The half marathon is the first major milestone for beginner runners. The half marathon distance is recognised as being one of the most aerobically challenging. For most new runners completing a marathon, your legs will go before your aerobic system. Conversely a half marathon is a true test of your aerobic fitness. Our 12 week half marathon training program is designed to get you over the line in your goal time and without any injuries.
The half marathon distance is the perfect challenge for a new runner who has mastered the local park run 5km distance. If you are so new to running that you haven’t put your foot out the door yet, try our 10km beginner running program before you tackle our half marathon program.
This program includes several types of workouts which we will explain below.
1. Low Intensity Runs
Low intensity runs will make up approximately 80% of your running training. These are your every day runs, which should be completed at “Conversational Pace”. That is, an easy pace where you can maintain a conversation without hyperventilating or blurting out each word.
2. Hill Interval Sessions
Hill running is the secret weapon of any serious runner. Uphill running helps increase lower limb strength and aerobic fitness. It also reduces injury risk as it involves less joint load than flat ground running. Read more about the benefits of hill running here.
The hill sessions in this program are broken into repeat intervals. The incline of the hill doesn’t matter too much as we use timed intervals. So whatever hill you have close by is fine.
Begin and end your hill sessions with a slow 5 minute jog at conversational pace.
3. Tempo Runs / Threshold Runs
Tempo runs are usually performed at your 10km race pace. To estimate a tempo run pace, remember that it should be “comfortably hard”. That is more intense than a “conversational pace” but not so intense you need to stop every 3 minutes.
Tempo runs are great for building speed and strength. However, they are taxing on the body and require ample recovery time. Tempo runs should be completed maximum once per week. We have chosen to alternate tempo runs with hill intervals to reduce injury risk.
Your first tempo run in week 3 is a single effort 5km run. The aim of this run is for you to get a feel for what tempo pace is like. After this, your tempo runs are interval sessions as these sessions are less fatiguing and lead to greater improvements.
Read more about tempo runs, threshold runs and the lactate threshold here.
4. Strength Training
Strength training sessions are key to injury prevention and for improving running economy (how efficient you run). Focus your exercises on strengthening quads, calves, hamstrings, gluteals and the hip muscles. This will help improve running performance and reduce injury risk! Read more on strength training here.
These sessions should slowly increase the weight and/or difficulty each week. Strength exercises can be done in a gym or at home. We have included strength sessions from week 1 to week 10 of the training program. This is because your body can take up to 2 weeks to fully adapt to a strength training session.
The video below goes over 5 essential strength exercises that runners can do at home without equipment! Feel free to complete whatever strength exercises you enjoy most. However it is definitely enough to do the 5 exercises below each week.
12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan
As physiotherapists and running coaches, we are fully aware that 80-90% of all runners have at least 1 running injury every year. This 12 week half marathon training program may appear different to other generic training programs you see online. That is because we aim to create strong, robust and injury free runners rather than just praying and hoping for no injuries. To assist in injury prevention, we have included adequate rest days, strength sessions and hill sessions.
You may notice that week 6 has less volume of running than week 5. This is because week 6 is a rest week. 12 weeks of training load is a lot for any human. So having a rest week allows your body to recover and adapt. It also helps reduce the risk of injury by reducing cumulative load.
You will reach peak running volume at week 9. After this, the taper period begins and we reduce the total volume each week. This will allow your body to recover and adapt, leaving you in peak condition for your first half marathon!
It is impossible to tailor this program exactly to your needs as we have never met you. However, we are confident that this program incorporates all key elements required to finish a strong half marathon with reduced risk of injury.
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