How to Make a Half-Marathon Training Plan

I've made a lot of training plans over the years, for everything from from a 5K to a full marathon, and for some different events, like stair climbs and obstacle races (I hated the obstacle races). 

Here's an example of an ambitious training plan I won't be following. 

Here's an example of an ambitious training plan I won't be following. 

Making the plan is the easy part, of course. Sticking to it is a bit more difficult. But even when I don't exactly stick to my plan, I feel better knowing where I should be. If I can't get every training run in, I can at least get the long runs in, or most of them. 

It might take some time to figure out what sort of training program you like. Would you rather increase your long runs by one mile every weekend, or two miles every other? Do you want to improve your times with each race or just finish comfortably? Are you looking for the best race ever, or the best race possible with minimal training? 

Everyone is different. I've figured out that I can do a half-marathon comfortably if I get in three runs a week and a long run every other week. I'm not going to break any records (not even my own!), but I'll finish and not get injured. 

I don't remember where I read this, but somewhere I heard that no more than half of your weekly mileage should be the long run. So if your long run is ten miles, your runs in addition to that one need to equal ten miles. If I'm running three days a week, that's two five-milers. Two five-milers plus one ten-miler, which will bring me to a total of 20 miles for the week. 

If I remember right, that rule was touted as one that will keep me from getting injured. So far, it's worked.

Steps to Plan Your Training:

  1. Look at training plans online. If you look up your event distance and "training plan," you should get lots of options. Look at a few for people at your level (beginner, intermediate, etc.) and see what you think you want to do. You might want to combine elements of different plans. 
  2. Transfer the plan to your calendar. Whatever calendar you use, put the runs on there, at least the long ones. Watch for conflicts - for example, I'm training for a stair climb and a half-marathon this spring. I'm not going to want to climb a lot of stairs and do a long run on consecutive days, so I need to adjust my plan accordingly. 
  3. Work in room for error. I usually put a long run on every weekend, but only do half of them. Having them all on there gives me something to shoot for and lets me know where I should be in my training at any given time. It might be different for you - if seeing more runs on there than you are actually able to do will make you feel like you're not succeeding in your training, then only write in runs you can do. 
  4. Keep track of your actual miles. I use Runkeeper to track my outdoor runs (99% of my runs), as well as walks and hiking. You might prefer another program (such as Strava or MapMyRun), or you might want to do it on paper. Just keep track of what you're running so you can see your progress and be aware if you start to get off track. 
  5. Do the race! I always tell myself that even if I'm not fully trained, I can run what I can and walk the rest. 

If you're completely new to running, your plan will likely be different. I've started running more times than I can remember and I've got the system I use to go from walking to running down. I'll share that another day. 

Me at the end of my last half-marathon, fall 2013. That was not a comfortable run for me. 

Me at the end of my last half-marathon, fall 2013. That was not a comfortable run for me. 

For the Go! St. Louis half-marathon, which is April 12, I used a 12-week training plan from Hal HIgdon's site as my starting point. I put that on my calendar first, making a few adjustments (I will do a five-mile race the weekend the plan wants a 10K, but it's close enough). I used the Novice 2 plan, but I won't be running as much as that plan calls for. 

Then I added this plan for the Master the Met stair climb, which is March 28, and made even more adjustments, because I find training for the stair climb to be pretty tough. In 2011, I did stair training and ran afterward, but I couldn't do that on long run days because the stairs drain my leg muscles. My work week is structured in such a way that I find I have to put most of my training on my weekends (my shifts change from late to early as the week progresses), which s̶u̶c̶k̶s̶ gives me an added challenge. 

I keep thinking about trying to increase my speed (my racing times are about a minute slower than I'd like them to be), but the truth is I'm finding it challenging to train at all these days. That may change at some point, but for now I guess I'm content just running at all. 

PS - If you haven't already tried the fancy breathing technique I've been using, I highly recommend you give it a shot!