Thursday, February 23, 2012

Half Marathon Training Program

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This is the running program I used for my half marathon. I added a link to the original source if you want to try a different running program. I just loved this one and thought you would too.

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Half Marathon Training Guide - Novice 2 Program

THIS IS MY NOVICE 2 PROGRAM FOR HALF-MARATHON RUNNERS, filling a gap between my previous Novice and Intermediate programs for that distance. The original Novice Half program (now Novice 1) was a true beginner’s program, designed for people who have never run before, true novices. Intermediate was designed for experienced runners who wanted to improve their half times, and it included one day of speedwork, something that doesn’t appeal to everybody.

There seemed to be room for a program in between, particularly given the growing popularity of the half marathon. More than twice the number of people now run that distance compared to the number who run marathons. Some of these half marathoners are people moving up from the 5-K or 10-K, but I suspect more of them (more of you) are runners who have run a marathon or two, but enjoy racing at shorter distances in between, because you can race halfs more frequently than marathons with less danger of injury. And increasing numbers of runners have chosen the half marathon as their race of choice whether or not they also run longer or shorter races.

So regardless of where you’re coming from, here is Half Novice 2. Below are some directions on how the program works. (For more detailed directions on how to train using Novice 2, sign up for the interactive version available through TrainingPeaks, where I send you daily emails telling you what to run.)

Long runs:The key to the program is the long run on weekends, which builds from 4 miles in Week 1 to 12 miles in the climactic Week 11. (After that, you taper a week to get ready for the half marathon.) You can skip an occasional workout, or juggle the schedule depending on other commitments, but do not cheat on the long runs. Although the schedule suggests long runs on Saturdays, you can switch to Sundays or even other days of the week to suit your schedule. On two of the weeks, I suggest a 5-K or 10-K race as an option to that week’s long run. Notice that I just said “option.” See “Races” below for more on the subject.

Run slow: For experienced runners, I recommend that they do their long runs anywhere from 30 to 90 or more seconds per mile slower than their half marathon pace. As an experienced runner, you may or may not have run a prior half marathon, but hopefully you have done enough races, so that you can predict your race pace. If not, don't worry. Simply do your long runs at a comfortable pace, one that allows you to converse with your training partners, at least during the beginning of the run. Toward the end, you may need to abandon conversation and concentrate on the act of putting one foot in front of the other to finish. Or, feeling inspired, you may decide to pick up the pace, converting your workout into what I describe as a 3/1 Run, the first three-quarters at an easy pace, the final one-quarter at a faster pace. One important point: If you find yourself finishing at a pace significantly slower than your early pace, you probably need to start much slower, or include regular walking breaks. It's better to run too slow during these long runs, than too fast. The important point is that you cover the prescribed distance; how fast you cover it doesn't matter.

Walking breaks: Walking is a perfectly acceptable strategy in trying to finish a half marathon. It works during training runs too. While some coaches recommend walking 1 minute out of every 10, or walking 1 minute every mile, in I suggest that runners walk when they come to an aid station. This serves a double function: 1) you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running, and 2) since many other runners slow or walk through aid stations, you'll be less likely to collide with someone. It's a good idea to follow this strategy in training as well.

Cross-training: Sundays in this training program are devoted to cross-training. What is cross-training? It is any other form of aerobic exercise that allows you to use slightly different muscles the day after your long run. In this program, we run long on Saturdays and cross-train on Sundays, although it certainly is possible to reverse that order. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or even walking. What about sports such as tennis or basketball? Activities requiring sideways movements are not always a good choice. Particularly as the mileage builds toward the end of the program, you raise your risk of injury if you choose to play a sport that requires sudden stopping and starting. One tip: You don't have to cross-train the same each weekend. And you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and easy jogging or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a health club. Cross-training for an hour on Sunday will help you recover after your Saturday long runs.

