Here’s our 6 week half marathon training guide, N.B.: it’s not designed for complete beginners, but for runners with some experience already – if you’re not sure you’re ready for it, read on…
But if you’ve been running for a while, or if you’ve run a half marathon in the past, this 6 week half marathon training plan is just the thing for your newest competitive challenge.
Crossing the finish line in just 6 weeks will push you to your limits in the best kind of way. You’ll take part in a concentrated, time-sensitive running schedule that will keep you on track and hyper-focused on your goal.
The training plan we’ve shared is designed to be adapted to your ability level and goals; if you have a time-based goal (such as running a sub 2 hour half marathon), then I’ll explain how to include the necessary speed work to get there.
In this post, we’re going to get into:
- Assessing your current fitness and suitability for a 6 week training schedule.
- Things to consider before committing to the plan.
- The 6 Pillars of Good Half Marathon Training.
- Analysis of the Elements of Our 6 Week Half Marathon Training Plan.
- Then we share our 6 week half marathon training schedule!
Let’s jump in!
Can I Train For a Half Marathon In Just 6 weeks?
If you’re a beginning runner and training for your first half marathon, this is probably not the schedule for you.
But if you’re on the fence about whether or not you can smash this achievement, here are 4 factors to take into account as you self assess:
Factor #1: Your Level of Fitness
Do you have previous running experience?
Have you run a 5k or a 10k?
Have you run a half marathon in the past?
If you hopped out the front door tomorrow morning, would you be able to run a few miles comfortably?
In order to commence the 6 week half marathon training plan, I recommend being able to run 10k continuously as a minimum prerequisite.
This is the distance of the 1st long run at the end of week 1. If you can’t do this distance, it may be possible to adopt a run walk marathon training method, but you’re likely better off allowing yourself more time to get ready.
Factor #2: Your Health Status
Do you suffer from any ongoing running injuries ?
Are you prone to sprained ankles?
Do you experience knee pain regularly?
Do you have chronic conditions like asthma?
If you answered yes to these, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t go for this training. It just means you’ll have to take extra care to prevent those injuries or health problems from surfacing.
That could also mean you need to see a doctor before starting your training to get the go-ahead.
Factor #3: Consider the Time Commitment
While every half marathon training plan schedules in (and encourages) rest days, it is crucial that you have the time to fit in your runs and create a routine for yourself.
With such a short time for training, falling behind in the schedule could mean you won’t be ready on race day.
Factor #4: Evaluate Your Emotional Commitment
The training plan asks a lot of you. Are you emotionally motivated to commit to the discipline it takes to stick to the schedule, rain, shine, or early mornings?
If yes, you can keep going!
The First Step: Set a Goal
All runners are different when it comes to setting a goal for your half marathon. Here are some of your options to choose from:
- Just finish the damn thing. With only 6 weeks to train, there’s no pressure to put any other constraints on yourself, other than crossing that finish line.
- Run the whole thing – no walking. Being able to run a half marathon without stopping for a walk break is a huge accomplishment for many runners.
- Set a time. If you’ve run a half marathon in the past, but have been running a lot since then, now is a good time to set a faster goal and aim to reach that pace. A time goal adds a lot to your training because you have to focus on things like strength and pace to make sure it happens.
The 6 Pillars of a Successful 6 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule
You need to be aware of these pillars when training for any race, but the 6 week half marathon training plan doesn’t leave a lot of room for error. So this is an especially critical time to focus on these pillars.
1. Injury Prevention
This one is the most important. Your training will be down the drain if you ignore injuries or fail to prevent them before they pop up.
2. Warming up
Your warmup doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be as simple as 5-10 minutes of brisk walking, with a few stretches in your quads, calves, and hamstrings.
3. Cooling down
Essentially the same process as warming up, cooling down requires you to ease out of your high-intensity exercise with mid-intensity exercise before you get all the way down to zero intensity exercise.
Going from 100 to zero right away is what causes DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). To keep your muscles loose and ready to work out again the next day, don’t skip that cool down.
4. Recovery Runs
After your weekly long run (which I’ll cover further below in this article), a recovery run is a great way to ease your muscles into rest. The day or two after your run is usually a sore period. But a light recovery run can make that time go a lot smoother, preparing you to get back to it the following week.
5. Dealing with Injuries
Even when you’re diligent about preventing injuries, they are sometimes inevitable. You can’t see every pothole and you can’t always avoid chronic health issues.
