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Training Guide: Running a Half-Marathon

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Yes, You Can Run a Half-Marathon!

Whether you're a first-time runner or a seasoned strider, we've got a training schedule that will help you shape up for a half-marathon in just eight weeks. Choose the running schedule that fits your fitness level below, and let's get started!

Choose a Training Program

Print one of the following and hang it where you can see it! Get the cross-training moves, hill workouts, and speed interval routines on the following pages.

New Runners: If you run less than 15 miles per week (or not at all), start here

Regular Runners: If you run more than 15 miles per week, start here

Cross-Training, Hill Workouts, and Speed Intervals

Kick your training schedule into high gear with these additional strength-building routines. (Refer to your printable training schedule calendar for when to do them!)

Optional Cross-Training

In between running days, do 20 to 30 minutes of nonimpact cardio (such as cycling, swimming, or using the elliptical) at moderate intensity, or strength-train, focusing on your core and lower body (try push-ups, lunges, and squats).

Hill Repetitions

When your schedule says to do a "hills" run, simply include 4 to 8 uphill sprints: Run uphill (or at least at an incline) for two minutes at 5K race pace (an intensity of about 85 percent of maximum effort). Jog easy downhill; repeat.

Speed Intervals

When your schedule says to do a "speed" run, include 4 to 8 bursts at a faster pace. Go at a 5K race pace or slightly faster (85-95 percent of maximum effort) for 90 seconds, then jog easy for at least two minutes to recover; repeat.

Get in Gear: Basic Running Equipment

These must-haves will make you smile through the miles.

Cruise Control

Train with a do-it-all heart-rate monitor. The Timex Ironman Road Trainer also lists calories burned ($100, timex.com).

Smarty Pants

The Women's PR Shorts feature clever side pockets and a comfy liner ($45, thenorthface.com).

Happy Feet

The lightweight Brooks Ghost provides extra cushioning and shock absorption ($100, brooksrunning.com).

Top Guns

Run cool in the sweat-wicking Sphere Sleeveless Half-Zip. Its flat seams reduce chafing ($40, nike.com).

The Truth About Carbo Loading

Does all that pre-race pasta really buy you extra oomph at the starting line? "The trick is to pack in carbs throughout training — not just the night before," says Nancy Clark, RD, author of Nancy Clark's Food Guide for Marathoners. The harder you train, the more carbs you'll need to boost muscle stores of glycogen (aka runner's fuel).

"Eat a meal with carbs and protein within an hour after each long run," Clark says. "And starting two or three days before your race, consume three to five grams of carbs per pound of your total body weight per day." Top off your tank an hour or so before the race with carbs that settle easily, such as a bagel with a little bit of peanut butter.

Race Day: Warm-Up Workout

Put a spring in your step before you hit the starting line: Swap your usual stretches for this five-minute pre-run prep from Janet Hamilton, author of Running Strong & Injury Free, to get your legs loose and juiced.

1. Walk or jog slowly for three minutes.

2. Do walking lunges. Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides. Take a giant step forward with right leg, bending knees 90 degrees, right knee above ankle. Stand up; switch legs and repeat. Do 20 reps, alternating sides.

3. Bound forward. Run with long, leaping strides (front knee high, back leg fully extended). Continue for 30 seconds.

4. March like a toy soldier. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms extended at shoulder level in front of you, palms down, back tall. Walk forward, kicking left leg straight up so toes touch left palm, then right leg up to right palm. Continue for 30 seconds.

Race-Day Tips from the Pros

Find the drive to go the distance with these tips from marathon veterans:

Just show up.

"I never think 'all or nothing,'" says three-time MORE Marathon winner Susan Loken. "If I'm not motivated to do an entire workout, I'll do a quick four-mile run and I still feel like I've accomplished something. Even better, nine out of 10 times, I end up going the whole distance."

Keep your eyes on the prize.

"When I go through a bad patch in training, I refocus on my goals and remind myself that it's worth it," says Kara Goucher, who placed third in the 2008 ING New York City Marathon with the fastest-ever marathon debut by an American woman. "If you can push through those times once, you'll know you can do it again."

Seek out inspiration.

"I pick up page-turner books about amazing physical feats like swimming across the English Channel," says Tera Moody, who finished fifth in the women's marathon at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. After that, my training simply doesn't seem so bad!"

Outfit Yourself: Race-Day Emergency Kit

Dodge any runner bummer with these on-the-go essentials.

Handy Candy

Fruity chews are a tasty way to get electrolytes. Eat one 100-calorie pack of Luna Sport Moons every hour ($1.29, lunabar.com).

Run-brella

In case of rain, pack a cap! The Daybreak Women's Running Hat is breathable and wicks away sweat or water ($22, nike.com).

Ray Ban

Don't let a sunburn ruin your run. Coola Sport 45 SPF water-resistant sunscreen stays put as you sweat ($32 for 5 ounces, coolasuncare.com for info).

Step Saver

Nexcare Active Waterproof Blister Pads stick to sweaty feet and offer extra cushioning ($3.19 to $4.49, drugstores).

Friction Fix

Asics Chafe Free Endurance Gel dries instantly ($7, asics.com for stores).

Mouth Guard

Keep lips moist and sun-safe with Nivea A Kiss of Protection SPF 30 balm. It contains soothing shea butter and vitamin E ($3, drugstores).

Hydration Station

The CamelBak Delaney run-walk belt comes with a 24-ounce water bottle and four pockets ($40, camelback.com for info).

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2009.

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