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Half-Marathon Training Guide

Twleve weeks. That's the minimum suggested time you need to train for and successfully complete a half-marathon. The 13.1-mile race is a popular compromise between a full marathon and a 5K or 10K because it offers a challenge, but requires less training and has a shorter recovery time. Runners of all levels can ease into the half-marathon by following one of the beginner training programs outlined below.
 
To advance to a half-marathon level, it's ideal that you can currently run at least 3 miles, or 30 minutes, comfortably. The idea is to gradually transform from a low-mileage runner to a runner ready to tackle longer distances through a steady increase in duration.
 
Some important things to remember as you start a training program:
  • Set a goal before you begin training. Your goal should be a challenge, but also fun, enjoyable and achievable. Trying to get back into shape? Beat an old-time record? Hoping to simply finish? Whatever your motivation, keep it in mind, and use it to really stick to your training regimen.
     
  • Wear the right gear. Get a good pair of shoes designed for running. All feet are different, and a special pair of shoes tailored to fit yours will help prevent injury and keep you feeling good. Visit a local running retailer for information on purchasing the best shoes for you. Socks and other running attire made from wicking fabrics help to keep you cool and dry and can reduce friction-induced injuries.
     
  • Hydration and balanced nutrition are essential for staying healthy during training. While it is best to consult with a trainer or nutritionist to see what fits your individual needs, know that carbohydrates provide important fuel for runners. During training periods, it is often necessary to increase your total consumption of carbohydrates and fats to 60 to 70 percent of your diet. Consuming a healthy amount of protein is also important for maintaining strength and reducing recovery time. On runs that last over an hour, carry fluids and consume six to eight ounces every 20 minutes. Pay attention to the signals your body is sending. It will typically let you know when it needs fuel or water.
     
  • Avoid injury by resting on non-running days or spending time doing non-impact cross-training such as biking, yoga or swimming. Ice any soreness, especially in the knees and shins and consider doing combination of running and walking when starting out. 
     
  • It is a good idea to monitor the age and mileage of your running shoes. Worn out shoes can exacerbate or contribute to injuries to the ankles, hips and knees. Consider owning two pairs of running shoes and alternating them daily.
     
  • There are many views on the effectiveness of stretching for injury prevention. While the jury is still out on static stretching, many find dynamic stretching very helpful in loosening and warming muscles before and after a run. Activities such as walking, an easy jog, butt kicks, side shuffles and lunges are all good examples of dynamic stretches.
     
  • Staying motivated is a common challenge for all athletes. We are all motivated in different ways. One way to stay enthused is to set a goal and publicize it through one or more social networks. The more you share, the more likely you will be to stick to your goal. Another option is to find a friend or a running group to join. Knowing that others are relying on you to show up at a specific time can be a huge motivator. Still others find inspiration in music or tracking performance and progress in a daily log.
     
  • Most importantly, you should gradually increase your distance each week. Alternating your exercise days throughout the week will give your body a chance to rest and recover between efforts. Your weekly schedule might not fit nicely into the weekly schedules provided. Consider these schedules as guidance, and feel free to modify them to fit your own schedule.
     
  • Finally, pay attention to those minor aches and pains and learn to recognize the difference between mere muscle soreness and something more serious. Since most running injuries result from over use, it is often best to take some time off and let your body heal than to continue to run through the pain.
Running the Distance
 
In distance running, whether you know it or not, your goal is to strive for the highest level of aerobic fitness. That's because the aerobic system provides about 95 percent of the energy you use in a 5K race and over 99 percent of the energy for a marathon.
 
Among the most important physiological adaptations to aerobic training are increasing the amount of oxygen-rich blood cells to your muscle fibers, increasing the size and number of energy producing mitochondria in your muscle fibers and increasing the ability of your muscles to store fuel.
 
You can build your aerobic base by increasing your running mileage and/or by doing more aerobic crosstraining. Research shows that racing performance clearly improves after a sustained increase in mileage and the longer the race, the greater the benefit.

The schedules below fit in time for strength training, such as push-ups and sit-ups, and cross training. Cross training days are meant to be "easy days." Potential cross-training activities include swimming, cycling or walking. These lower impact days will allow your body to rest while still moving and increasing your aerobic fitness.

They say running is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. That statement is seemingly more true the longer the distance one is trying to run. Mental toughness is defined as the ability to will oneself through less than ideal situations and conditions. A couple of suggestions for improving mental toughness include "positive thinking" and "thinking in the present." 

