Hammer Out Your Half Marathon Training in Just 8 Weeks (For Real!)

With this 8 week half marathon training program, you won’t just finish the race—you’ll crush it.

Easy there, speed demon—we know you’re anxious to start a training schedule for that half marathon coming up. Whether it’s your first time logging 13.1 miles (21 km) or you’re never satisfied with your PR, a proper half marathon training plan is key. Crash training too hard or too soon can lead to a world of hurt, and we’re not a fan of letting an injury keep you on the sidelines.

13.1 miles is an impressive feat (231 football fields to be exact), so you shouldn’t be surprised that you can’t accomplish this with a few protein shakes and a FitBit. When you’re going for the gold, you gotta have a game plan. Oh look, what do we have here?! The perfect 8 week half marathon training program to get you across the finish line like a total champ. There will be sweat, pain, and maybe a few tears or blackened toenails, but the taste of glory makes it all so, so worth it.

Can’t wait to get your hands on this sweet schedule? Hop on a link below to learn the basics of marathon training or scroll your way down to see how you can transform into a long distance runner in just 2 months.

How to Train for a Half Marathon

Break out those vision boards, baby—let’s start by digging a little deeper into your motivation for running a half marathon. Did your super-fit friend Becky talk you into it? Maybe you want to test your limits after conquering your last 10K? Are you trying to shed a few pounds (We know, those cookies just magically appeared out of nowhere)? Or perhaps you want to raise awareness for an incredible charity—whatever your inspiration may be, it’s important to have a mission in mind to get you through the low points (and there will be some, trust us.)

But before you get started, there are some essential marathon training tips to keep in mind. If you want to reach your peak performance without pushing your body past its breaking point, take a look at these half marathon fundamentals.

Marathon Training 101: The Basics

  • Get the right gear. Those old Chuck Taylors won’t do you any good when it comes to pounding some serious pavement during your training plan. You need dedicated running shoes that are ready to take on your high mileage rides.
     
    Do yourself a favor: don’t wait until the day of the race to upgrade to performance running shoes. Unless blisters and sore feet are your thing, they’ll most likely take a little time to break in.
  • Know the building blocks. No, we’re not talking about Legos! Stay focused. A half marathon training schedule includes four primary elements: your base mileage, long run, speed work, and recovery.
     
    You’ll build up your base mileage by running 3-5 times a week, and every 7-10 days or so, add a long run to your half marathon training so that your body can gradually adjust to going the extra distance (cue music from Disney’s Hercules).
     
    Speed work, in the form of interval training or tempo runs, amps up your cardio capacity while your rest and recovery (RNR) days are must-have to stave off physical and mental burnout.
  • Start slow. You know how the story goes— slow and steady wins the race. While you don’t have to be turtle during your training, you do have to build up your base mileage slowly throughout this 8 week half marathon training plan. The golden rule? Limit increasing your mileage volume by more than 10 percent per week.
     
    Starting small with a shorter 5K or 10K race is a great way to prepare yourself both physically and mentally for your first half marathon. If you already have a few of these under your belt, keep in mind that your long distance marathon pace and training strategy will require some fine tuning.
  • Stay hydrated. Repeat after me: H2O is the way to go! If you want to stay injury-free, you can’t take hydration lightly. Your body goes into overdrive as you tackle longer distances, so mastering all the hydration staples of a smart athlete is a must. Avoid cramps, dizziness, and fatigue by quenching your thirst!
  • Add variety. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and we know you like to kick things up a notch. Cross-training isn’t mandatory, but it’s highly recommended. For starters, building up your muscle endurance can prevent you from hitting that dreaded wall around mile 10. Aside from getting you through that final push, cross-training just makes you an overall stronger, well-rounded athlete— and did we mention sexier? Wink.
     
    If weight lifting at the gym isn’t your thing, hill running is a fantastic method for strengthening your leg muscles and ramping up interval training.
  • Stretching is essential. We know you might feel young at heart, but if you’re past the age of 21, your body is not gonna be happy if you ditch the pre-run stretch session. The one time you think you don’t need it, BAM! You tear your hamstring and get sidelined for weeks. Can’t get into stretching? Try this technique instead.
     
    Stretch out those tight muscle groups, focusing on your calves, quads, and glutes. Also, foam rollers are complete miracle-workers in the realm of IT band tightness; we definitely suggest picking one up if you haven’t already.
  • Understand your limits. Don’t be fooled by the name—even a “half” marathon is one full-sized challenge. Always listen to your body and what it’s telling you. If you feel particularly sore one day, you could be overtraining; take a little RNR to let your body heal so you can unleash your inner beast come competition day.

How Long to Train for a Half Marathon

Not sure how long you need to train for a half marathon? It all comes down to your body, your experience, and your goals.

If you’re brand new to the world of running—all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—you might be better off with a more gradual training program that lets you slowly build your stamina over 10, 12, 16, or 20 weeks. The average half marathon training schedule requires 12 weeks, which includes running between 15-25 miles per week over 3-5 days.

