Beginner’s Guide to Half Marathon Training Plans

Embarking on the journey to run a half marathon is an exciting challenge, especially for beginners. Half marathons have become a popular goal for runners of all levels because of their manageable yet demanding distance. In this guide, we’ll walk you through every step of preparing for your first half marathon.

Understanding the Basics of Half Marathon Training

What is a Half Marathon Training Plan?

A half marathon training plan is a structured schedule that prepares you for running the 13.1 miles. Such plans typically last from 8 weeks to 12 weeks, gradually increasing your weekly mileage to build endurance. You will also include various types of workouts like long runs, easy runs, and tempo runs into your plan.

Importance of a Structured Approach

A structured training plan is essential for a successful half marathon experience. Gradually increasing your weekly mileage is important to prevent injuries and improve performance. You can do this through a variety of runs, such as long runs, easy runs, and tempo runs. Each type of run serves a specific purpose, building endurance and improving your marathon pace.

Moreover, a structured approach plays a vital role in mental preparation. Training for a half marathon is as much a mental endeavor as a physical one. A well-planned routine builds mental resilience, essential for pushing through fatigue and maintaining focus on race day. It also fosters confidence, with each completed workout marking progress toward your goal.

Finally, a structured plan includes proper tapering in the weeks before the race, crucial for peak performance. Tapering allows your body to recover and store energy, ensuring you’re in top form when you reach the finish line.

Setting Realistic Goals for Your First Half Marathon

Assessing Your Current Fitness Level

Before diving into half-marathon training, it’s essential to assess your current fitness level. This will help in selecting a plan that matches your capabilities and goals. Whether you’re starting from scratch or have some running experience, understanding your baseline is critical.

Setting Achievable Performance Goals

Set realistic goals for your first half marathon. Are you aiming to simply finish, or do you have a specific race pace in mind? Setting clear, achievable goals will guide your training and keep you motivated throughout the process.

Selecting the Right Half Marathon Training Plan

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Half Marathon Training Plan

Choosing the correct training plan is important when starting a half marathon journey and depends on various factors. First, assess your experience level. Are you a novice in the world of running, or have you already clocked many miles under your belt? Your experience will dictate the complexity and intensity of the training plan you should choose.

Next, consider your time commitment. How many hours per week can you dedicate to training? This will impact the type of plan you can follow. Busier schedules might require more condensed training programs, whereas more free time could allow for a more comprehensive plan.

Finally, reflect on your personal health and fitness goals. Are you aiming to simply finish the race, or are you chasing a personal best? Your goals will influence the plan’s intensity and the focus areas, whether it’s building endurance, speed, or a balance of both. Remember, a plan tailored to your personal goals and lifestyle is more likely to be successful and enjoyable.

Plans for Absolute Beginners

For those new to running, a beginner-friendly plan is essential. It should start with low mileage and a gentle increase in intensity. Many beginners find it less intimidating and easier to manage when they combine running and walking in their exercise plans. This approach allows the body to adapt to the new stresses of running without overwhelming it.

A beginner’s plan should also focus on building a solid foundation of endurance. Not just about covering distances, but doing so in a way that is sustainable and injury-free. Look for plans that emphasize consistency over speed, with gradual increases in running duration and a focus on maintaining a comfortable pace.

Options for Seasoned Runners

For seasoned runners, the training plan can be more rigorous. These athletes can handle plans that include more frequent and longer mile runs. Their bodies are already accustomed to the stress of running, so the focus can shift to improving performance, such as enhancing their racehalf-marathon pace.

Seasoned runners might also benefit from plans that include more specialized workouts, like hill repeats, speed work, or interval training. These types of workouts challenge the runner’s speed and endurance capabilities, leading to performance improvements.

Furthermore, seasoned runners should consider plans that incorporate elements of cross-training or strength training. These activities complement running by building overall strength, improving your running, and reducing the risk of injury.

In both cases, whether for beginners or seasoned runners, the key is to find a custom plan that challenges you while keeping your training enjoyable and injury-free.

Core Components of a Half Marathon Training Plan

Weekly Mileage and Progression

A successful half marathon training plan focuses on carefully increasing your weekly mileage. This incremental approach is crucial for several reasons. It allows your body to adapt gradually to the increased demands of running, thereby building endurance in a sustainable way.

For beginners, this might mean starting with just a few miles per week and slowly adding more distance. For more experienced runners, the increase might be more significant but still measured.

The progression should not be linear every week. Some training plans include ‘step-back’ weeks where they slightly reduce mileage before increasing it again. This strategy helps in preventing overtraining and reduces the risk of injury. The key is to find a balance where you are challenging yourself enough to improve, but not so much that you risk burnout or injury.

