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How to Train for Your First Half Marathon

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness

This is a sponsored post on behalf of adidas. All opinions are my own.

Considering your first half marathon? Go ahead and sign up for a fall race. Fall weather is perfect for running and it’s a great time to be outdoors!

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. “With proper training just about anyone can complete a half marathon,” says Mark Coogan, team New Balance coach and former Olympic marathoner. “The key is preparing your body for the distance without overdoing it and causing injury.”

These training tips will have you ready to cover 13.1 miles with confidence!

1. Build a Running Base

Runners new to half-marathon training often make the mistake of thinking that the 12- or 14-week plan takes you from the couch to the finish line. When, in reality, training plans are created with the assumption that you have a weekly mileage base of at least 15 to 21 miles and your longest run should be at least 5 miles. Taking the time to build a running base before you begin training for a race is essential to a successful season.

2. Give Yourself Enough Time To Prepare

Not only does the body need time to adapt to the progression of the mileage, but sometimes life gets in the way, so it’s wise to yourself a buffer. Look for training schedules that give you weeks to play with in case something happens along the way, time to live your life and have vacations and plenty of time to build up the longer runs safely and reduce the risk of injury and burn out.

3. Pick a Training Plan

Make the plan fit the runner, not the runner fit the plan. 

Twelve weeks is a common length of many half marathon training plans, but a quick Google search will bring up plans that range from 10 to 16 weeks. 

Not only do the plans vary in length, they also vary in content (the types of workouts, weekly mileage and the number of times you run each week). Study the various plans carefully before picking one. First, find one that meshes well with your work and family schedule.

If the plan has you running every day and you know that’s not going to happen, then that plan is not for you. Second, find a plan that matches your running fitness level. If the first long run in the plan is 8 miles and your current longest run is 4, select a different plan.

Often plans are labeled for Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced or Experienced, but even then, read through the plan carefully and make sure it fits your current running fitness level.

Half Marathon Training Plans

4. Include Cross Training In Your Plan

Including non-running, but aerobic cross-training, as well as light resistance training on your off running days is a great way to optimize your running fitness. Cycling, swimming, using the elliptical machine or row machine are all great forms of cross-training. Light resistance training particularly targeting the core and upper body will greatly help you maintain good running form longer during your runs, build strength and help to fight off fatigue.

5. Train With a Group

Whether you’re training with a coach who is leading a group training program or you just round up your running buddies, training in a group can make all the difference in the world in how successful you are with your training. When you know you’ll be missed, you tend to be more accountable for your workouts. 

On those early morning long runs, you’re much more likely to roll out of bed when you know the gang is waiting for you. Also, having a buddy’s encouraging word or just a pat on the shoulder during a tough run, can really make a difference in pulling through and fighting off fatigue.

6. Training Races

One of the best ways to stay motivated and consistently increase mileage and pace is by including shorter races as part of your training plan. 

Signing up for shorter races as part of training will help hold you accountable and the energy and vibe of the starting line on race day is motivating and inspiring!

7. Embrace the Taper

A taper should be part of any solid training plan. The taper allows your body to recover from the training that you’ve put in, which sets you up for peak energy on race day. Tapering doesn’t mean that you stop training, it only means you cut back two weeks before the race. After months of increasing your mileage every week, you’ll probably appreciate this, and feel as ready as ever on race day.

8. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Rest

Resting during training is just as important as a running, if not more so. Your body needs time to rebuild and repair. Skipping rest days will tax your body’s ability to recover and make you more prone to injury. Be sure to take your scheduled rest days, but also listen to your body.

If you’re feeling worn down, have no energy, feel sore, tired, lethargic and or unmotivated, check your resting heart rate before getting out of bed. If it’s just a few beats higher than normal (and you don’t have a cold or some other type of infection) you more than likely are overtraining and need a rest day.

Avoid it as much as possible but if you miss a day of training, don’t beat yourself and don’t try to make up the day/miles. 

Take extra rest days if you need it!

9. What To Wear

It’s important to bear in mind that as soon as you start running, you’ll warm up. Avoid a lot of layers and dress to run like it’s 10 to 15 degrees warmer than it is.

It’s helpful to start checking the weather forecast a few days before you race

By race day, you want to have run in your race day outfit. Know your favorite items, plus what temperature they are most suitable for, so you can make a wise choice on the day. 

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness
Believe This High Rise Tight
The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness

adidas – Response 3/4 Tight

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness

adidas – Own the Run Tee

10. Running Shoes

On race day, lace up the shoes you wore during training. If your running shoes are past their prime (running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles) and your race is three weeks away, it’s safe to buy and break in new ones.

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness

adidas – Duramo 9 Shoes

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness


adidas – Solar Ride Shoes

11. Are You Using Energy Gels or Drinks?

If you’re going to use energy drinks or gels, try them out during training.

Try out foods, energy gels, or drinks for training runs so you know what works for you and there won’t be any unpleasant surprises on race day. There’s nothing worse than finding out that something doesn’t agree with your body mid-race.

12. Pre-Race Nutrition

“How you fuel up before the race has a huge impact on your performance,” says Beth Jauquet, R.D., a nutritionist for Cherry Creek Nutrition in Denver. “Unfortunately, runners tend toward extremes: Skimping on fuel, overdoing food or drink, or eating foods that cause digestive disaster.” 

Tara Gidus, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetics Association, recommends consuming moderate quantities- not huge portions- of carbs for several days prior to race day. Massive amounts of any food may trow your system a curveball. Eat just to fullness the night before so you don’t get indigestion or have trouble sleeping.

Race Gear

It can be useful when racing to consider using certain running accessories. Specialized running gear/accessories can aid you in achieving your race targets and make for a more enjoyable experience.

Shorter races may or may not require any accessories at all. For example, for a 2 mile or 5km event, you really do not need to worry about this too much.

For longer distances, 10km or longer, you may want to consider using some of the following:

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness

CamelBak Quick Grip Chill Handheld Water Bottle

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness

Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm

The half marathon can be the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is long enough to make you feel super accomplished but short enough to wrap your brain (and schedule) around the weeks of training ahead. #halfmarathon #running #fitness #wellness

SPIbelt Running Belt Original Pocket, No-Bounce Waist Pack for Runners

Before racing with any accessories, remember to try them on your raining runs, to ensure they will not irritate you or affect in any way how you perform on race day.

Congratulations on your decision to train for your first half-marathon.


I don’t run to add days to my life, I run to add life to my days.
– Ronald Rook


I am a certified personal trainer, but this advice should be taken as general information and not a personalized plan. All opinions, tips and reviews are based on research and my personal life experience.

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