Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Picking a Training Plan

Choosing a half marathon training plan can be a little daunting. A quick Google search for “half marathon training plan” produces 268,000 results, not all of them good or beneficial. To start with, many experts suggest that someone who has decided to train for a half marathon should be able to run 3-5 miles 3-5 times a week for 4-6 months. Not only does this prepare you for the cardiovascular and aerobic demands of training for a half marathon, it also conditions your joints, bones, and ligaments to the impact of running in order to prevent injury. Most half marathon training programs are about 12 weeks long, so be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to prepare before your race.

A good training plan will work with your schedule to help you achieve your goals and prepare you to “peak” just in time for your race. I think that an important step in picking a training plan that is frequently overlooked is to identify your own goals. Someone who is just trying to finish their first half marathon and someone who is trying for a personal record (PR) are going to have different training plans. Because Women’s Half Marathon Nashville is a hilly course with potentially warm weather, I don’t plan to all-out race it. My goal for WHM Nashville is to have fun and finish comfortably while enjoying the camaraderie and beautiful scenery throughout Nashville.


Many people have been successful running their first half marathon after training with Hal Higdon’s Novice Half Marathon Training Program, pictured above. This is a basic but good training program. As you can see, it doesn’t call for any speed work or hills, just running and cross-training. The long run peaks at 10 miles, so this plan relies on the adrenaline and motivation that comes from being at a race to get you through the last 3.1 miles.


When I trained for the Oak Barrel Half Marathon, I used the beginner training program pictured above from Having completed a HM before, I wanted to work on feeling stronger and getting faster. With this plan, the long run peaks at 12 miles, 2 weeks before the race. While I didn’t do every run exactly as scheduled, this training program definitely helped me achieve those goals.


This go-round, I am devising my own training plan with help from Runner’s World SmartCoach. For free, you can enter in a recent race time and other variables, and SmartCoach will spit out a training plan, complete with paces, that will help you reach your goals. Above is a snippet of my first couple of weeks of the training plan. For the first time, I am actually doing the speed work and tempo runs, and it is really building my confidence and helping me to run faster.

As you can see, there is no need to pay for a training plan. With a few resources and some common sense, you can design a training plan that works for your life and your goals.

More Resources:

  • Marathon Training Academy – another simple plan that relies heavily on cross-training with only 3 runs per week
  • Jeff Galloway – A longer plan (17 weeks) for those who are interested in Galloway’s run-walk method

Have you picked a training plan yet? How did you decide?

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