How Long Should You Train For A Half Marathon

How long you should train for a half marathon is a question I am often asked. Personally, I see 12 to 16 weeks is sufficient to run a great time over the 13.1 mile distance.

I’ve routinely stated on the blog that training far faster than your goal half marathon race pace is key to a new personal best. If your goal is to hold 7 minute mile pace you need to get comfortable spending some time at 5 minute mile pace. How easy will 7 minute mile pace feel then?

The reason why we run faster is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Furthermore, it is to be able to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the bloodstream. The hydrogen ion, a component of lactic acid is the real reason our muscle functioning shuts down when trying to race at maximum speeds.

What Is The Proper Time To Train For A Half Marathon

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So, it is critical to get the length of time needed to train for a half marathon down right. I’ve found that 12 to 16 weeks is certainly adequate time to prepare. That being said, if you spend the majority of that time running too slow you will not yield a time you want if your goal is time specific.

 Is 12 Weeks Long Enough To Prepare For A Half Marathon?


The quick answer is yes. Preparing for a half marathon is much like a puzzle. You do not instantly open the box and the picture is perfectly in place. You have to maneuver and find the pieces that fit, disregard the ones that don’t until everything works.

The goal of this private membership is to provide more specific information needed to help you maximize your results. 3 months is plenty of time to prepare for and run a great half marathon time. 4 months may be even more beneficial especially if you have spent the first month running easy, slow mileage and built a nice base leading into it.

  • Train 1 to 2 minutes faster than your goal half marathon race pace. If it is 8 minutes per mile you are focused on train at or even below 6 minute mile pace. The more often you spend at this type of intensity the greater chance you have of setting yourself up for success.
  • Focus on your long run. Long runs, run too easily, only build endurance, not stamina. Stamina is what you need in order to run fast over the 13.1 mile distance. My recommendation is to run your long runs at a heart rate of 160 beats per minute or 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This causes you to train at a higher intensity over a longer period of time.  Early on, it will not be easy at all. You may be only able to run a very small percentage of your long run at this intensity. That being said, as you get fitter and stronger you will be able to run for longer periods of time at this heart rate. Furthermore, your heart will not have to work as hard and your pace will increase as you get fitter.

Vary The Pace of Your Long Runs

  • Alternate the paces of these long runs. Each week your long run pace and distance should vary. I was able to break the 2:20:00 marathon barrier (running 2:19:35) by doing this. I would run one harder long run one weekend followed by an easier long run the following week. This allowed me to get the highest rate of return on my training and I was able to recover from the hard training sessions I was putting in.
  • Don’t wear a watch on recovery days. Say what? Yep, take it off. If you know the distance of your runs one of the best things you can do is not to focus on mile or kilometer splits, relax and just enjoy the run. Remember, all of the benefits from your hard work come within the rest. So, you need to take it easy on days that recovery is called on. The top runners I have trained with, some of which who ran under an hour for the half marathon and sub-2:10:00 for the marathon JOGGED on their easy days. So should you and I. Sometimes the hardest things to do is to back off on the days we know we should. If you have the discipline to run fast on the tough days use that same discipline to slow down when it counts. Your body and performance will thank you for it.

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