Practice being aware of negative thoughts and images and replacing them with "can do" notions helps to develop positive energy, emotions and habits. Dwelling on the past may be helpful if those conjured visions resulted in the ideal outcome. However, it is better to concentrate on the present. Breaking your current race or training run down into manageable chunks and focusing on the here and now is a good way to build confidence and increase self-satisfaction. After all, you should enjoy what you're doing while you're doing it.

Training Programs
 
There are a variety of different training plans available. It is worth taking some time to do research and find the plan that suits your goals and lifestyle best.
 
We are providing two plans below. The first one is a 12-week plan that includes training runs along with built in cross-training days. The second one is a 19-week plan that encourages varying ratios of walking and running. This plan also encourages one to consider what to do in the weeks following the race, extending the training plan by two full weeks to account for this period.

12-Week Training Program
 
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Stretch/Rest 3-mile run 2-mile run
or cross
3-mile run/strengthen Rest 30 minute cross 4-mile run
2 Stretch/Rest 3-mile run 2-mile run
or cross
3-mile run/strengthen Rest 30-minute cross 4-mile run
3 Stretch/Rest 3.5-mile run 2-mile run
or cross
3.5-mile run/strengthen Rest 40-minute cross 5-mile run
4 Stretch/Rest 3.5-mile run 2-mile run
or cross
3.5-mile run/strengthen Rest 40-minute cross 5-mile run
5 Stretch/Rest 4-mile run 2-mile run
or cross
4-mile run/strengthen Rest 40-minute cross 6-mile run
6 Stretch/Rest 4-mile run 2-mile run
or cross
4-mile run/strengthen Rest or easy run Rest 5K run
7 Stretch/Rest 4.5-mile run 3-mile run
or cross
4.5-mile run/strengthen Rest 50-minute cross 7-mile run
8 Stretch/Rest 4.5-mile run 3-mile run
or cross
4.4-mile run/strengthen Rest 50-minute cross 8-mile run
9 Stretch/Rest 5-mile run 3-mile run
or cross
5-mile run/strengthen Rest or easy run Rest 10K run
10 Stretch/Rest 5-mile run 3-mile run
or cross
5-mile run/strengthen Rest 60-minute cross 9-mile run
11 Stretch/Rest 5-mile run 3-mile run
or cross
5-mile run/strengthen Rest 60-minute cross 10-mile run
12 Stretch/Rest 4-mile run 3-mile run
or cross
2-mile run Rest Rest Half Marathon

 

19-Week Training Program

 

This plan incorporates a run-walk strategy. Sample ratios are listed below, but you should feel free to experiment with the run-walk ratio that works best for you. You can also periodically change your ratio to add more time running, or if having a difficult day, increase your walking portion. The key is to keep moving.

 

 8-minute mile: Run 4 minutes, walk 35 seconds

 9-minute mile: Run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute

10-minute mile: Run 3 minutes, walk 1 minute

11-minute mile: Run 2½ minutes, walk 1 minute

12-minute mile: Run 2 minutes, walk 1 minute

13-minute mile: Run 1 minute, walk 1 minute

14-minute mile: Run 45 seconds, walk 45 seconds

15-minute mile: Run 30 seconds, walk 45 seconds

16-minute mile: Run 30 seconds, walk 60 seconds

 

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Off 30-min run Off 25-min run Easy walk Off 3 miles
2 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 4 miles
3 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 5 miles
4 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 2.5 miles
5 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 6.5 miles
6 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 3 miles
7 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 8 miles
8 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 3 miles
9 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 9.5 miles
10 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 4 miles
11 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 11 miles
12 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 4 miles
13 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 12.5 miles
14 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 4 miles
15 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 14 miles
16 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 5 miles
17 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off Half Marathon
18 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 5 miles
19 Off 30-min run Off 30-min run Easy walk Off 6-8 miles

Madison Mini-Marathon
 
The Madison Mini-Marathon is Aug. 18, 2012. Fleet Feet of Madison will be holding a training program specifically for runners interesting in racing in the event. The program lasts 12 weeks and will include group runs, weekly motivation advice via email, a seminar on good running form at nutrition, entry into the mini-marathon and a discount entry fee to the pre- and post-race VIP area. Fleet Feet website