This 12-week half marathon training program will help you cover 13.1 miles fitter and faster than ever.
Whether you’re a new runner, a savvy veteran or somewhere in between, there is a good chance a half marathon is your favorite racing distance.
You’re not alone. The half, as we fondly call it, has become the distance du jour worldwide, with over 1.9 million finishers in the U.S. in 2013. It makes perfect sense when you consider that for beginners, the 13.1-mile distance is a difficult challenge, yet still an achievable goal. Moreover, for the experienced runner, the half-marathon is often a favorite distance because it still tests the limits of endurance, but requires far less training time—and recovery time—than the marathon.
Beginners and advanced runners alike face certain physiological challenges when training for the half-marathon.
For beginners, the amount of time spent running is the most important factor in training. Research shows that biological markers of muscle fatigue—aspartate aminotransferase (AST), creatine kinase (CK), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and myoglobin—increase significantly immediately after a half-marathon and remain elevated for more than 24 hours after the race. Put simply, two hours of running puts a tremendous amount of stress on the muscles in your legs. To prepare for the specific demands of a half-marathon, it’s necessary for newer runners to keep their workout and long run volumes fairly high.
On the flipside, the physiological demands of the half for advanced runners mimic those of the 10K distance. From an energy system standpoint, the half marathon is 98 percent aerobic and only 2 percent anaerobic. This means experienced runners training to race faster must improve their threshold and develop their ability to clear lactic acid and reconvert it back into usable energy.
The physiological demands of the half-marathon clearly demonstrate that success at racing the 13.1-mile distance involves a blend of stamina and speed endurance. It’s important to progress training in a way that prepares the body to first handle the hard workouts and long miles before targeting the specific physiological demands of the half-marathon distance during the final few weeks of training.
Over the following pages, we’ll break down half-marathon training into three specific phases, identify the purpose of each phase for beginners and advanced runners alike and finally show how it all comes together in a well-rounded training plan.