13.1…That’s Really Far

I have had a few readers leave comments asking me how I train for half marathons. So I decided to write a post about it in case more people out there were interested. Let me just preface this by saying – Running is a hobby. I am in no way informed enough to be an expert on the topic. I am just here to pass along some info and tips from my own personal experience. 

For those of you out there who are beginners…I mean straight up, “I can’t even run a mile without stopping,” beginners…I have been there. It is possible to go from no miles to 13.1 miles. My first piece of advice is to not look at the big picture. Tackle the miles a little at a time. The best way to slowly build up your mileage base is with a beginners plan.

I think Jeff Galloway has an awesome approachable method that can turn any non-runner into a racer. His plan slowly builds you up from run/walking a few miles to completing 13.1 miles.

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Galloway’s plan makes it so that you are only running three days a week, so your life is taken over by training. The plan is long but it allows you to slowly increase your miles without overdoing it. I am a big advocate of this training plan for beginning runners.

If you are looking for a shorter plan with actual mileage on weekdays, here is a good one from Marathon Rookie.

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This plan is shorter so it includes one more day of running, and it builds up the mileage a little quicker. The second plan may be good for someone who already has a bit of a running base and is looking for a way to build it up safely and effectively.

I think the key to training for a half marathon is consistency. You cannot expect to run a good race without proper training, so I like the idea of having some sort of plan. It helps keep you accountable and gives you small goals every week.

Personally, I am also a big fan of cross training on non running days. I get bored of doing nothing but running, so I also like taking a spin class or going to body pump. This helps break up the monotony of training. Here is a plan from Shape that allows for two cross training days, three running days, and two rest days.

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Rest days are extremely important when training for a race. You are putting your body through something it’s never experienced before. So taking the time to heal and rest will improve you as a runner and prevent injuries.

Along with having a plan, it is important to learn how your body responds to longer runs so when race day comes you are prepared. This includes proper fuel, plenty of hydration, and clothing. Your training runs are when you experiment. Can you eat before a run? Do you warm up quickly? Do you need a long time to stretch before running?

These are the things you find out about yourself with each training run. So when race day rolls around, you are wearing the right clothes, your stomach is relaxed, and your legs are ready.

If I could offer one overall piece of advice about training for a half marathon, it would be to create a plan (or find one online) and stick to it. If you put in the work, your legs and mind will know what to do when it’s time to race.

And at the end of the day…have fun! Running is an amazing thing. Racing is even better. So take in the experience and really enjoy it. 

I hope this helps! If there is anything else you want answered or clarification, let me know.  I’m no Jeff Galloway but I can try and find an answer. Have a great weekend!

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13 responses to “13.1…That’s Really Far

  1. I also run halfs and have done so quite happily on four runs a week. The long run is the key, really, along with consistency. That long run not only gets your body used to a progressively longer distance, but it builds up you mental resources. By the time you get to the actual half race, the distance actually seems short, because you’ve run further in training. That’s why I like training schedules that rely on mileage and that have the longest run before the taper as longer than the half; the mental fortitude is really important. I can’t tell you how many times what has gotten me through the last mile with any speed was being able to tell myself that it was only 25% of the distance of a short run and I COULD do it.

    • Ah the mental side of running. I feel like I can write a whole other post about that. Usually for me, it’s not the physical at all. It’s staying out there and running for 2+ hours at a time and getting my mind into it. That’s always a struggle for me. I like your 25% mentality. I’m going to use that the next time the last mile seems to drag on forever.

  2. What a great post, great info! I’ve always wanted to run. But I have bad knees… my orthopedist told me no high impact stuff (I had ACL reconstruction 13 years ago, but before that I started having “crunchy knees”… aka loss of cartilage.. but it has worsened as the years fly by). Now part of my head says NOOO YOU CAN RUN… but I don’t want to eff up what equipment I got left, ya know? I can walk fast though! I could walk a 13.1, right?

    • Lots of people do! I also had cartilage and acl issues. Strength trainined solved the acl problems, tightening up the joint. Losing 60lbs solved many of my other issues. However, if you’re of an ideal weight and still have problems, I’d be super careful. Knees are nice to have when you’re eighty.

      • Yup! Plenty of people walk races and some can even finsih them fast then the runners. I’ve always had knee problems too (3 surgeries before I was 14) so I think that always kind of held me back and made me think I couldn’t do it. Once I got over that, I was able to really enjoy running. But I do have times where I need to take it easy, or scale back. Hills and cold weather make my knees angry.

      • Did you find that, having had knee issues, taking a rest day the day after a long run became super-important? It was for me…

      • Yea, I always rest the day after a long run or race. I plan on signing up for my first marathon soon though, so hopefully the ol’ knees hold out for lots and lots of miles.

      • I am about 60 lb overweight, and I am doing strength training now. The problem is finding more time to work out, and continuing to motivate myself to eat better (hence my second blog). When I lost 30 lb 10 years ago and got down to my ideal weight of 170 (I’m 5′ 10″), I was working out hard at least 4x a week, which included biking 12 mile trails. I wish I had the time for that now. I guess when it gets warmer I can get a bike seat for my daughter so she can ride with me… I’ll just have to find a safer trail to ride, or a park. I wouldn’t take my daughter on the roads I biked before — they were a little too traffic-heavy. (Sorry, tangent!)

      • Tangent away. I know what you mean on finding the time, and I don’t even have a kid!

      • =) Oh yeah… and a husband. Sometimes I like to hang out with him!

  3. I’m training for a 10-12 mile obstacle trail run happening the end of June and I think I might use this to get me up to the distance. Thanks for posting!

  4. Informative blog! Will pass it on to our customers who are training for their first half marathon! -JK

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