Half marathon training plans for all runners and skill levels: Start strong, finish stronger

As seasoned runners ourselves, we understand the thrill of crossing the finish line, the satisfying burn of a workout well done, and the exhilaration that comes from constantly pushing your limits. With the right half marathon training plan, you can achieve all that – and more.

People running a half marathon in a park.

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.

Whether you're aiming to complete your first half marathon or hit a personal best, there are a myriad of factors to consider, which we’ll discuss in this guide, along with the different training plans you can use to prepare for your next race.

Our personalized half marathon training plans

One of the best things you can do to level up your running game is to follow a personalized half marathon training plan that takes into account your goals, current running speed, and schedule. 

A balanced half marathon plan will help you prepare for your race safely and efficiently, minimize the risk of injury and make you a better runner overall. 

With Runna, your running coaching app, you get a personalized half marathon training plan that:

  • Sets out all sessions for you
  • Automatically adjusts your mileage and types of runs to get the best results
  • Incorporates deloads and strength training
  • Helps you manage your recovery and nutrition

Having a plan will also help you stay on track and enable you to focus on improving your running game.

Whether you have signed up for an upcoming half marathon race or are just hoping to build a good base level of fitness, we have the right running plan for you. Pick the one that best suits your goals and level: 

Beginner’s half marathon training plan (5k to half marathon training plan)

With Runna, you can start training for a half marathon even if you’re a complete beginner or have only done 5k runs. 

Our personalized training plan will help you make the leap from a 5k to a half marathon in a safe and efficient way. It’ll focus on gradually building your endurance with the right mix of different types of runs. 

You’ll also get personalized strength training sessions and advice on pacing, nutrition, and recovery, helping you navigate your first 13.1-mile race with ease.

Intermediate half marathon training plan (5k to half marathon training plan)

If you've already run one or more 5k races and want to transition smoothly to a half-marathon, this plan is for you. 

Our intermediate plans include a slightly higher weekly mileage than the beginner plans, with more complex workouts to help you prepare for your race. 

Advanced half marathon training plan (10k to half marathon training plan)

If you’ve completed a number of 10Ks or even a few half-marathons and wish to optimize your training, then our advanced half marathon training plan is the perfect fit. 

You’ll start off with longer runs and higher weekly mileages to improve your speed, endurance, and race strategy. 

Elite half marathon training plan 

Ready to set a new personal best? Our elite half marathon plan is the perfect fit for all the seasoned runners out there. It features more intense workouts aimed at improving your speed and pace with long runs at a brisk pace and will help you unlock your full running potential.

Elite Plus half marathon training plan 

Our Elite Plus half-marathon training plan is the most advanced running program we have at Runna and is geared towards the most advanced runners out there, looking to set a personal best. 

It comes with a higher weekly mileage than the Elite plan and is aimed at improving your endurance, speed, and pace to help you unlock your full running potential. 

12 week half marathon training plan

When you train with Runna, you’ll have the option of choosing the length of plan that you’d like to follow. 

Ideal for most runners, this 12-week plan condenses all the essential training components – speed work, easy runs, tempo and interval training, strength training, and nutrition – to help you prepare for your race.

16 and 20 week half marathon training plans

If you’re training for longer and your next half-marathon race is 16 to 20 weeks away, you can build up your fitness with another goal in the middle, such as a 10k, or do a few extra weeks of our 8 and 12 week half-marathon training plans. 

This approach is ideal for runners who wish to take it a bit slower. 

Half marathon nutrition

Running is only one part of the equation. To get faster and stronger at your half marathon, you'll also need to take care of your nutrition, i.e. properly fuel your training and recovery and make healthy choices on a daily basis. 

To optimize your running performance, you need to: 

  • Keep your protein high to help with muscle recovery
  • Take on plenty of carbs before your tougher sessions to replenish your glycogen stores

If you’re looking to step up your speed or distance, you might want to give caffeine a try.

Race week nutrition

To replenish glycogen stores (glycogen is the energy stored in your muscles), in the week before your race, you need to increase the proportion of carbs in your diet, which is also known as carb-loading.

You don’t need to go overboard or significantly increase your total calorie intake. Simply aim to consume more complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and tubers (potatoes). Don’t forget about protein, too: it not only helps with muscle recovery but also slows down the digestion of carbs. 

Keep in mind that for every gram of glycogen, your body stores approx. 3 grams of water. So, if you put on a little weight, that’s perfectly normal and simply shows that you’ve successfully carb-loaded before your run.

Two to three days before the race is where you should aim to reduce the amount of high-fiber foods you consume, such as vegetables, cereals, and whole grains. This way, you can limit the amount of fiber (and therefore weight) in your intestines on the day of your half marathon.

Race day nutrition

Now that you’ve loaded up your glycogen stores, you should keep them topped up with one last high-carb meal on the day of your half marathon race. Aim to eat it 3 to 4 hours before you start running – this way, you’re allowing your body enough time to digest it and keep you fueled and fresh during the actual run. 

Remember: Don’t try anything new on race day. Stick to tried and tested combinations that you’ve used to fuel previous training sessions.

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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. 

Speed work

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.

Long runs

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

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.

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Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

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Half marathon pacing

A half-marathon is a challenging run, for which you need to prepare physically and mentally. One important aspect of your half marathon training plan is pacing, which can make all the difference between finishing strong and struggling with pain and exhaustion in the last few miles. That’s why it’s so important to think about half marathon pacing beforehand.  

Goal time

First, work out the time in which you’re aiming to finish. For example, if it’s 1 hour 40 mins, then your average pace should be 4:44 mins per km. 

Sticking to an exact pace is tough, so we recommend targeting a pace range of 3-4 seconds either side of your ideal pace. In the case of the 1 hour 40 minutes runner, this would translate into a pace range of 4:41 to 4:47 min per km. 

How to pace a half marathon

Here’s the approach that head Coach Ben would use to break down a half marathon into three chunks of 7 km: 

  • The first 7 km: This is the “easy” section of your run. Here, it should be relatively easy to hold your target pace, but remember to not get ahead of yourself and run too fast – otherwise, you’ll likely regret it later in the race. 
  • The second 7 km: This is the “hard” section of your run. By now, your legs will start feeling tired but you should still aim to maintain your pace. If you’re holding back, you can speed up by 5 seconds per km. When you reach the 14 km mark, you’ll be ⅔ done with your race. Focus on your achievement to keep yourself motivated for the final stretch.
  • The final 7 km: That’s the fun part! By now, you’ll be tired. Knowing that this is the final stretch, however, will help you maintain your pace and running form and make the final kilometers enjoyable. If you’re able to, you can increase your pace for the entire section instead of saving it for the last kilometer.

The final 500 meters: That’s your chance to reward yourself for all the hard work you've put into training and completing the race. Use this thought to push yourself to the finish line in style!

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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.

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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.

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All you need to know about half marathon running

Half marathon distance: how long is a half marathon?

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How long will it take me to prepare for a half-marathon?

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Which half marathon training plan should I pick?

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What half marathon finishing time should I aim for?

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Half marathon training and injuries: What should I do if I’m recovering from an injury?

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I only have 10 weeks to prepare. What should I do?

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Half marathon and general fitness: Do I need to do strength training to run a half marathon?

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I’m not ready for my first half marathon yet. What’s an easier goal I can aim for?

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Take your running to the next level

Your personalized running coach with tailored training plans to achieve your goals, from running a faster 5k to finishing your first marathon.

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First week free. Cancel anytime.
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