12 Essential Tips for Half Marathon Training (+ Training Plans)

Tips for half marathon training are essential while training for your race. You can always download a training plan to get ready for the big day – but expert guidance can help the experience be more effective and positive for you.

Training for a half marathon is exciting – it’s a great goal and a fun (but challenging) distance to run.

However, it’s important to be prepared so that your race is a success. Unlike a 5k, or even a 10kit’s hard to go out and fake your way through 13.1 miles.

Everyone is different and their running needs vary, but there are a few training tips that apply to everyone. We’ve put down the essentials so you’re fully prepared to dive right in.

12 tips for half marathon training

12 Tips for Half Marathon Training

1. Get High Quality Running Gear

Now is the time to invest in some good running gear.

You’ll want at least two pairs of running shoes to rotate throughout your training. Pick your favorite pair for race day and stick with them.

Whatever you do, don’t try new shoes on race day!

That is a recipe for pain and a miserable race.

You also want to invest in a few high-quality clothing items for your long runs and eventual race.

Wear them while you train to make sure that they don’t rub, chafe, or ride up or down.

No one wants to run 13.1 miles with unnecessary discomfort they could have avoided!

12 tips for half marathon training

2. Give Yourself Adequate Time to Prepare

Before you put your running shoes on, make sure you have plenty of time to train.

It’s key to put together (or find!) a solid training plan that lasts for at least 13 weeks, especially if this is your first half marathon.

This will give both your body and mind plenty of time to adjust to the new distance.

Remember, in general, you want to add 10% more total miles every week (the 10% Rule), so you need the time to build up your mileage slowly. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting burned out or injured.

3. Vary Your Runs

There are plenty of training plans out there, and you should pick the one that appeals to you the most. No matter which plan you choose, make sure that it has a wide variety of runs. You want to do things like interval training, race pace runs, easy recovery runs, and long runs.

This variety will get your body ready for whatever race day throws at you and will make sure your mind is prepared as well.

12 tips for half marathon training

4. Practice Race Day Nutrition

This is one of those tips for half marathon training that gets sorely overlooked.

Fuelling yourself on race day is an integral part of success. Lisa Richards, nutritionist and author of The Candida Diet, gives her recommendations on what to eat while preparing for the race and right before the race.

Short Term Nutrition

“Nutrition is vitally important for competitive running, both in the short-term and long-term. Short-term nutrition refers to your dietary pattern right before the race, within a week or less.

This time should be spent consuming a low fiber and high carbohydrate diet. Fiber can cause gastrointestinal upset while running and lead to slower time and poor performance.

Race Day Nutrition

Consuming carbohydrates before race day will fuel your body with glucose which is stored as glycogen and used for energy throughout your race.”

Runners’ stomachs are notoriously sensitive due to all of the jostling that happens. Practice your nutrition ahead of time (during your long runs) so you know what works best for you.

You can use gels, gummies special drinks, or good old-fashioned nuts and raisins.

Nutrition for the Long Game

Richards advises, “Long-term nutrition for the competitive runner is generally healthy and focuses on whole-grain carbohydrates, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.

Fueling your body with quality nutrients is not something that should only be a priority during a competition week.”

12 tips for half marathon training

5. Cross Train (for Power, Endurance and to Become Bulletproof)

It’s tempting just to run when you train for a race, but building and maintaining muscle is key to not losing any fitness you had before you started training. Plus, strong muscles will help you run more quickly and efficiently.

Focus on your whole body: work your core, legs, and arms throughout the week. Just be sure to space the trainings out appropriately – i.e., don’t schedule leg day right before a long run.

6. Let Your Body Recover the Right Way

Besides all the running and cross-training, there is another crucial part of half marathon training: recovering!

This includes all kinds of things like foam rolling, stretching, and sleeping. Your body needs time to get over the intense training you are putting it through, so make sure you have at least one rest day built into your training plan.

You can do active recovery on that day, like walking or yoga, but it’s critical to give your body a rest so you’ll be fresh and ready to go the next week.

Related: Complete Guide to Half Marathon Training Recovery

12 tips for half marathon training

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Walk Breaks

Some runners look at walk breaks as a sign of weakness.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

Sometimes you just need to walk. In fact, lots of successful half marathoners have walks built into their runs by doing intervals. The run walk method gets many runners to high PRs.

Even if you prefer to run straight through and avoid intervals, you can still schedule walk breaks.  For example, you can time them around the water stations, so you get a mini-break before pushing yourself again.

8. Change Up Your Training Locations

It’s easy to find the route you like and stick to it. The problem is: your body also gets used to it. When you hit it with a new route on race day, it may not adjust well to new terrain.

So try to run in different places with different types of surfaces when you train. It’s a good idea to check out the course map before the race too. If it’s a hilly course, then make sure you train on hills.

Your lungs and legs will thank you on race day.

12 tips for half marathon training

9. Choose an Achievable Race Pace

Race day nerves are very real! It’s easy to go out too fast because you’re excited and nervous. When you run too quickly at the beginning of the race, you’ll be burned out and unable to keep going later once things get harder.

Keep an eye on your watch and hang back with a pacing group for the first few miles before you take off. You can put the gas on once you hit mile 10. 

Not sure what race pace to aim for?

Check on your GPS watch how fast you’re going when you’re running at a sustainable – but effortful – pace. Think about a pace at which you could maintain a conversation, but just for a few short sentences.

Working towards a target finish time? Click below to see the corresponding pace for your target time!

Check out Half Marathon Pace Charts

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10. Train With Other Runners

If you’re nervous about taking on the challenge of a half marathon, try finding a running group or buddy to run with.

They can help keep you accountable when you don’t feel like getting out and make the runs more pleasant. Having someone to talk always makes a long run go much faster.

Running groups are a great way to make new friends who share your passion and addiction for running!

11. Do a Practice Race

Kim Caruso, running coach and founder of Fleet Feet Poughkeepsie, highly recommends the practice race (also known as a tune-up race).

“Practice races can help a newer runner become more experienced with the racing environment, including race day logistics that may be new and unfamiliar. 

For more experienced runners, practice races can help to determine if the time goal that they set (often arbitrarily) at the start of training is realistic and achievable based on their current level of fitness. 

For example, someone looking to run a 2-hour half marathon (which equates to 9:09 pace), should be able to ‘race’ a 10K in better than 55 minutes (or around 8:45 pace) in the week leading up to their goal race.  If their practice race time for the 10K is very far off, it may be time to reevaluate their goal.”

Related: Half Marathon Long Run: How Long Should Your Longest Training Run Be?

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12. Get a Great Half Marathon Training Plan, and Stick to It

Feel free to access our FREE Half Marathon Training Plan Library, catered to all levels of runners.

All our training plans are designed by certified running coaches and runners, because they know exactly how to structure your training and increase your mileage in a manageable way.

Of all our tips for half marathon training, this is probably the most important. Studies show a huge correlation between how closely runners follow a training plan, and how well they perform on race day.

So go ahead and start yourself off right with a great training plan.

If you’re considering running a half marathon, then do it! It’s a great experience, and you will feel a fantastic sense of accomplishment once it is complete. Training may seem daunting, but just take it one week at a time.

Focus on what you need to do for the day and trust your plan.

If you follow the tips for half marathon training we’ve listed, then you’ll be in great shape to enjoy your race. I can guarantee you’ll be ready to sign up for your second one!

Tips for half marathon training 9
Photo of author
Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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