Half-marathon training plan: Your 12-week guide to running your first big race

If you’re looking to step up from running a 10k, this half-marathon training plan is the ideal guide to follow

Senior woman finishing a half-marathon
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A half-marathon may feel like a big step if you’ve never run that distance before, after all, it has the word ‘marathon’ in it. There’s no doubt 13.1 miles is a serious undertaking, for non-runners and regular runners alike. But if you follow a plan, you can go into the race feeling confident that you have prepared your body to take on the challenge. 

If you’re a runner who has completed a 10k training plan and is searching for a bigger challenge, this training plan will get you half-marathon race ready in 12 weeks.

A half-marathon may feel like a big step if you’ve never run that distance before, after all, it has the word ‘marathon’ in it. There’s no doubt 13.1 miles is a serious undertaking, for non-runners and regular runners alike. But if you follow this plan, you can go into the race feeling confident that you have prepared your body to take on the challenge. 

The plan was put together by Peter Vuong, personal trainer at Equinox, the official fitness and training partner of the London Landmarks Half Marathon, specifically to help guide those new to half-marathon distance through a 12-week schedule leading up to race day.

You can choose to do your workouts on any day of the week, but try to do your Day 4 long run on the same day of the week as your planned half-marathon where possible.

The half-marathon training schedule is varied, with different run sessions to help keep boredom at bay. It also includes two strength and conditioning sessions a week, which are important to build core strength and leg strength, which will not only benefit you on race day but also will aid injury prevention as you slowly up your weekly mileage. 

For a race of this distance it’s also worth assessing your kit to ensure you have the right clothing and shoes for the distance you are undertaking. Take a look at our best running shoes for women and best running shoes for men guides to help you find the right pair of trainers for you. 

Half-marathon training plan: Week 1

Day 1: 20 min tempo training

This can be done on road or on a treadmill. Tempo runs are great for building endurance. You should aim to find a pace that is slightly faster than your regular running pace, without being <too> fast. In terms of effort, aim for 7 out of 10, ie you are breathing hard but not completely out of breath. Ensure you do a short 5min warm-up before and after.

Day 2: 15 min intervals

Again, this can be done on the road or a treadmill. Interval sessions help build your aerobic capacity and increase your pace over time. They involve running fast for short bursts – start with 30 secs running fast, then slow down to a walk for 60secs, then repeat for as many times as you can within the session duration. Again, ensure you do a short 5 min warm-up before and after.

Peter recommends doing two strength and conditioning sessions a week to build strength, reduce the risk of injury and help with recovery. The workout he suggests for Day 2 on weeks 1-4 is below. You'll need either access to a gym machine or the best resistance bands to execute the lateral pulldown move. 

  • Half-kneeling weighted arm swings (2 x 10secs)
  • Push-ups (3 x 12)
  • Wide-grip lat pulldown (3 x 12)
  • Dumbbell split squat (3 x 20)
  • Reverse calf raises (2 x 20)

Day 3: 15 min hill training 

Hill training might sound like zero fun, but repeatedly running up and down an incline will help your longer distance running. The basic idea is to find a hill and run up and down it multiple times within the session. Aim for 3 times in this session, and build up the number of repeats over the 12 weeks. Hill repeats help build leg muscle strength, increases your speed and gets you practising uphill and downhill running.

Peter’s recommended strength session for Day 3, weeks 1-4 is:

  • Goblet squat (3 x 12)
  • Incline chest supported dumbbell row (3 x 12)
  • Half-kneeling single-arm overhead press (2 x 12)
  • Glute bridge (2 x 20)
  • Side plank (2 x 15sec)

Day 4: Four mile slow run. 

This should be on roads and at a slower pace than your predicted half-marathon pace. The idea for this Day 4 run will be to gradually build up the distance and your endurance over the 12 weeks. 

Man running along the riverside

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Half-marathon training plan: Week 2

  • Day 1: 30 min tempo
  • Day 2: 15 min interval, with strength and conditioning
  • Day 3: 15 min hill training, with strength and conditioning
  • Day 4: Six mile slow run. 

Up your mileage to six miles this week. Remember to take it slow!