Midweek training: Training during the week also should be done at a comparatively easy pace. As the weekend mileage builds, the Tuesday and Thursday mileage stays the same: 3 miles. Run these miles at an easy, or comfortable, pace. How fast is “easy?” That can vary from day to day. On Tuesdays after two days of comparative rest, you might even find yourself running faster than race pace. On Thursdays after two days of training, your “easy” might be a slower pace. Don’t get trapped by numbers. Listen to your body signals as much as the signals coming from your GPS watch. Wednesdays feature a mini-build-up from 3 to 5 miles with some of those workouts done at race pace. More on that below. If you strength train, Tuesdays and Thursdays would be the best days to combine lifting with running. Usually it’s a good idea to run before you lift rather than the reverse.

Race Pace: What do I mean by "race pace?" It's a frequently asked question, so let me explain. Race pace is the pace you plan to run in the race you're training for. If you're training for a 2:00 half marathon, your average pace per mile is 9:09. So you would run that same pace when asked to run race pace (sometimes stated simply as "pace" on the training charts). If you were training for a 5-K or 10-K, "race pace" would be the pace you planned to run in those races. Sometimes in prescribing speedwork, I define paces for different workouts as 5-K pace or 10-K pace, but you won't be asked to run this fast in the Novice 2 program.

Races: What about races, since I suggest running a 5-K race in Week 6 and a 10-K race in Week 9. As stated earlier, consider races as an “option.” Doing at least some racing in a training program can be a valuable experience, because you can learn how races operate: everything from where to pin your number (the front) to how to drink at the aid stations (walking works well). You can also use races to determine your level of fitness and predict how fast you might run in your goal race (using various charts on the Internet). But too much racing can wear you out and distract from your training, so embrace this option cautiously. Finally, there is nothing magic about 5-K or 10-K as distances or Week 6 or Week 9 for when to race. Seek races in your area convenient to your schedule.

Rest: Despite my listing it near the end, rest is an important component of this or any training program. Scientists will tell you that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches also will tell you that you can't run hard unless you are well rested. And it is hard running (such as the long runs) that allows you to improve. If you're constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential. This is why I include two days of rest each week for Novice 2 runners. If you need to take more rest days--because of a cold or a late night at the office or a sick child--do so. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you are consistent with your training during the full 12 weeks of the program, you can afford--and may benefit from--extra rest.

Interactive Training: If you would like more help with your marathon training, I also have an interactive version of this program, where I will send you emails daily telling you how to train. The daily emails include even more tips than are available here on my website plus you can log your training and use other features. To learn more about your Interactive Training options when Novice 2 becomes available, visit my list of programs on the TrainingPeaks Web site. I also have a Novice 2 app that you can download into your iPhone, developed by BlueFin.
Here is your Novice 2 training schedule. The below chart tells you what to do for each day for the 12 weeks leading to the half marathon.
Half Marathon Training Schedule: Novice 2
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Rest 3 m run 3 m run 3 m run Rest 4 m run cross
2 Rest 3 m run 3 m pace 3 m run Rest 5 m run cross
3 Rest 3 m run 4 m run 3 m run Rest 6 m run cross
4 Rest 3 m run 4 m pace 3 m run Rest 7 m run cross
5 Rest 3 m run 4 m run 3 m run Rest 8 m run cross
6 Rest 3 m run 4 m pace 3 m run Rest 5-K Race cross
7 Rest 3 m run 5 m run 3 m run Rest 9 m run cross
8 Rest 3 m run 5 m pace 3 m run Rest 10 m run cross
9 Rest 3 m run 5 m run 3 m run Rest 10-K Race cross
10 Rest 3 m run 5 m pace 3 m run Rest 11 m run cross
11 Rest 3 m run 5 m run 3 m run Rest 12 m run cross
12 Rest 3 m run 2 m pace 2 m run Rest Rest Half Marathon
  Half Marathon Training: Novice 1Novice 2 | Intermediate | Advanced | Walk



  1. Thanks for posting this! I have had great success with the Hal Higdon half programs. I used the Novice 1 last year to train for 2 half marathons, and just checked out the Novice 2 for my races this year (hopefully 2 more half marathons!) :)

    1. Keep up running for sure. I am so impressed with all halfs you are thinking of doing. Keep me posted.

  2. It was a nice post, thanks for sharing this to us and looking forward for more updates. Great job well done, Congratulations !