How to Run and Train for a Half Marathon

Runners racing in marathon

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The 13.1-mile half marathon is a hot distance. As the race becomes more popular, it's getting easier and easier to find one near you. People run half marathon races for different reasons. They may have already run a 5K or 10K and want to challenge themselves even more with a 13.1-mile distance. Or they want to see what it feels like to train for and run an endurance event.

Often, runners eventually want to run a marathon (double the distance at 26.2 miles) but want to see what it feels like to try a shorter distance first. Or perhaps they're already training for a full marathon and want to evaluate their fitness level by doing a half marathon. Some runners do a second (or third or fourth) half because they want to beat their personal record.

How to Find a Half Marathon

Decide whether you want to run a big or small half marathon and if you want to travel to a fun location or stay close to home. Get listings and reviews of half marathons all over the U.S. and the world at, or try these seasonal lists:

What It Takes to Train for a Half Marathon

For new runners, running 13.1 miles can feel extremely intimidating. Before you decide to take on the half marathon distance, it's best to train for and run a shorter race, such as a 5K or 10K. After that, you'll probably feel more physically and mentally prepared to run a half marathon.

The training period for a half marathon depends on your running base before you get started. To start a training plan, you should have been running for about two months and have a mileage base of 8 miles per week. With that type of training base, you can train for a half marathon in 12 weeks. More experienced runners can train for a half marathon in 8 to 10 weeks.

Training for a half marathon will require running at least three days a week. One of those days will be your long training run. Your long run will gradually increase during the training, topping out at 10 to 12 miles (for beginners). You do not have to run more than 10 miles during your training in order to complete the 13.1 miles on the day of the race.

Half Marathon Training for Beginners

Many new runners choose the half marathon distance because the training is not as time-consuming as a full marathon, but it's still a race distance with a lot of bragging rights. If you're fairly new to running and want to train for a half marathon, one of these training programs may work for you.

  • Run/walk half marathon schedule: This 12-week training program is designed to help you run/walk to the finish line. To start this plan, you should have been run/walking for at least two months and should have a base mileage of about 8 to 10 miles per week.
  • Half marathon training schedule for beginners: This 12-week training schedule is designed for beginning runners who want to get to the finish line of a half marathon race. It assumes that you already run at least 8 miles per week. If you've never run before, follow this step-by-step plan for building a running base before you start with the half marathon schedule.
  • Half marathon training schedule for advanced beginners: This 12-week schedule is geared toward runners who can run 4 miles, and can run 4 to 5 days per week. These are runners who may have never run a half marathon before but are looking for a schedule that's a little more challenging than the half marathon schedule for beginners.

Half Marathon Training for Experienced Runners

If you've already run at least one half, these schedules may work for you.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.