Half Marathon Training for Beginners
So you want to challenge yourself by running a half marathon? That’s a good outlook to have and with a little bit of help from this website combined with your own hard work, there is absolutely no reason at all why you can’t soon have a runner’s medal on your fire place back home.
Not to mention that regardless of where you finished in the actual race, you’ll feel much fitter, slimmer and with more energy. You’ll also have a zip in your step that will make your everyday life so much easier. Read on and we’ll give you the low down and knowledge required to be fit enough to run 13.1 miles straight.
Believe it or not, if you can currently run 3 miles today, then if we increase that by 1 mile per week, it’s not hard to imagine that you are going to be easily fit enough to run 13.1 miles by the time your training regime is complete. All you have to do is believe in yourself. Hard, work and dedication, baby!
How Long Does it Take to Train for a Half Marathon?
You can enter a race today and run it tomorrow. That wouldn’t be a good idea, however, because you’d be unlikely to finish and if you did you’d be absolutely ship wrecked.
Regardless of where you are in your training: total newbie, just starting out or regular runner. It is paramount that you train correctly for any form of long-distance road running race.
A realistic time frame from getting off your sofa to running a race in good health and fitness is around six months. Well that is what most people in the running community agree on, but it is possible to do it in 12 weeks. Clearly the longer you have to prepare the better.
Like any other form of physical exercise training, the more disciplined you are – including diet, sleep and resting correctly – the easier you will make your life come race day. The great thing about running is that you can start on your own as a lone wolf or get a group of friends together and train as a team. Depending on your own personality you are likely to fall into one group or the other or a mix of the two.
Personally I enjoy training on my own, not because I’m anti-social, but when you are relying on yourself you can suit yourself. It doesn’t mater if you are five minutes early or ten minutes late. When you are running alone you don’t have to worry about being there on time. Of course it’s nice to have a catch up with old friends, but like I say it’s entirely up to you which route you wish to take.
While it might seem harder starting off as an absolute beginner, it does have one good thing going for it. You know you are unfit and you know that you need to train hard. On the other hand, if you have previous experience at running, you can easily fall into the trap of reminiscing how fit you used to be and forgetting that vitally important four letter word – past.
It doesn’t matter how good you were yesterday, that is recent history. Just look at how many footballers we’ve pinned our hopes on that used to be good in the past. Club directors have shelled out millions of pounds on past history only for it to come back and bite them hard. Don’t make the same mistake and train as if your life depends on it. You can’t be too fit for a running race.
What is the Average Time to Run a Half Marathon?
For seasoned runners who are very competitive, 1.5 hours seems to be the most common goal that people want to achieve when running a half marathon. For beginners, however, a more realistic time of 2 hours is very achievable, but also a time that you can be proud of.
Remember, you shouldn’t be judging yourself against the fastest runners in the world. That is the same as someone who plays football comparing themselves with Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. They’re the best in the world for a reason. Always be realistic with your times and targets. If you set realistic goals then you won’t be continually disappointed through repeated failure.
Look at a time that you have perhaps achieved in the past and aim to beat it slightly. Being good at anything in life is usually more of a mental challenge than a physical one, even if we’re talking about a physical sport such as running. If you continually improve, even by small amounts, then you will always be going in the right direction and always have a positive results.
It is bound to knock your confidence if you are always setting targets that aren’t achievable. Of course you don’t want to set targets that are so easy that they aren’t going to motivate you or increase your fitness in any measurable way. Use your own judgement and come up with a time that is challenging yet attainable.
- 2 hours = 9.09 per mile.
- 1 hour 30 minutes = 6.51 per mile.
How Many Miles Should I Run Each Week?
For a beginner you should run at least 3 days per week for the first couple of weeks then start running 4 days. Concentrate on getting enough mileage in and don’t worry about the times. Times will drop as you get fitter.
This is a basic schedule that you can tweak as necessary. Remember nothing is set in stone. If it’s too much or not enough, use your own intuition and above all listen to your body. Don’t run through the pain barrier if you have real pain and not just difficulty through general running. No pain and no gain doesn’t mean kill yourself!
Half-Marathon 12 Week Running Programme
Week 1 – 4
- Monday – 30 minutes running.
- Wednesday – 30 minutes running.
- Friday – 30 minutes running.
Week 5 – 8
- Monday – 20 minutes fast tempo run.
- Tuesday – 40 – 45 minutes running.
- Friday – 30 minutes running.
- Saturday – 1 hour long, slow distance run (LSD.
Week 9 – 12
- Monday – 20 minutes fast tempo run. (alternate between 30 minute run one week and tempo the next.)
- Tuesday – 45 – 60 minutes running.
- Friday – 30 minutes running.
- Saturday – 1 hour long, slow distance run. Increase your mileage every week so by week 12 you can run 10 miles.
The aim of the long, slow distance run is to get your body used to burning fat and also to enable you to run the long distance involved, which replicates the actual race. While there isn’t a need to do the full race distance, you should have a good idea whether you are up for it or not. If you can complete 10 miles comfortably then it isn’t much of an exaggeration to imagine that you can add another three if you are in race mode.
Leading up to the race, you don’t want to burn yourself out on week 12, but could have a really hard week’s training at week 10. Being rested on race day is super important. It’s no good being the fittest person in the world then getting your calculations wrong so you turn up for the race burned out.
