Your First Half-Marathon (Preview) - Are you ready?

All the training and know-how you need to conquer your debut 13.1-miler in style

by Bob Cooper

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Our panel of experienced coaches, all with years of experience in guiding new runners to the finish line, answer your training concerns

Q. Am I ready for a half?

A. If you've been running three miles, three or four times a week for six months, you're ready to start training for a half. This ‘base’ means your legs are strong enough to begin ramping up the mileage.

Q. How do I follow this plan?

A. As closely as possible. However, you can rearrange weekly runs to suit your schedule. Just allow for proper recovery the day after long runs and tempo runs – rest or do light cross-training, says coach James Staten.

Q. I like walk breaks. Is that OK, and how should I do them?

A. It’s absolutely OK. But start by taking walk breaks from the beginning of every run, rather than waiting until you're knackered. Experiment with different run/walk ratios – such as running for two minutes, walking for one minute. Then increase your run time as you get stronger.

Q. How fast should I run?

A. With our training plan, you'll do easy runs, long runs and tempo runs. If you've run a race in the past six months, you can find the precise pace your should hit in each by plugging your time into the training pace calculator at If you haven't raced, run a mile as fast as you can, then plug your time into the calculator. Click on ‘Display my training paces’ to determine exactly how fast to run all the sessions.

Q. What if I need more than one day of rest after a long run?

A. Listen to your body and if you need it, take it. You can do some strength training and stretching on that second day off, says running coach Lori McGee-Koch. But a few simple adjustments to your long run may banish that fatigue. "Slow down by 30 seconds per mile, take in more protein after your run, and drink more before and during long runs," says McGee-Koch.

Q. How can I distinguish between pain I can ignore and pain I should worry about?

A. "If it's an ache that subsides within 10 minutes of a run and disappears after a day or two, you're probably OK," says Staten. But if it's a sharp pain that forces you to change your form, call it a day. And if it persists for a couple days, see a doctor or physio.

Subscribers can view the rest of the Q&As, training tips and the half-marathon schedule in the full article.

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Discuss this article

Im very new to all this. Just booked into the Chester half marathon in May. I am fairly active, do about 4 runs a week on average about 4 miles each. I go to the gym, do other various cardio activity. I only started really pushing myself at the new year though. Just a bit worried I might be jumping the gun a bit here. I'm determined to do this though, does anyone think I may be a bit pushed for time?Thanks!
Posted: 16/02/2013 at 13:37

No you've got loads of time if you apply yourself. If you make those 4 runs part of a plan you will be ok.


Posted: 16/02/2013 at 15:33

Most of us follow a training plan. I do it to get myself ready for race day without having to plan anything. If today is Wednesday it's 8 miles easy kind of thing.
Tomorrow I am on long run Sunday and doing 14 miles.
Well done for sticking your money on the table and wanting to give it a go. Look at your next one for June or July. This gives you enough time to get the miles in your legs.
Right now I'd say aim for a 10k which you should handle easily. And get race day experience.
But keep looking for that half. They are probably taking entries now.
Posted: 16/02/2013 at 15:34

It's in MAY. Thought you said March.
Don't see why not. Get a training plan from the site. Calculate the weeks to go until race day.
And get on with it!
Posted: 16/02/2013 at 15:37

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Posted: 16/02/2013 at 16:09

Hi Claire, well done for signing up! You have lots of time. Assuming that you have no injuries or illnesses which might require customised training, pick one of the Runners World training plans and follow it each week (printing it and sticking it onto the fridge might help). Follow a healthy eating plan and make sure you rest properly between runs. I ran the Macclesfield Half last year and really struggled (i'd trained in London on flat terrain) so make sure that you train for the course if it's hilly. It might be worth ditching the other cardio stuff and just focus on running, stretching and core strength - and eating a shed load of carbs. You might not have time for much else!! Let us know how you go and enjoy it! 

Posted: 16/02/2013 at 17:32

Hi Guys! I am very new to RW and also just signed up for the my first Half marathon in May! I was doing really well in my "pre-training" training plan when I got injured! I had got up to 9 miles and felt really comfortable, alternating hills and flat running. Tread mills and outdoors, sprint sessions and long steady runs. I've felt like I've ticked all the right boxes when it comes to training for my first half! Can't put my finger on how, when, where or actually what it is I've done, but all I know is I'm out of the running game for a few weeks until my physio can hopefully give me some help! I have the most bizarre symptoms which come and go but mainly in my left quad/groin/glute/hip area! I sometimes have full range of movement and can still get into positions you wouldn't think possible with a typical muscle strain or tendon tear, but as soon as I weight bare for too long or walk a short distace the pain is aweful? can anyone relate?? My training is meant to start in 2 weeks for the half. Any advice or tips would be most welcomed! Thanks! 
Posted: 25/02/2013 at 20:08

Thanks for all your replies everyone! I'm well on form for the Chester half marathon and have just entered the Bolton 10k to get me in the mood. Followed a training plan to the best of my ability but my job has had me all over the place recently. I think I'll struggle but ill do it. Now we just need some nice weather!
Posted: 09/04/2013 at 23:22

Doing a marathon is a very pleasant thing. You can meet many people in that arena. You can also get acquainted with a lot of runners who are new.
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Posted: 22/04/2013 at 15:38

Running a marathon is mostly done by those who really like the outdoor activities. Many people who follow the marathon and hope a lot with that race.
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Posted: 24/04/2013 at 12:41

ive just booked into the full marathon for October (Chester!).. better get training hardcore now. 

Posted: 12/05/2013 at 21:35

Take it the half went well then Claire?! It's a fab race isn't it and perfect running weather yesterday. Good luck with your move up to the full distance.

Posted: 13/05/2013 at 11:05

Claire u need to up distance a little to enjoy race more. Work your way up to 12 miles running at 7/10 perceived effort.

Posted: 28/06/2013 at 14:13

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