How to Train for Your First Half Marathon

If you're reading this article, you probably want to become a half marathoner (or you're leaning into the idea).  And if that is the case, you are in the right place. Successfully finishing a half marathon begins a plan to reach the start line safely and ready to rumble. 

More: Top 5 Half Marathon Fears and How to Conquer Them

Start your engines.

You've pulled the trigger and decided to try your hand in the half marathon world. Congrats! The next step is to register for an event to build in a little accountability. Give yourself plenty of time to train for the half (12 to 14 weeks). Having a long runway will give you time for illness, vacations and life detours that can happen along the way. It will also allow your body and mind time to adapt to the continual progression in mileage.

If you don't currently have a consistent base of mileage (3 to 4 miles, three to four times per week), that is OK. It simply means your runway is a little longer (six months). You can do it in less, but you won't have as much fun along the way and the risks of injuries dramatically increase.

More: The Risks and Benefits of Long-Distance Running

Pick an event, any event.

I ran my first half marathon in my county because I could train on the course and I wanted the home court advantage. When you pick the race, it serves as your carrot for the season, so it is in your best interest to find one that inspires. Do you want to run through wine country or in your hometown?  Do you want to toe the line with thousands or a few hundred?  

Since this is your first, it is also wise to find events that support your pace (run, run-walk or walk) and those that offer courses similar to your terrain. There are enough nerves in tackling your first event, let alone having to worry about short cut-off times or super challenging terrain. Keep it simple.

More: How to Work Up to a Half Marathon

Find a training plan that suits your needs.

The body adapts and improves at an efficient rate if you make small changes along the way. The key to going longer, stronger and tapping into your inner endurance athlete is to have the wisdom to start from where you are rather than where you want to be.

The first week of the training plan should closely match that of your current training plan (or slightly more, maybe 10 percent). If you jump into a program that requires a large jump in mileage, frequency or intensity, you will be on a fast track to burn out, aches and pains and possibly drop out. 

More: Are You Overtraining or Undereating?

Think of this like education. Take it one grade at a time. Your body will pay you back in dividends by recovering from the workouts so you can progress along the way.  Less is more when you're first getting started.  Hold back the reigns of excitement and take it one step at a time.

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