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Half marathon training plan for beginners: Week by week plan + printable

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The half marathon has seen a boom in popularity over the last decade, with more runners than ever taking part in the event.

According to RunRepeat’s State of Running report, over 2.1 million runners completed a half marathon in 2018, making it the second most popular running event, with the 5k run being number one.

If you’re looking to run your first half marathon, this is where a half marathon training plan for beginners comes in handy.

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • How long is a half marathon?
  • Can I run a half marathon in 12 weeks?
  • Is 12 weeks enough time to train for a half marathon?
  • How to build the perfect half marathon training plan for beginners
  • 4 tips for half marathon training
  • 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners: Week by week plan

At the end of this guide you’ll also find my 12 week beginner half marathon training plan PDF which provides a week by week breakdown of all the runs in one handy PDF.

Ready?

Let’s get started!

run a half marathon in 12 weeks training plan

How long is a half marathon?

A half marathon in miles is 13.1 miles. This equates to 21.9 kilometres.

This is exactly half the distance of a marathon which is 26.2 miles or 42km.

Related: How long is a half marathon? Half marathon training plans + 6 tips for race success

Are you ready to run a half marathon in 12 weeks?

This 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners is for you if:

  • You have a good base level of fitness and you’re comfortable with running a minimum of three 3-4 mile runs each week. If this seems difficult right now, then try a 14-16 week plan instead.
  • You’ve never run a half marathon before and you’d like to start training for your first half marathon. 
  • You have time in your week to do the weekly runs. Training for a half marathon can be grueling, but with consistency each week you’ll get there.

If you answered ‘no’ to any of the points above, then you may not be quite ready to run a half marathon in 12 weeks.

I suggest you try a run/walk half marathon training program instead.

Related: Intermediate half marathon training plan: Week by week plan

Is 12 weeks enough time to train for a half marathon?

As the plan title suggests, the plan is split into 12 weeks.

There are longer beginner half marathon training plans out there that span across 14 or 16 weeks.

However, I believe it is possible to run a half marathon in 12 weeks and it is an adequate amount of time to train for a half marathon if you meet the prerequisites listed in the previous section.

The training plan can be adapted if needed if you’d like to have more training time.

Related: 11 things I wish I’d known before running my first half marathon

run a half marathon in 12 weeks

How to build the perfect half marathon training plan for beginners

The aim of this plan is to get you running a half marathon by the end of the 12 weeks.

However, in order to run a half marathon, you need to be doing more than just running in your training plan.

A well-rounded training plan will combine running alongside ancillary work like cross training and strength training to really reap the benefits.

As such, I have included runs alongside cross training, strength training and rest days in the plan.

Here is the definition for each activity included in the plan:

Easy run

The plan includes easy runs which are runs where you run at a comfortable pace.

The general rule of thumb that I like to apply here is that you should be able to hold a conversation while you run without getting out of breath.

They start at 2 to 3 miles in week 1 to 5 miles in week 11. 

Long run

The long run is the mainstay of any half marathon training plan and it is a key success criteria to enable you to run a half marathon in 12 weeks.

It might sound obvious, but the long run is there to build your running stamina and endurance as you progress from 3 miles in week 1 to 13.1 miles eventually in week 12 on race day.

It’s important you do these each week as prescribed in terms of mileage.

As with the easy runs, don’t worry too much about your pace – run at a pace where you are able to hold a conversation without getting out of breath. 

Cross training

Cross training can take the form of walking, swimming, cycling or any other activity where you are using your aerobic fitness.

Cross training is important in this plan because it can be done on recovery day (Saturday), whilst improving your overall athletic performance before your long run. 

Strength training

This plan also includes strength training, which I highly recommend you do in order to successfully run a half marathon in 12 weeks.

Strength training should be done mid-week (Wednesday) in place of a run or after the run if you feel comfortable.

Rest day

It’s important to rest during your plan, and as such, I have included rest days before and after the long run.

Don’t be tempted to run on your rest days, they are there for a reason to help your body recover in between runs. 

5k or 10k race

I’ve included a 5k race at the end of week 6 and a 10k race at the end of week 9.

