bring it on

Many of you (in the half-training announcement post) asked about what schedule I’ll be using to train for the upcoming half marathon.

Please note my little disclaimer: I am not a personal trainer or a doctor or a certified exercise guru, so please use your own best judgment when choosing a training program to run any distance (or even exercise in general). The last thing I want to do is push a training program that could cause an injury. Listen to your body and consult a physician or your own common sense if you have any questions, pretty please!

I had a few criteria in mind when I started searching for half-marathon training programs.

1) I wanted a full 19-20 weeks to train. I figure I might as well start now even though the race isn’t until June. And as an official non-runner, I’m not too proud to admit I need to start on the low end of mileage.
2) I knew I couldn’t dedicate six days a week to running. Not with my already busy schedule and family life, and let’s be honest, lack of desire to run six days a week.
3) I wanted to run more than 10 miles at my longest. Running experts say that officially I don’t have to run more than 10 miles to run a 13.1 mile race but those well-meaning souls don’t understand how my somewhat OCD brain works. I know that if I only run 10 miles, I’ll pass the 10 mile mark in the race and completely shut down because I never actually ran farther than that. So, yeah, I want to run a longer long run than most of the training programs out there suggest even if that means I’m slightly crazy.
4) I didn’t want to pay for a training schedule (especially with all the free resources already out there).

After looking at every possible website known to women on running and training and half-marathons, I morphed all the schedules I liked into a basic outline for me.

training schedule
Download Editable Excel File | Download PDF Printable File

For the first 12 weeks, I’ll need to run 3 days a week and up it to 4 days a week, if possible, after that. Sundays are 100% rest days for me. The other days that indicate Rest/XT (cross train) I plan to just see how I feel. I built three of those days into the plan to give me flexibility so if I rest one day, I have a few other days to build in a XT workout (for me, that will probably be strength training to strengthen the muscles around my knees, ankles and in my core). I’m not planning on exercising, running and generally stressing about working out 6 days a week. I just can’t. But running 3X a week with a strength workout in there is a good place to start.

This schedule seems doable for me! <–That’s me having a positive attitude since it’s the first week and I’m blissfully naive.

My cousin, Alex, who is also running this race (she and I are very similar in what kind of running shape we’re in right now) found this great Couch-to-Half-Marathon schedule that will get you ready for the race but isn’t focused as much on mileage as it is on time/endurance and incorporates walk/run workouts to get you ready to run the entire race.

Also, some of you expressed interest in participating in the half but wanted a walk/run option – try googling “half marathon walk run programs” to get some ideas. One that stood out to me is Hal Higdon’s walking half-marathon (12 week program) and Jeff Galloway’s Beginner Walk/Run Half Marathon (click on Schedule on the left and then each day’s workout is clickable on the calendar to give you details on what to do exactly).

Many of you have much more experience running so feel free to chime in via the comments about what you use for a training program, if any, and other helpful tips.

20 Responses to Tentative Training Schedule + Other Resources

  1. Christine says:

    Love the link couch to half marathon training plan! I do have a question tho, maybe you can answer or another beginner or even expert perhaps, when the schedule calls for run 1 minute/walk 2 minutes, do you wear or bring a stopwatch? I wonder if it would be quite cumbersome while running and to start and stop it….let me know if you have suggestions. Thanks!!

    • Christine, I’m definitely not an expert but if I’m doing intervals like that I use an app on my phone (which I always take with me for safety) called Seconds. It’s free (although if you buy the upgrade you can save your timers). You can do different types of timers, but for that you could use a HIIT timer (high intensity interval training), and set a different time for your high intensity intervals and your low intensity intervals, as well as how long the workout is, and include a warm-up and cool-down if you want. I love that I don’t have to start it and stop it, it just continues for the whole workout. :o) I’m sure there’s lots of stuff like that out there but that’s the one I use!

    • Mel says:

      That’s such a great question, Christine – I hope others chime in with their experience because I’ve kind of wondered the same thing. If I find out any great tips, I’ll pop back in to comment about them.

  2. Rachael says:

    One other thought–your midweek mileage later in training looks pretty low to me. I would plan on doing at least one (preferably more) 5-miler every week. By the last four weeks of training for a half, I’m usually running at least 5, 5, 3, 5, and 12. To each his own, but those extra miles really do help.