But what about all you busy beavers out there? If you’re in a time crunch before the big race, it’s possible to crash train and safely get into shape within 2 months. If you plan for an 8 week half marathon training program, you should already be able to at least run 3-5 miles comfortably—with at least 9 base miles weekly—otherwise you should check out a less aggressive training plan (the legal team made us say that, we know you can do it champ!).

Count on running 3-4 days per week depending on your experience level. That said, half marathon training won’t consume your life and it shouldn’t force you into a vegetative state where you binge-watch reruns of The Office just to recover from a long session.

When the weather is poor and your legs are sore, hang on to your motivation. With the promise of that elusive runner’s high just around the corner, keep kicking this program’s butt until you cross the finish line.

8 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule

This 8 week half marathon training plan is flexible. It’s generally structured with 4 days of running, 2 days of cross-training, and 1 day of rest, but feel free to tweak it to your needs.

If cross-training sounds miserable, go for a light jog instead. But seriously, adding in some swimming, cycling, weightlifting, or even yoga can make a big difference in your aerobic performance. I promise we know what we’re talking about—we are the world’s largest walking and running store!

If you’re feeling completely wiped out, take another rest day—and don’t beat yourself up for it! Remember, you need to include at least one RNR day minimum to prevent injuries, but beginners can take 2-3 as you work into your training program.

Week 1

  • Monday: 3 mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 30-45 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: 2.5 mile tempo run (warm up at an easy pace for .5 mile, pressing into a comfortably hard tempo run or “race pace” goal for 1.5 miles, then dropping the pace back down for another .5 mile cool down)
  • Thursday: 30-45 minutes cross-training
  • Friday: 3 mile easy run
  • Saturday: 4.5 mile long run
  • Sunday: Rest up, week 1 is already under your belt!

Week 2

  • Monday: 3.5 mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 30-45 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: 4 mile speed run (1 mile warm up, 2 mile race pace, 1 mile cool down)
  • Thursday: 30-45 minutes cross-training
  • Friday: 3.5 mile easy run
  • Saturday: 6 mile long run
  • Sunday: Rest

Week 3

  • Monday: 4 mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 45-60 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: Short hill repeats (find a hill that takes about 60 seconds to run up at a comfortably hard pace then jog back down 4-6 times)
  • Thursday: 45-50 minutes cross training
  • Friday: 4 mile easy run
  • Saturday: 8 mile long run
  • Sunday: Rest

Week 4

  • Monday: 5 mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 45-60 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: 7 mile speed run (1 mile warm up, 5 mile race pace, 1 mile cool down)
  • Thursday: 45-50 minutes cross-training
  • Friday: 5 mile easy run
  • Saturday: 10 mile long run
  • Sunday: Rest

Whoa, slow down Seabiscuit! You’re totally crushing the game. After a month into your 8 week half marathon training program, your body has doubtlessly made major changes in terms of overall athleticism. Remember, the foam roller is your friend, and although an ice bath is pretty much everyone’s least favorite thing, it’s much more effective at soothing your aching muscles and promoting recovery than heat (does that mean penguins never get sore? Sorry—that’s not relevant right now).

The second month of your 8 week marathon training program is about honing the mental fortitude necessary to crush the race. Yup, we pulled out a word like “fortitude.” Even though you’ve built your body into a lean, mean machine, you gotta keep your mind focused on the end goal at all times.

You’ll notice that as race day gets closer, the intensity of your training program tapers off. Now is not the time to overdo it; your body needs plenty of healing time to restore itself to prime performance levels.

 

Week 5

  • Monday: 4 mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: Long hill repeats (find a longer hill with at least 6-7 percent grade, and run up it in 90 seconds between 4-6 times)
  • Thursday: 60 minutes cross-training
  • Friday: 4 mile easy run
  • Saturday: 12 mile long run (after this point, you’ll start cutting back on mileage to rest up for race day)
  • Sunday: Rest

Week 6

  • Monday: 5 mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 60 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: 8 mile speed run (1 mile warm up, 6 mile race pace, 1 mile cool down)
  • Thursday: 60 minutes cross-training
  • Friday: 4 mile easy run
  • Saturday: 10 mile long run
  • Sunday: Rest

Week 7

  • Monday: 5 mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: 4 mile cut down run (warm up 1 mile, then pick up the pace 10-15 seconds per mile for each of the next 3 miles)
  • Thursday: 30 minutes cross-training
  • Friday: 4.5 mile easy run
  • Saturday: 8 mile long run
  • Sunday: Rest

Week 8

  • Monday: 6 mile long run
  • Tuesday: 30 minutes cross-training
  • Wednesday: rest
  • Thursday: 4 mile speed run (1 mile warm up, 2 miles race pace, 1 mile cool down)
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 3 mile easy run
  • Sunday: Race!

And the crowd goes wild! Wooooooo! There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as reaching the finish line after two months of tough training.

If you give an 8 week half marathon training program all you’ve got, you’ll be in shape to accept the gold medal with your head held high—versus crawling or doubled over and gasping for breath.

Who knows? Maybe your half marathon training could be so successful, that next time you’ll be ready to push yourself to the full 26.2. We’ll be here waiting to cheer you on.

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