The key is how you deal with them. Here’s the number one most important thing to do: don’t ignore it and hope it will go away! Ignoring pain only makes it worse, and harder to treat when you’re finally forced to go to a doctor.
When you first feel an injury coming on, the best thing to do is rest for a few days. If the pain persists (either while resting or during your next run), it’s time to go get it checked by a doctor.
6. Breaking up the Distances
Here’s the most common misconception about training for a race: You have to run as much as you can every day.
Half marathon training is all about breaking up the distances. One day you’ll run 5 miles, the next few days you’ll run 2-3, then you’ll run a long distance over the weekend.
This kind of variety keeps your body from getting too used to the same workout. You keep it “on its toes,” so to speak, so it can adapt more quickly to changing and strengthening.
6 Essential Half Marathon Training Techniques
Simply following a schedule will still get you results. But… utilizing these 6 training techniques will bring more success to your 6 week goal, in a smoother way.
Cut back on strength training
As someone who’s run a half marathon before, you’re probably used to a training schedule that asks at least 2 days of strength training of you. But with only 6 weeks to prepare, it’s better to focus that precious time on running.
That’s why my 6 week training plan includes only one cross training session. If you feel you can supplement in more, then go for it – but for most, one day of strength training focussed on legs and core will help a lot.
Gradually increase base mileage
I gradually increase the overall mileage for every week of the half marathon training plan, until the end of week 4 when the taper period begins! This gradual increase means your body will adapt to the new load in a structured way; but be warned, given the short time schedule, the ramp up is fairly intense!
Always do your weekly long runs
These go hand in hand with your base mileage, but the practice has more benefits than just moving your distance upward.
Long runs improve your musculoskeletal strength and your cardiovascular system. The body’s ability to refuel during long runs grows each time you consistently do another long run.
So, if things get crazy and you need to drop a run, drop a mid-week training run – whatever you do, try not to skip the long run. It’s the most important one of the plan!
Increase your pace with speed runs
Do you have a specific finishing time in mind?
Here’s how to use our training plan to train towards it:
Use our half marathon pace charts to find the pace that corresponds to your target finishing time – now aim to do all of your regular mid-week training runs at this pace.
Furthermore, if you are feeling up to it I recommend using the Tuesday tempo/training run session to do some form of speed work – interval training is the most effective and least likely to lead to any injury.
If you are starting to feel a little frazzled and struggling to recover well, then drop the speed sessions and adopt a comfortably-paced training run instead.
Do a practice round with dry runs
Also known as a practice run, a dry run requires you to test out the clothing and gear you’ll wear on race day. This way, you avoid blisters from new running shoes, chafing from new shorts, etc.
On one of your long runs leading up to your half marathon, pretend like you’re actually running your race and see how it goes (just remember to keep the pace slower than race pace!)
Taper the final weeks of the training plans.
You’ll actually complete your longest run 2 weeks before your actual race day. In that remaining 2 weeks, you’ll taper your runs to take it easier and lighter on your body and mind before the race.
This helps to heal and recuperate the strength you’ve gained during training so that you’re operating at full momentum on the big day.
Get Your 6 Week Half Marathon Training Plan
When in doubt…stick to the plan.
You’ll find all the nitty gritty details of your 6 week half marathon training in our free plan.
All the scheduling is done for you. Simply follow the steps, customize as needed, and enjoy the run.
Download The 6 Week Half Marathon Training Plan Here:
(I’ll send you Google Sheets / MS Excel, and PDF versions in both miles and kilometers)
Training Plan Run Workouts Explained:
How Many Days Per Week?:
The training plan features 5 days of training per week; 4 days of running and 1 day of cross training.
These are your classic training runs; do them in the mornings or after work, at a comfortable, sustainable pace.
These runs help add mileage to your training week and get your body used to running far!
Tempo Runs (optional)
A tempo run is a training run done at your target half marathon pace, if you have one.
Not sure what target pace should be? Check out our pace charts!
Each week includes a cross training day; although these aren’t mandatory, I highly recommend them.
Cross training is meant to work on your cardiovascular health and strength some of the muscles weakened through running.
Recommended cross-training exercises include body weight exercises, light gym work, swimming, yoga, pilates, and cycling!
You should be factoring in one long, slow run every weekend. These runs are all about increasing your endurance gradually.
Remember to take it easy during them, don’t push things, and don’t worry about walking breaks – it’s all about building up that time on your feet.