  3. Rachael says:

    Just a couple of thoughts:

    1) Do a shorter long run the weekend before your race for your long run–like 7-8 miles. It makes a huge difference!

    2) Like someone else said up-thread, speedwork is awesome! It makes a huge difference for me in motivation and it’s a great way to change up the runs AND help me see how much faster I’m getting every week. Plus it REALLY helps you to know what it feels like when you’re running a 7:30 mile as opposed to an 8:15 mile, and that makes it much easier to run “race pace” from the get-go during the race, so you avoid the classic mistake of going out too fast and then totally dragging for the rest of the race.

    3) Water makes a huge difference, but gels do too. Once I go over 10 miles, I start chewing Shot Blox every 2-3 miles. It really makes a difference. Use them in training so you know how your body reacts to them on race day. Same thing with water–I drink every 2 miles in training to mimic race day (incidentally, walk through the aid stations. Take the time to actually drink instead of splashing water on your face and then getting dehydrated later).

    4) Be careful about what you eat. As you start doing longer and longer runs, you may find that you’re afflicted by the dreaded–and incredibly common!!–runner’s trots! You can either a) map your long run route around bathrooms or b) watch your diet. Most runners find that meat & dairy are the culprits…the more I’m running, the less animal protein I eat.

    Good luck! And welcome to the wonderful and addicting world of running!!

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for the info, Rachael! It’s all a little overwhelming to me right now but I’m so grateful for those of you who are willing to share about your experiences!

  4. Hi Mel! I’m so excited for you – I’ve done two half marathons in the last few years and had a really great experience both times. :o) When I signed up for the first one I had never run more than 4 miles at a time – ever. I did a similar schedule to yours before my first race (I only ran three days a week both times as well, with 1-2 strength workouts during the week), and for the second one I used a slightly adapted version of the FIRST plan ( I can say I enjoyed the training a lot more the second time around, since it was more varied – I grew to really love the speedwork (a relative term since I am Not Fast) and since you are already sometimes at a track it would be fun to throw some in! :o) I also felt much more confident in the distance since there were more longer runs. But I think for a first race your strategy is great! One thing I learned – I didn’t realize how much hydration matters for long runs. I was amazed at how much better I felt in the actual race the first time since I was getting water or gatorade at all the stops! Now I have one of those belts with four little water bottles. I thought it was just for more hardcore people but when you’re doing long runs your body needs some help! :o) Anyway, good luck and way to go for your goal!

  5. Bri | Bites of Bri says:

    I’ve done a few half marathons and always trained in 12 weeks from moderate running shape. I think you’ll have plenty of time to get into the swing of things and if you miss a long run or two, you’ll have time to get back on track! I guess you also have to worry about training weather too!

  6. Ann says:

    Hi Mel, the half marathon has been on my bucket list for the last several years too. Every time I increased my mileage I would get injured, and that marathon always seemed further away. With physio I found out that just running wasn’t enough. I needed to work on my core strength. I have been working on that now and looking at your schedule seems very doable for me now. I am looking forward to following you and your readers with tips and motivation. I think this will be the year I can cross off that half marathon on
    my bucket list! Manitoba Marathon June 21, 2015, here I come!!!
    Question: now that it’s winter are you training on a treadmill or are you running outside?

    Question: now that it’s winter are you training on a treadmill or are you running outside?

    • Mel says:

      I’m excited for you, Ann! That’s just a week after the half marathon I’m running and I’m bolstered by the fact I have a lot of time to train. In answer to your question, it’s interesting you ask because that’s been my biggest challenge right now to running (and something I’ll probably post about soon in case others are dealing with the same thing). The short answer is that I’m running outside. I don’t have a treadmill and don’t really love treadmill running anyway (it messes with my mind and makes me feel like a hamster) – there’s a small gym near my home I could join but I really don’t want to pay to run right now plus the climate here is mild enough that it’s in the 30’s right now which is totally doable running weather in my book. Because of the ages of my kids, daily schedule, etc., I need to run early in the morning (when my kids are sleeping) or later at night (when my kids are sleeping) but both of those times it’s still pitch dark and I’m not keen on running in my semi-rural area in the pitch dark by myself thanks to a scare I had a couple years ago. Since I just started, my plan this week has been to do my longer runs on Saturdays around 7:30/8:00 a.m. when it’s lighter outside and during the week go with a friend (who doesn’t want to run, just walk) to the high school track early in the morning and I’ll run while she walks. Once the sun starts shining earlier, I’ll just run outside in the early a.m. but for now, that’s kind of what I’m doing.