Half-marathon training plan: Week 3

  • Day 1: 30 min tempo
  • Day 2: 20 min interval, with strength and conditioning
  • Day 3: 20min hill training, with strength and conditioning
  • Day 4: Six mile slow run

Half-marathon training plan: Week 4

  • Day 1: 30 min tempo
  • Day 2: 20 min interval, with strength and conditioning
  • Day 3: 20 min hill training, with strength and conditioning
  • Day 4: Eight mile slow run

Half marathon training plan: Week 5

  • Day 1: 30 min tempo
  • Day 2: 20 min interval, with strength and conditioning

You've got a new S&C routine for Day 2 on weeks 5-8. Find it below:

  • Weighted arm swings (2 x 10sec)
  • Dumbbell bench press (3 x 14)
  • Wide grip lat pulldown (3 x 14)
  • Dumbbell reverse lunge (3 x 20)
  • Reverse calf raises (2 x 20)

Lat pulldown

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Day 3: 20min hill training (no S&C on Day 3 this week)
  • Day 4: 10 miles slow run

Half marathon training plan: Week 6

  • Day 1: 40 min tempo
  • Day 2: 25 min interval (no S&C on Day 2 this week)
  • Day 3: 25 min hill training, with S&C
  • Day 4: 10 miles run

As well as the new Day 2 routine, you have a different S&C routine for Day 3:

  • Goblet squat (3 x 14)
  • Bench supported single-arm row (3 x 14)
  • Half-kneeling single-arm overhead press (2 x 14)
  • Single-leg glute bridge (2 x 20)
  • Side plank (2 x 20sec)

Half-marathon training plan: Week 7

  • Day 1: 40 min tempo
  • Day 2: 25 min interval / S&C
  • Day 3: 25 min hill training / S&C
  • Day 4: Seven miles

Half marathon training plan: Week 8

  • Day 1: 40 min tempo
  • Day 2: 25 min interval / S&C
  • Day 3: 25 min hill training / S&C
  • Day 4: 12 miles run

Half-marathon training plan: Week 9

  • Day 1: 50 min tempo
  • Day 2: 30 min interval (no S&C)
  • Day 3: 30 min hill training (no S&C)
  • Day 4: 13 miles long run

This is your longest run of the plan. Take it nice and easy, and practise eating and drinking during the run. 

Man exercise

(Image credit: Christopher Campbell/Unsplash)

Half-marathon training plan: Week 10

  • Day 1: 20 min tempo
  • Day 2: 25 min interval (no S&C)
  • Day 3: 25 min hill training (no S&C)
  • Day 4: Nine miles

Your final strength and conditioning routine for the last couple of weeks: 

  • Goblet squat (3 x 16)
  • Bench supported SA row (3 x 16)
  • Half-kneeling SA overhead press (2 x 16)
  • SL glute bridge (2 x 20)
  • Side plank (2 x 30sec)

Half-marathon training plan: Week 11

  • Day 1: 40 min tempo
  • Day 2: 20 min interval / S&C
  • Day 3: 20 min hill training / S&C
  • Day 4: 6 miles easy pace

Half marathon training plan: Week 12

  • Day 1: 40 min tempo
  • Day 2: 20 min interval
  • Day 3: Rest
  • Day 4: Race day!

People running a half marathon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

  Top tips for running a half-marathon 

 Our top tip is to pace yourself! It’s a mistake runners make over and over again. The atmosphere at the startline, the spectators cheering you on, you feel fit and the adrenaline is coursing through your fully prepped muscles. The starting gun sounds and you shoot off faster than you have ever run before. You gradually slow down until you hit the wall at mile 10 and slow to a crawl. 

To avoid this scenario, aim to consciously slow down during the first two miles, perhaps even slower than you think is comfortable, then slowly speed up and you’ll find you begin to overtake people in the second half of the race, as you (hopefully) have enough energy left to finish strongly.

Practise your race day nutrition strategy before the race on your Day 4 long runs. Ensure you drink every 20-30mins, and after 60mins of running think about topping up your glucose and electrolyte levels with energy gels and/or energy drinks. Keep a helper on the sideline packing one of our best water bottles.

If you can recce the route, that will benefit you on race day. You’ll know where the hidden hills are, which are the demoralising long flat stretches and where you can catch a breather on long downhills. If you can’t recce it in person, study it online – look at maps and identify where the hills are so you can prep yourself mentally to handle everything it can throw at you.

Howard Calvert
Howard Calvert

Howard is a freelance health and fitness journalist and copywriter. He has written for publications including ShortList, Runner’s World, Trail Running, Women’s Running, Red Bulletin, Wareable and Cycling Weekly. He enjoys nothing more than lacing up his trail shoes and heading out to explore new trails. He’s run ultramarathons everywhere from the French Alps and Canadian mountains to the Welsh coast and Peak District. When not running, he’s usually found hitting his local MTB singletrack trails or on a quest to find the country’s best cinnamon bun.