How To Train For Your First Half Marathon

How To Train For Your First Half Marathon

woman running with phone
If you’re planning to run your first half-marathon, then you must be an avid runner. At 13.1 miles, this is not a race for someone who just jumped off the couch one day and decided to hit the road like Forrest Gump.

This distance remains a formidable challenge even for the most experienced runners. You need time to prepare your mind and body for the rigors of a half marathon run.

The Half Marathon Challenge Checklist

Given the difficulty of finishing a 13.1- mile race, it’s not enough to want to run the race. You have to commit to it. The preparation that you need to undergo in order to finish a half marathon race will be a challenge in itself.

Before signing up for your first race, go through our “Half Marathon Challenge Checklist” and see if you are indeed fit and ready to pound the pavement.

1. Running Experience – At the very minimum, you should be running eight to 10 miles per week consistently for 2 months.

2. Health and Medical Clearance – Since training for a 13.1- mile race will place a greater demand on your body, make sure you are medically cleared by your doctor for potential health issues and nagging pains.

3. Diet and Nutrition Plan – You should fuel your body with the right foods and supplements to support the training program and to help you recover faster.

The rule of thumb is to eat 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour of running. So if your training time covers two hours of running, you should eat 60 to 120 grams of carbohydrates.

Choose carbohydrate sources that are easy to digest such as fruits, bagels, and potatoes.

To allow proper digestion, have your meals at least two hours before training.

4. Hydration Plan – Dehydration can affect performance and expose you to various health problems such as increased heart rate, cramping, delirium, and low blood pressure.

Here are 3 simple rules to staying hydrated for a run:

  • Drink at least 16 ounces of water before a long run.
  • Sip water every 15-20 minutes during the run.
  • Drink 20-24 ounces of water per pound lost after the run.

In addition to water, other excellent choices of beverage for runners include coconut water and sports drinks.

5. Strength Training Program –Strength training will help build stronger muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. Likewise, strength training will reduce the risk of injury.

A good strength training program should include free weights, machines, and bodyweight exercises.

Equipment such as kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, and stability balls can be added to improve mobility and flexibility.

6. The Right Running Shoes – Get fitted for a pair of running shoes that are designed specifically for long-distance races. There are running specialty stores where computers will analyze your stride and recommend the right shoe for you.

Buy a second pair for the actual race which should be broken in with no more than 50 miles.

Your choice of socks is also important. Choose a pair that fits well and offers enough support to protect your feet from developing blisters.

How To Choose Your First Half Marathon Race

The half marathon race is a fast-growing sport! In fact, since the year 2000, the half marathon has attracted more runners than the marathon.

This means there are plenty of half marathon races every year. The question is, “Which event should I sign up for?”

Here are 3 things to consider when choosing your first half marathon race:

  1. Training Schedule – When choosing your first half marathon race, sign up at the event which gives you enough time to train. You will need at least 10 weeks to prepare for your first 13.1- mile race.
  2. Accessibility –It would be a good idea to choose a race that is in your city so you can run the course in training.
  3. Motivation –Does running through wine country inspire you to run longer? Or would you prefer a course which features a panoramic view of the ocean?

Find an event with conditions that can motivate you to push harder during the long run while at the same time contribute to a wonderful and memorable experience.

The First-Timers’ Half Marathon Training Program

Like every other sport, running is a skill. In order to become proficient at a skill, you must constantly work at it. However, you will not become a better runner by running every day.

You need rest days in order for your mind and body to recover. You also need to set aside days for other forms of training such as strength training and cross-training.

Good forms of cross-training include swimming, biking, trail walking, and a 45-minute session on an elliptical machine.

By mixing in other training methodologies with your running program, you will be able to strengthen weak areas, improve on other skills, and reduce the risk of injury.

The first-timers’ half marathon training program is structured as follows:

Run – Short Distance Moderate PaceStrength Training DayRun – Moderate PaceCross Training DayRest DayRun – Long Distance, Easy PaceRest Day

Feel free to modify the schedule given your activities and obligations on a day-to-day basis. What is important is to make sure you get adequate rest and to allocate time in the week for the other forms of training.

Putting It All Together – Your First Half Marathon Training Program

You will need 10 to 12 weeks to prepare for your first half marathon.

The time frame should be enough to help you build the strength, conditioning, and stamina required to be competitive in a race while ensuring your safety.

1Run – 2 milesStrength TrainRun – 3 milesCross TrainRestRun – 3 milesRest
2Run – 2 milesStrength TrainRun – 3 milesCross TrainRestRun – 4 milesRest
3Run – 2 milesStrength TrainRun – 3 milesRestRestRun – 5 milesRest
4Run – 3 milesStrength TrainRun – 4 milesRestRestRun – 6 milesRest
5Run – 3 milesStrength TrainRun – 4 milesRestRestRun – 7 milesRest
6Run – 3 milesStrength TrainRun – 4 milesRestRestRun – 8 milesRest
7Run – 4 milesRestRun – 4 milesCross TrainRestRun – 9 milesRest
8Run – 4 milesStrength TrainRun – 4 milesRestRestRun – 10 milesRest
9Run – 4 milesStrength TrainRun – 3 milesCross TrainRestRun – 11 milesRest
10Run – 5 milesRestRun – 4 milesRestRestRun -12 milesRest
11RestRestRun – 3 milesRestRestRun – 4 milesRest
12Easy Run – 2 milesRestRestRestRestRACE DAYRest

If weather conditions are not ideal on a running day, it is perfectly fine to run on a treadmill.


Here’s one more important piece of advice before running your first half marathon race:

Don’t get yourself stressed out! Training for a half marathon is already stressful enough. Stress will affect your recovery and performance.

It is important to get your daily schedule in order. If you have deadlines at work or business appointments to attend, mark these on your calendar ahead of time. The same goes for family reunions, exams, and other important obligations.

Lastly, don’t think about where you’ll finish in the race. This is your first half marathon race. Enjoy it. Savor the experience.

Celebrate your running milestone with a bottle of red wine and a plate of cheese and fine meats with your family and friends.

Just like fine wine, you will only get better with time.

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