Mix of Running Workouts: Easy Runs, Long Runs, Speed Work

Diversity in running workouts is essential for a well-rounded training plan. Easy runs are crucial as they make up the bulk of your training volume and are vital for building aerobic capacity. You should do them at a comfortable pace, allowing for conversation without gasping for breath.

Long runs are the cornerstone of half marathon training. They are crucial for building endurance and getting your body used to running for extended periods. You should do these runs at a slower pace than your target race pace, focusing on duration rather than speed.

Speed work, including tempo runs and intervals, is essential for improving your race pace. These workouts are more intense and help increase your lactate threshold, making you a more efficient runner.

Strength Training and Mobility Exercises

Incorporating strength and mobility exercises into your training plan is vital for several reasons. Strength training, including exercises like squats, lunges, and core work, increases muscle strength and endurance, which can improve running efficiency and speed. It also helps in balancing muscle groups, reducing the risk of injury.

Mobility exercises enhance flexibility and range of motion, further preventing injuries. These exercises, including dynamic stretching and yoga, can also improve posture and alignment, which are critical for efficient running.

Importance of Rest Days and Recovery

Rest days are an integral part of any training plan. They are essential for physical recovery, allowing muscles to repair and strengthen. But they are also crucial for mental recovery, giving you a break from the routine of training.

A balanced training plan will strategically place rest days to optimize recovery. This might mean a complete day off from any physical activity or a day with extremely light, non-impact activities like walking or gentle yoga. The goal is to allow the body to recover fully and be ready for the next round of training. Remember, rest days are not a sign of weakness but an important part of becoming a stronger and healthier runner.

Nutrition and Hydration Strategies

Dietary Tips for Half Marathon Training

Proper nutrition is vital for successful marathon training. Not just about what you eat on race day, but also how you fuel your body throughout your training. A balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats will provide the energy needed for your weekly half marathon workouts. Carbohydrates are particularly important as they are the primary energy source for high-intensity activities.

Hydration Needs Before, During, and After Runs

Hydration plays a critical role in your training and performance. Staying hydrated is important not just during your runs, but throughout the day. Understanding your body’s hydration needs, especially during long training runs, is key to maintaining performance and preventing dehydration-related issues.

Injury Prevention and Management

Common Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Injuries can be a major setback in marathon training. Proper training techniques, stretching, adequate rest, and the right running shoes can help avoid common issues like runner’s knee, shin splints, and IT band syndrome. Listening to your body and not pushing too hard, too fast is crucial.

Importance of Proper Gear and Footwear

Investing in the right gear, especially running shoes, can significantly reduce your risk of injury. Shoes that provide the right support and fit are essential for safe training. Additionally, consider gear that enhances comfort and performance, like moisture-wicking clothing and appropriate weather gear.

Mental Preparation and Motivation

Mental Strategies for Long Distance Running

Mental preparation is just as important as physical training. Developing a positive mindset, setting small achievable goals, and visualizing success can greatly enhance your training experience. Techniques like mindfulness and mental imagery can also be beneficial.

Staying Motivated Throughout the Training

Maintaining motivation can be challenging, especially for longer training plans like 12 weeks. Setting small, incremental goals, celebrating progress, and varying your training routine can keep you engaged and motivated. Remember, the journey to the finish line is as important as the half marathon race itself.

Using Technology and Coaching to Enhance Training

Role of Coaching in Half Marathon Preparation

A personal coach, like those at Grit Coaching, can provide invaluable custom guidance. With their expertise in marathon training programs and experience as athletes, they can offer personalized advice, motivation, and strategies tailored to your needs.

Benefits of Training Apps and Wearables

Technology can also play a significant role in your training. Apps and wearables can track your progress and monitor your health metrics. Using these tools can add a dimension to your training, helping you understand and improve your performance.

Preparing for Race Day

Tapering Before the Event

Tapering is reducing your training intensity and volume in the weeks leading up to the race. This allows your body to recover and store energy for race day. A well-planned taper is crucial for peak performance.

Race Day Strategy and Tips

Develop a race day strategy that includes pacing, nutrition, and hydration. Know the course, plan your marathon pace, and prepare for varying conditions. Also, remember to enjoy the experience and embrace the hard work you’ve put into your training.

Beyond the Finish Line: What Next?

Post-Race Recovery and Reflection

After crossing the finish line, it’s important to focus on recovery. This means not only physical rest but also taking the time to reflect on your achievement. You should evaluate the aspects of your training that were successful and identify areas that you can enhance for your upcoming race. Remember, every race is a learning experience.

