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Half marathon beginner running guide

This training guide will get you running a half marathon in 12 weeks, one step at a time.

If you are aiming to complete your first half marathon event, this training program is for you.

Everyone is an individual and your base level of fitness may vary. For those who have already been doing some running, this general guide should give you all the endurance you will need to make the 21.1 km feeling strong.

If you are new to running and find some of the early runs in this guide a little challenging, consider completing the 10 km ‘I can do this’ training guide first to give yourself a base to build into the half marathon training.

This 12-week training guide is just that, a guide, so feel free to be a little flexible with it to make it work for you.

Remember this is a 12-week guide and you don’t need to go too hard, too soon – that is what demotivates people or causes injury. Build your way into it.

Download your half marathon 12-week training guide as a pdf

Training days explained

Run: The pace you run at should be comfortable. If you’re training with a friend, the two of you should be able to hold a conversation. If you measure your heart rate, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Distance: The training guide includes runs that vary from 5km to 16km. Use those distances as your guide, not as your prescription. Review the distances in the guide and pick courses through your local area that roughly measure up to the training guide distances. You can use Google maps to measure courses or a GPS based app.

Rest: Your muscles need time to recover and rebuild, so taking the right amount of time to rest is just as important as the runs in this guide. In particular, it is important to rest before and after your long run to help reduce your risk of injury.

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 16km to the half marathon – a big leap, but your training and inspiration on the day will see you over the line.

Cross-train: You can choose your preferred form of cross-training, be it swimming, cycling, walking, rowing or a combination. Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do during the week.

Stretch + strengthen: After your long Sunday run, Mondays are for stretching and strengthening (this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch on other days). 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.

Guide length: If you have the time and don’t feel the 12 week program is enough to get you ready, you can add extra weeks throughout to make it 16 or 20 weeks. 

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 to allow you to time your race and get used to running with other competitors.

Flexibility: 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.

Download the full guide here.

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