Running 13.1 miles is possible for most runners - if you can do a 10K, you can do a half.
"It's an achievable challenge, as it's easier to fit the training into a busy life than it is for a marathon", says British elite and RW contributing editor Jo Pavey. But it's still a big step for those new to the distance, and will require a higher weekly mileage, longer long runs and a greater variety of sessions to develop the endurance and speed you'll need.
Whether you’re building up to 13.1 miles for the first time, or planning to smash your PB, we’ve got everything you’ll need to get you to the finish line in style.
How long is a half marathon?
A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21K.
Why should I follow a training schedule?
Running coach Sean Tait explains that the right plan will help you train all the individual aspects that will be put together on race day. A good schedule is a good way of getting through different types of session in a week, without putting your body at risk of becoming injured or overtrained.
Remember that nothing is achieved in a day, rather it's achieved constantly over time. A schedule will be written with the entire training session in mind, not just what you should be doing that day. For example, if you don't run easy enough during an easy run, you won't allow your body time to heal from the quality training you've been doing prior to that, which will increase your risk of injury.
What happens if I get injured when training for a half marathon?
"Never run through an injury" explains running coach Paddy McGrath - "it's better to get to the end of your plan healthy, having missed a week or two, than to have hit all your sessions but be in no fit state to race." Depending on when the injury is, it's possible to cross-train in a way that doesn't put stress on the affected area (e.g. swimming, aqua-running or cycling). That way you'll retain fitness even without running.
If you can't run for:
One week: Skip that week and simply pick up the schedule the following week
Two weeks: Repeat the previous week's training and continue from there - bearing in mind you may not get to the same point as someone who has been following the programme without interruption.
Three weeks: Jump back two weeks, potentially even three, because you'll have lost fitness.
Four weeks or more: It's probably wise to adjust your goal by aiming for a slower time.
How do I find the best half-marathon training plan for me?
Our training schedules below are tried and trusted. Not sure on which to choose? Use our race-time predictor for an indication of what target you should set yourself.
I don't feel like I'm improving on my half marathon plan, what should I do?
Don't dispair - it takes time to improve as a runner. You may not feel like it, but rest assured that you are getting better every day, as each run slowly builds your strength and fitness.
Aimed at getting you round your first half-marathon, this 12-week training plan builds you up to running 20.1 miles per week, to get you round your first 13.1 miles.
Aimed at those looking finish a half marathon in under two hours, this simple schedule gets you to 1:59:59 with two quality sessions per week - a long run and goal-pace (or faster) workout.
If you're training for a hilly half-marathon, here's the training plan to help you stay running strong as you run up-hill.
This time range takes you up to a regular 40 miles a week, though many runners would still be able to do themselves justice by substituting one easy run for a rest day and running closer to 35 miles a week.
This band covers serious athletes. The schedule will take you up to over 50 miles a week, which is about as much training as is compatible with a lifestyle that involves a job and a family.
This band covers beginners and those who have been over the distance once before, in around two hours, and would now like to try for something a little faster.
You should be capable of either a sub-1:05 10K, a sub-1:55 10-miler or a sub-6:00 marathon. Training will be three days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 15 miles.
You should be capable of either a sub-60 10K, a sub-1:30 10-miler or a sub-5:00 marathon. Training will be four days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 25 miles.
You should be capable of either a sub-50 10K, a sub-90 10-miler or a sub-4:30 marathon. Training will be five days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 30 miles.
You should be capable of either a sub-46 10K, sub-1:18 10-miler or a sub-4:00 marathon. Training will be at least five days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 35 miles.
You should be capable of either a sub-40 10K, sub-1:07 10-miler or a sub-3:15 marathon. Training will be six days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 40 miles.
You should be capable of either a sub-36 10K, sub-60 10-miler or a sub-3:00 marathon. Training will be at least six days a week, with an average weekly mileage of 50 miles.
What are the best half-marathons to run?
We’ve summed up the best half-marathons to sign up to this summer 2018 here. Have a browse of more races near you using our half-marathon race search here.
How should I taper for my half-marathon?
Your body doesn't just benefit from training; it also benefits from recovery. Reduce your long-run mileage in the final two to three weeks before race day, and do a couple of short race-pace efforts in the final week to keep yourself ticking over nicely.
Read our advice on how to taper for you next half-marathon and look out for the top tapering mistakes runners make, and how to avoid them.
What about race day? Your race day plan for your best half marathon yet:
You can quieten the butterflies in your stomach by focusing on race-day logistics: carefully following your nutrition and hydration plans, making it on time and properly equipped to the starting area, and meeting up with friends. Run strong by following this race-day plan -
1. Warm up properly: Warming up prepares body and mind for the task at hand. It increases your heart rate, body temperature and blood flow. Blood transports oxygen to working muscles more efficiently when it is warm, and a warm body can break down and utilise glucose bette rthan one at rest. Plus, some fast running can burn off nervous energy and help you focus.
Half marathon warm-up: do some light jogging for 10-15 minutes, then do two to four 200m strides, accelerating slowly until you reach your planned half-marathon pace. Because the half marathon is fairly long, you won't need to shoot off the line - ease into your goal pace over the first mile or two.
2. Stick to your pace: In general, the best pace stratergy is to run even mile or kilometre splits throughout the race. Break the race down into managable chunks. This is particularly useful if you're a runner who tends to lose focus in the middle miles. "Mental lapses are common in the middle of races such as the half marathon," says Scott Douglas, author of The Little Red Book of Running. "If you're really racing the distance - a minute or more per mile than your normal training pace - you'll have to concentrate to keep the proper effort going. Otherwise, it's common for your mile splits to start being 10 or 15 seconds slower. The benefit of the tempo run - of learning how to keep that concentration going- can't be overstated."
3. Listen to your body: If you're feeling comfortable, persist with the same pace, but don't get too excited yet. If you reach the halfway mark and still feel you're not being stretched, gradually pick up the pace and run by feel. If you're not feeling great, "try to distinguish between mental and physical fatigue," says Tait. "If it's physical, you'll be cramping or have no power left in your body to keep pushing. If it's mental, your body will feel tired and you'll be looking for a way out." Focus on short-term goals: if it happens at halfway, tell yourself to continue to the eight-mile point and if you're still feeling bad by then, you can pull out. Feeling better then? Carry on to 10 miles, and so on.
4. Listen to the conditions: If it's really windy or hot on race day, both will cause you to slow down. You'll be more hindered by the slowing-down effect of a headwind than you'll be helped by a tailwind. Even a crosswind will sap your energy. In this case, forget your pace plan and run by feel instead. Heat will definitely slow you, because your body will have to work harder to cool you down. Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking to thirst before and during the race.