Planning Your Next Running Challenge

Once you’ve recovered, you might start thinking about your next challenge. Whether it’s improving your time, stepping up to a full marathon, or exploring different types of races, there are countless ways to continue your running journey.

Considering a Professional Coaching Service

Why Choose Grit Coaching for Your Next Challenge

As you look ahead, consider enlisting a professional coaching service like Grit Coaching. With their science-backed experience, personalized approach, and holistic view of training, they can help you reach even higher goals. Whether you’re aiming for a faster half marathon or transitioning to a full marathon, their guidance can be invaluable.


Congratulations on taking the first step towards your half marathon goal! With the right half marathon training plan, dedication, and the support of coaching services like Grit Coaching, you’re well on your way to success. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and you’ve just taken yours.


  1. How long should a beginner’s half marathon training schedule last?
    Beginners should opt for a 12 week or 8 week half marathon training plan. This allows enough time to gradually increase mileage and build endurance safely.
  2. What is the importance of easy runs in a half marathon training plan?
    Easy runs are crucial for building aerobic capacity and allowing your body to recover from more intense workouts. They should be a staple in any balanced training plan.
  3. How often should I include a long run in my training?
    You should typically include a long run once a week in your training schedule. This helps build endurance and prepares your body for the distance of a half marathon.
  4. What kind of cross-training is beneficial for half marathon training?
    Having a cross training day for activities like cycling, swimming, or strength training can improve overall fitness and reduce the risk of injury by balancing your training.
  5. How do I choose the right running shoes for half marathon training?
    Select shoes that provide the right balance of support, cushioning, and fit for your foot type. Visiting a specialized running store for a professional fitting is often beneficial.


Coach Faye in 'GRIT' athletic attire confidently poses with crossed arms.

Faye’s journey in athletics is marked by dedication and impressive achievements. Throughout her high school and university years, she was deeply engaged in running, competing for the University of Calgary’s track and cross-country teams. Her standout moments include earning the “All Canadian” cross-country status and participating in the 2008 Olympic trials for the 5000m. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Faye embarked on a career as a personal trainer, where her passion for fitness and a healthy lifestyle became a source of inspiration for her diverse range of clients.

Transitioning from competitive running, Faye soon discovered her next athletic passion: obstacle course racing (OCR). Her strong foundation in running and strength training quickly propelled her to success in the OCR world. Faye’s talents were recognized in 2016 when she joined the Spartan Pro Team, and her athletic ability was furthered with a bronze medal at the Spartan World Championships.

Continuing to compete among the elite, Faye has consistently demonstrated her skill and tenacity in OCR. She has secured two 4th place finishes at both the Spartan North Americans and the Spartan World Championship. Her record of Spartan podium finishes over the past decade showcases her enduring excellence in the sport.

Beyond the thrill of competition, it’s the OCR community that deeply resonates with Faye. The opportunity to travel, share her passion for fitness and adventure, and connect with an array of positive, inspiring individuals fuels her year after year. Faye embodies the essence of the “work hard, play hard” ethos, living it to the fullest in both her professional and personal life.

Jess O'Connell

Coach Jess in 'GRIT' athletic attire confidently poses with crossed arms.

Though Jess spent much of her free time growing up competing in Irish dancing, once she hit the track, she never looked back! As a specialist in the 5000m, she boasts a personal best time of an impressive 15:06.66. Her accomplishments include competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 5000m and formerly holding the Canadian national records for the indoor 3000m and 2 mile races. Jess’s career is further highlighted by being a 15-time Canadian national team member across track and field, cross country, and road running, a four-time National Champion, a Pan Am Games silver medalist, an NCAA Division I All-American, and achieving a personal bests of 32:22 in the 10km (road race) and 4:30 in the mile.

Jess has always been “nerdy” about her training, which shows through in her impressive academic background. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Calgary. As a CSEP-CEP (Clinical Exercise Physiologist) with a High-Performance specialization, Jess holds the highest level of certification available in Canada. Jess also holds NCCP Performance Coach certification for endurance events. She applies her vast athletic experience and educational background to her role in Grit Coaching, and also serves as the distance track and cross country coach at the University of Calgary. 

Jess’s commitment to sport extends beyond her personal achievements, as she actively works to inspire and uplift the next generation of athletes. She has passionately volunteered for Fast and Female, an organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women to remain active and engaged in sports, and has served as the athlete representative on the board of Athletics Alberta, the provincial governing body for track and field. Jess believes that balance, health, and FUN are essential for longevity in sport, and she loves sharing her love of running with others.