A Woman's Guide to Half-Marathon Training

Training for a half-marathon turns you into a calorie-burning, lean-muscle-building, strong-and-sexy endurance machine. No wonder it's the fastest-growing race distance out there.

Still daunted? Don't shy away from the challenge: Our plan is guaranteed to get you to the glorious finish line.

If you think runners are half crazy, you're right—they're crazy for half-marathons. And women are leading the pack: The number of people who've finished a half-marathon—13.1 miles—has more than tripled since 2000, and a whopping 59 percent of finishers are the sports-bra wearing gender, according to Running USA's 2012 State of the Sport report.

"No doubt, women are the driving force in the growth of the half-marathon," says Ryan Lamppa, research director at Running USA.

More: 13.1 Reasons to Run a Half Marathon

It's easy to see why. Training for a half will get you into the shape of your life—you can increase endurance, sculpt lean muscle, and incinerate enough calories to drop two sizes—as well as give you the satisfaction of pushing your body to healthy limits. Indeed, the 13.1-mile event is the Goldilocks of races: long enough to score you the pride of pulling off an impressive feat—plus you get to toss around the word marathon—but not so long that training for it will suck up all of your free time or leave you hobbled.

And you don't have to go it alone, in fact, most people don't. Growing numbers of female running enthusiasts are even building girls' getaway weekends around races.

"There are now several women's-only half-marathon series because there's such high demand for these experiences, says Lamppa.

You and your friends (local or far-flung) pick a race in an appealing locale, train together (side by side or virtually), and then enjoy a weekend of running, refueling (vino!), and relaxing recovery (massages!).

Now that's inspiration to get moving. But if that's not enough to get you up and moving, read these 6 Reasons You Should Start Running.

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

The Plan

Whether you're a treadmill trotter or a road warrior, this training plan will get you across the finish line. Designed by Kim Maxwell, a USA Track and Field coach and personal trainer in Minneapolis-St. Paul, this program won't make you drop everything for running. You'll log miles three days a week, cross-train three days a week, and rest the remaining day. The running workouts are focused and efficient, and because they're limited, your legs and head will stay fresh, making it less likely you'll become injured or burned out.

If you're a newbie, don't hesitate to mix walk breaks into your runs—for example, run two to three minutes, then walk 30 to 60 seconds.

"What's important is that you're moving forward—it doesn't matter if it's walking or running," says Maxwell.

More: 7 Training Tips for Your First Half Marathon

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