Although it’s not compulsory to run a race at the end of these weeks, I highly recommend you do as it’s a good way to test the waters in terms of your progress in the plan and get you in a racing mindset.

For the 5k race, my advice is to sign up to your free, local Parkrun. For the 10k race, sign up to a local race or, adjust the 

Related: How to run a half marathon in 2 hours or less

run a half marathon in 12 weeks training plan

12 week half marathon training plan for beginners: Week by week plan

You will see that each week is broken down to show you exactly what you need to do on each day of the week.

Of course, there is flexibility within each week should you want to do your long run, for example, on a Saturday instead of a Sunday.

The key thing is that you are able to do all the runs each week.

Week 1

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 3 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 2 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 3 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Cross training (30 mins)
  • Sunday – 4 mile long run

Week 2

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 3 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 2 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 3 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Cross training (30 mins)
  • Sunday – 4 mile long run

Week 3

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 3.5 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 2 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 3.5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Cross training (40 mins)
  • Sunday – 5 mile long run

Week 4

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 3.5 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 2 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 3.5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Cross training (40 mins)
  • Sunday – 5 mile long run

Week 5

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 4 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 2 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 4 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Cross training (40 mins)
  • Sunday – 6 mile long run

Week 6

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 4 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 2 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 4 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day or 2 mile easy run
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – 5k race!

Week 7

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 4.5 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 3 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 4.5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Cross training (50 mins)
  • Sunday – 7 mile long run

Week 8

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 4.5 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 3 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 4.5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day
  • Saturday – Cross training (50 mins)
  • Sunday – 8 mile long run

Week 9

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 5 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 3 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day or 3 mile easy run
  • Saturday – Rest day 
  • Sunday – 10k race!

Week 10

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 5 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 3 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day 
  • Saturday – Cross training (60 mins)
  • Sunday – 9 mile long run

Week 11

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 5 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 3 mile easy run and/or strength training
  • Thursday – 5 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day 
  • Saturday – Cross training (60 mins)
  • Sunday – 10 mile long run

Week 12

  • Monday – Rest day
  • Tuesday – 4 mile easy run
  • Wednesday – 3 mile easy run
  • Thursday – 2 mile easy run
  • Friday – Rest day 
  • Saturday – Rest day
  • Sunday – Race day!

Related: 8 ways to run for longer without getting so tired

4 tips for half marathon training

If it’s your first half marathon, you may be nervous or scared about running a half marathon.

With the right training and mindset, you can smash your running goals.

Here are some tips on running a half marathon:

#1 Take it in your stride

When training for a half marathon, you’re mistaken if you think all your runs should be fast and hard.

In fact, elite athletes train for 80% of the time at low intensity, and spend the rest of the time training hard.

The majority of your runs should be done at a comfortable, conversational pace.

Don’t be tempted to overcompensate with your mileage if you feel you can run further.

You’ll risk injury and burnout if you try and cram too many miles in.

#2 Start your training early

If you’re new to half marathon running, training for a half marathon will take at least three months.

You’ll have to put in the required training to ensure you are ready on race day.

A half marathon training plan is normally between 12 to 16 weeks because you have to build up your running endurance and stamina. It’s not something that can happen overnight.

Once you build up a solid base of fitness, you can then work on your speed and strength.

#3 Listen to your body

Many new runners make the mistake of over training when they first start training for a half marathon, seeing rest days as a weakness somehow.

When in fact rest days are integral to any training plan and are there for a reason.

Half marathon training is grueling as it is, so ensure you take the proper precautions and give your body time to rest in between runs.

#4 Do the necessary race prep

If you’re working towards a race day in the event calendar, such as an organised half marathon, then you’ll want to do the required race prep before race day so that you’re organised.

You can read my half marathon checklist for more tips and advice on what to prepare and what take with you on race day.

12 week beginner half marathon training plan PDF

Below you will find my beginner half marathon training plan in a handy PDF format should you want to save this locally and refer to during your training.

run a half marathon in 12 weeks training plan

More half marathon training tips:

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