running at faster speeds by incorporating the following into your training plan:
- Interval sessions: Run faster for shorter periods and walk in between those. This way, your body adapts to running at faster speeds and your overall running pace will improve.
- Tempo sessions: In a tempo session, you run slightly above your usual pace but for longer stretches and jog between sections. This helps build up your tolerance for running at faster speeds for longer and improve your speed endurance, which is essential for a successful half marathon training.
With a half-marathon, it’s essential to improve your overall endurance by incorporating longer runs into your running program.
Work your way up to around 75-80% of that half marathon distance in the last few weeks of your training program. Like this, you’ll give your body enough time to get familiar with running for longer distances. To further optimize your half marathon performance and build your overall fitness, you also need to incorporate speed work within these longer sessions.
Easy runs are often neglected, but in fact they should be the cornerstone of every runner’s program. Running slowly if you’re trying to increase your speed is counterintuitive, however it actually helps you prepare for your half marathon more efficiently. Fast runs are very taxing on your body and require longer recovery times – not to mention the fact that they might increase the risk of injury.
Easy runs help you build strength and endurance but also feel fresher for more intense sessions.
Use the 80/20 rule when preparing for your next half marathon: Spend 80% of your time doing easy runs and only 20% training at or above threshold pace.
As featured in
Half marathon recovery: sleep, mobility work, sports massages
To help your body adapt to your half marathon training program and recover properly, there are some essential things you should be doing:
- Sleep enough: Sleep is critical for recovery. Aim for consistent 8-hours nights, every night.
- Don’t forget mobility work: Incorporate mobility work into your training, such as pilates, yoga or simply stretching.
- Do sports massages: Sports massages can also help with recovery. You can even use at-home massage tools such as massage guns or a foam roller.
- Be flexible: Listen to your body throughout your half marathon training and be flexible whenever needed. Don’t hesitate to take an extra rest day or move around your weekly training sessions.
Half marathon gear: shoes, clothing, and more
The gear you use during training and on race day is a key component to your comfort and performance. Here are some important considerations to make:
- Shoes: Investing in a good pair of shoes will help protect your body from the impact with the ground and make your half marathon training more comfortable. Go to a specialized shoe shop that has a treadmill in-store, so that you can test a few pairs and find the best fit.
- Clothing: Get high-quality performance fabrics that’ll keep you dry and comfortable during your run, such as polyester or nylon. Cotton retains moisture and can cause chafing, so it’s best avoided.
- Running watch or GPS tracker: Using the GPS tracker of your phone or a running watch like Garmin or COROS can help you keep an eye on your pace and the distance you’ve run, both during training and on race day. Runna integrates with Garmin, Apple Watch, Coros, and Strava to help you get most of your training plan.
- Accessories: You might also consider hydration gear and a running belt or armband to carry your phone, keys, and other essentials.
- Sun protection: Use high-SPF sunscreen, even on cloudy days.