Training for a Half Marathon

Running a half marathon is a challenging and rewarding fitness goal. While it might sound like a distance reserved for elite athletes, it’s completely achievable if you follow the right training program!

Whether you choose the 12WBT 1/2 Marathon training program or another one, the important thing is to increase your distance and speed gradually to avoid injury and ensure you cross the finish line feeling strong.

You should be able to run 10km or 60 minutes non-stop before you attempt to train for a half marathon. Before you start your training program, sign up to the half marathon you plan to run. Having a date marked in your calendar will make you much less likely to hit the snooze button and skip your morning run!

Starting Out

Get medical clearance from your doctor to make sure you’re in good physical condition before you start training for the half marathon. If you’ve recently had a check-up before embarking on another running program, you might not need another one unless you have concerns.

Aim for four days of various running training each week. On a non-running day, do strength training that includes specific running exercises. You should also have one core training and stretch day, and a day of complete rest.

Equipment for Running a Half Marathon

You’ll mostly be training for your half marathon outdoors, so you only need a few essentials. Light, breathable running clothes are vital for half marathon training, and don’t compromise on good-quality running shoes. For optimal comfort and injury prevention, replace your running shoes every 750km to 1000km.

Other optional equipment includes:

  • MP3 player loaded with upbeat tunes
  • Water bottle or hydration pack
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Foam roller, golf ball or tennis ball for self-massaging
  • Free apps such as MapMyRun, RunKeeper or Strava – or preferably a GPS watch – to measure distance

Tracking your distance with apps or a GPS watch is a great habit to get into, because it will help you progress through your half marathon with manageable increases in distance and the lowest risk of injury.

Building Up to a Half Marathon

You should take at least 12 weeks to build up from running 10km to the half marathon distance of 21.1km. You might begin with a 10km run for your first week and build up to 20km after 11 weeks so that you’re completing a half marathon by week 12.

Mix up your four running sessions a week to improve both your speed and efficiency:

  • One fast-paced tempo run
  • One session of interval sprints or hills
  • One slower recovery session
  • One long, steady-paced run

Nutrition for Running a Half Marathon

Pay special attention to nutrition, especially carbohydrate intake. Your appetite can increase when you run long distances, so choose nutrient-dense, carbohydrate-rich snacks that keep you feeling full without overloading on calories.

Make sure you eat carbohydrates with every meal (not just on your running days), including the evening before your long runs. And after a long run, a meal rich in carbs and protein can aid recovery.

Add these foods to your daily diet to ensure optimal performance:

  • Whole grain breads and cereals for energy
  • Foods rich in protein (such as lean meat, fish and vegetarian options like tofu or eggs) to help muscles recover and repair
  • Fruits and vegetables to keep your immune system healthy
  • Low-fat dairy to keep your bones strong and help with muscle recovery
  • Foods high in iron to prevent anaemia

Hydration for Running a Half Marathon

Before long runs, drink water so that you’re pre-hydrated, and ensure that you have access to water throughout your run.

Sports drinks can be beneficial on longer runs because they help minimise fluid loss. If you’re running for longer than 90 minutes, use a sugar-free sports drink from the start to replace electrolytes.

Drink at least two litres of water per day – or more when training hard or on hot days (0.5 litres to one litre per hour) In order to absorb the fluid better, drink small sips throughout the day – don’t guzzle a litre at a time When you’re adequately hydrated, your urine will appear pale yellow as opposed to dark yellow, so check it next time you go to the loo!

It takes smart planning and preparation to run a half marathon, but by following the right training program, you’ll have already won half the battle. See you at the finish line!

Once you’ve run a half marathon, you might be ready for an even longer distance! If so, check out our article on training for a marathon.