Half marathon intermediate running guide
Get ready to smash your personal best. This training guide will get you running a half marathon in 12 weeks, one step at a time.
If you are aiming to push your running to the next level and have already completed a few mid-distance runs, then this training program is for you.
Everyone is an individual and your base level of fitness may vary. For those who already have been doing some running, this general program should give you the extra speed and endurance to take your performance to the next level.
This 12-week training guide is just that, a guide, so feel free to be a little flexible with it so that it works for you.
Remember this is a 12-week program and you don’t need to go too hard, too soon – that is what demotivates people or causes injury. Build your way into it.
Training days explained
Easy runs: The runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays are to be done at a comfortable pace. If you're training with a friend, the two of you should be able to hold a conversation. For those who wear heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Long runs: Important sessions in the guide are the long runs, which progressively increase in distance each weekend. You will jump from your longest training run of 19km to the half marathon – a solid leap, but your training and inspiration on the day will see you over the line.
Stretch + strengthen: After your long Sunday run, Mondays are for stretching (this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch on other days) and Mondays and Thursdays are for strength training. Strength training, particularly for your core muscles, is an important focus of this training guide. Bodyweight-based activities like push-ups, chin-ups or dips are beneficial or light weights with high reps at your local gym.
Rest: Your muscles need time to recover and rebuild, so ensuring adequate rest is just as important as the runs in this guide. In particular, taking the time to rest before and after your long run will help reduce your risk of injury. Be realistic about your fatigue level, especially in the closing weeks of the program, and don't be afraid to take an extra day off now and then.
Long runs: The key to taking your running to the next level is the long run, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. Over a period of 11 weeks, your longest run will increase from 8km to 19km. The guide schedules long runs on Sundays however you can do them on Saturdays, if it’s more convenient. Keep in mind that it’s easier to do a long run the day after a pace run.
Test: The idea with the test runs is to measure your time, progress and fitness, if it suits you. Another option is to find local fun-runs at these distances so you can time your race and get used to running with other competitors.
Speed sessions: To increase your speed to take your running to the next level, you need to train at an increased pace a couple of sessions per week. This guide alternates interval running with tempo runs (described below). An interval workout usually consists of fast runs separated by walking or jogging. The guide begins with 5 x 400m and reaches 10 x 400m the week before your half marathon. Walk or jog between each. Run the 400s at a medium pace – around your 5km best time pace.
Tempo runs: This is a continuous run with a buildup of pace in the middle. A tempo run of 30 to 45 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build to 15-20 minutes at medium pace near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual. A tempo run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it.
Pace: In the guide some workouts are designed as pace runs to get you used to running the pace you will run to achieve your goal. For example in week 10 you run a session of 8.0km at goal race pace. Remember to do a short warm-up before starting each of these pace runs.
Warm-up: A good guide for a warm-up is to jog 1-2km, sit down and stretch for 5-10 minutes, then run some easy strides (100m at near race pace). Cool down afterwards by doing half the warm-up distance.
Cross-training: Even though you are focused on running, cross-training is still an effective session as it helps with active recovery and injury prevention. It could be swimming, cycling, walking, rowing, or a combination that includes strength training.
Flexibility: You need to make the guide work for you. Over a 12-week program, it is important to be flexible and mix up days and runs when you need to. If you miss a run you can make it up. The real aim is to be consistent with your training, and the overall details won't matter.