  7. Kelly says:

    I am in my 3rd week of training with a similar schedule. It takes a couple of weeks, but you will be surprised at how quickly you build up endurance and can run the long weekend runs. Slow and steady wins the ran, and stick to the schedule!

  8. Marci says:

    I think yiur schedule looks really smart. My 2 biggest mistakes with my first half marathon was thinking I needed to just run and run and run (I didn’t cross train and only had 1 rest day) and I ended up with injuries. Second mistake, I felt so good at the first of the race and with all my adrenaline pumping, I started out way to fast. I just about didn’t finish. Now that I’ve learned to pull the reigns in better at the start, it’s crazy to see how many people you pass near the end of the race that you saw take off from you at the beginning. Just a couple tidbits!

  9. Carrie Gibbons says:

    I HIGHLY recommend “Run Less, Run Faster.” I loved this book and followed it religiously when training for a half marathon about a year ago (and I’m planning to do the same this year). The plan calls for 3 runs/week and includes schedules for a variety of abilities and fitness levels. It was perfect for me and I felt fantastic and super fit during the race. Good luck to you Mel, and to all of your readers as we all work toward meeting our running goals this year! 🙂 I’ll be thinking of all of us out there working hard as I begin my training sessions in the snowy winter weather.

  10. Emily says:

    If you haven’t already you have to get hooked on Dimity and Sarah from Another Mother Runner. They’re books and training plans are great. The podcasts are amazing and what I used to listen to while running before I took a break for health reasons. And the community of mother runners they’ve built is amazing. Check out their facebook page and all the other social media too!

  11. Good on you Mel for committing to a half marathon, it’s a challenging distance but definitely doable with the right preparation. I’ve only run a couple myself but was very happy with how my first went, and wanted to mention that I used a somewhat similar training plan to what you’ve proposed.

    I also couldn’t commit to 6 days/week, and only ran 3/4 days as you plan (plus extra sport once a week), and it was enough for me. In fact I had to shorten a couple of hilly runs due to tight calves, so I think any more would risk injury (a big problem for less experienced runners!). I likewise wanted to run some distances closer to the full 13.1 pre race-day, so I did long training runs of ~10.5m, 11.5m and 12m before tapering. This gave me a lot of confidence that I could make the distance on the day, and I hope it works the same for you! All I would note is that your shortest runs remain very short throughout which keeps your weekly mileage pretty low at its peak. I was doing at least 3m and more runs around the 6m mark than your program. (Personally I prefer to run at least 3m as the first 1/2m is the least enjoyable part of the run, but once I get a rhythm the rest is enjoyable 🙂 ).

    Just one anecdote from me, the main point being a program very similar to yours worked for my first half, and I wish you the best of luck. Keep fit and injury-free and you’ll have a great time!

    • Mel says:

      Hey Jason – thanks so much for chiming in! I like your feedback and will definitely take a closer look at my training schedule to understand what you are talking about. Thank you!

      • I agree – Mel, you may be surprised at how short a two mile run will seem by the end of your training! When I ran my first half (of a big 2), I had been running 3 miles 3x/week for a few years, but never any longer runs. I had never run much faster than a 10 minute mile and it was revelatory to find that increasing my mileage made me faster on my short runs (I had always assumed that pushing harder on short runs would do that, but it had never worked). :o)

  12. Amalia says:

    Love your schedule! I have my schedule laid out but its a little intense for me, may do a walk/run for my first half!

  13. I literally spent 2 hours online yesterday looking for a suitable half training schedule that didn’t start with some kind of expectation that I could already run 6 miles in 20 minutes (slight exaggeration, but not much). WHERE WERE YOU YESTERDAY!?!?!

    Thank you for sharing this! Especially the Excel file!


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