The tempo run is to keep track of your fitness over approximately 5 kilometres. It would be a good idea, although not necessary, to enter your local Parkrun a few weeks before the half marathon. You will get an enjoyable morning out with other runners, but more importantly this will give you the feel of entering a race, even though it is more of a fun run. The conditions will be similar and you can see what you will be up against come race day.
What About Diet and Nutrition for Marathon Running?
It’s important that you eat a healthy and balanced diet that will cover your energy needs. Natural foods are best and good quality carbohydrates like pasta, brown rice and potatoes should be your staple food source, along with proteins such as chicken, fish, plus red meats like beef. Nuts are a good source of protein, which include some other essential stuff like essential fatty acids. Peanut butter is a good fat rather than some of the bad fats you hear mentioned like saturated fat. That said, peanut butter is calorie dense so don’t go overboard as it can quickly put inches on your waistline.
Don’t get obsessive and weigh yourself ten times a day, but keep an eye on your weight maybe once or twice per week. You will soon know if you’re eating too much or not enough and adjust accordingly.
It’s better to eat 5 or 6 small meals per day also rather than eating 3 or 4 heavier meals. The small portion sizes will make it easier for your stomach to digest your food, as well as keeping your metabolism burning brighter.
The most important meals of the day are in this order:
- Post-workout meal – this helps your body start the recovery process.
- Pre-workout meal – this gives you the energy to workout effectively.
- Breakfast – (depending on what time of day you workout, this could be one of the above meals.)
Essentially the earlier in the day you eat the better, because food needs time to digest and if you eat too late then you could be going to bed on a full stomach. Half-digested food can be stored as fat rather than glycogen, which is preferable for athletes.
All meals are important, but in an ideal world the list above is the way to go.
What Should I Eat the Night Before a Half-Marathon Race?
Carbo-loading is the trendy buzz word associated with stocking up on the right food pre-race day. Most runners know they should eat pasta, rice, potatoes, or other high-carb foods before a half or full marathon. As we already know, carbs are a solid fuel source, and you need a lot of energy to cover 13.1 or 26.2 miles if you’re going for the full marathon. The principles are the same, after all.
What Equipment Should I Bring to My First Haf-Marathon Race?
You’ve trained hard for this moment and, let’s face it, you’ve got the hardest part out of the way. This is the big moment you’ve been waiting for so don’t ruin it. Prepare yourself thoroughly by relaxing, having a pre-race massage between 7 – 10 days before the race. This will ensure you feel stress free and your muscles aren’t carrying any stiffness.
On the Day of the Race:
- Skin lubricant to prevent chaffing or blisters – known as body glide.
- Sunscreen to stop sunburn. This is vitally important even on cloudy days in warm weather.
- Body belt to carry personal belongings such as your phone. Everyone wants a selfie immediately after the race and often at varying times in-between the start and finish.
- Sports watch and/or GPS device.
- Specialist sports water bottle.
- Pre-race snack to ensure your energy levels are correct.
- Toilet paper – just in case the public portaloos run out.
- Extra clothing layers you can remove as necessary.
During the race:
- Clothing -running top, shorts, tights and other garments to suit the weather.
- Fast-drying (wicking socks.)
- Running shoes.
- Race bib and safety pins to attach your bib.
- ID – write your information on the back of your bib or products that you are carrying. Anything to help race organizers identify you quickly in the case of an accident.
- Sunglasses – with a neck strap to prevent dropping them.
- Hat or visor.
After the Race:
- A change of dry clothes to get into immediately after the race.
- Post-race food – snack and fluids at the very minimum.
- Warm jacket.
- Dry shoes or comfortable sandals.
People use energy drinks on all sorts of races, but it’s mainly on the longer ones that they become essential. For half-marathons and marathons, you can carry a sports drink or gel product, but there will be race stations to hydrate during the race. It’s still worth carrying your own in case of an emergency and you get a sudden thirst and headache. Test any food and drink products previously because the last thing you want on race day is an upset stomach due to something that doesn’t agree with your body.
Use your training runs to pre-test all of your running and racing equipment to see if it is fit for purpose and suits you on a personal level.
It’s also a good idea to check the race website and see what fuel sources they provide at the aid stations. Will it just be water or will it be a branded sports drink?
If it’s not something that you like then consider getting a hydration belt or CamelBak.
When you get near to race day, you can contact the race organizers or again have a look on the website for the information and see if they do a bag drop on the day of the race. This is a clear plastic bag that you can put your essential items in and leave with the race crew so that afterwards you can get quick access to it. Don’t leave expensive things in like your smartphone, but you should be okay if you put general running items in like clothing, etc.
The idea being that you can focus on your running and not stress about trivial things like where your equipment is.
Happy running and enjoy your first race!
Five More Runner’s Reads
- How Long do Running Shoes Last?
- Running Weight Loss Plan
- 24-Hour Running
- Is Running Good for You?
- Places to Run Near Me
What’s Your Best Half-Marathon Time?
Have you got any tips or training advice that you’d like to tell us about? Don’t be afraid to share your best tips. It’s good to help others who are just starting out their journey as a marathon runner.