The most confusing part of training for a half marathon for me was picking a training plan. I thought it was going to be as easy as googling “half marathon training plans” and I’d be out on the road running in no time. But to my dismay, there were a million plans that came up and none of them seemed identical. They were complicated and intimidating, telling me to run 20 minutes at a 10:20 pace, run for 3 minutes, walk for 1 minute and finish off strong by riding a unicycle for the last mile upside down using your hands.
Okay, I’m lying about that last part. But they might as well have said that because it was all the same to me! My eyes rolled to the back of my head, I fell over and died right there and that’s it.
Just kidding again. I’m alive and well.
I eventually figured it out, but it took an entire afternoon of sifting through training plan after training plan and a migraine. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the thought of following any of these and I felt completely out of my league. If you have no idea what you’re doing (me, anytime I do anything), just looking at all the plans out there can be very discouraging and might even be the reason why you quit before you even start! And that’s total B.S. to me. Just deciding to get out there and run and try to form a habit when being active has never been part of your life before is hard enough, there’s no need for training plans to screw that up.
But have no fear, I’m going to make this real simple for you because I just want you to get out there and start running without being discouraged.
Before you start looking at training plans there are a few things you should consider:
- Do I have a time goal for race day?
- Is my goal just to cross the finish line?
- How far can I run comfortably right now?
When I decided that I was going to start training for a half marathon I was already capable of running three miles. I spent an incredibly boring amount of time on the elliptical to help me build enough aerobic endurance to make that a possibility. I knew I didn’t want to have a time goal for race day, which would actually make picking a training plan simple for me after I looked at every training plan on the planet. I ended up committing to this 12 week training plan for beginner runners from halfmarathons.net:
What I loved about this plan was that it was fool (Kerry) proof. There was literally no way I could screw up. I just had to put one foot in front of the other. I could feel out my pace during the week and build up my endurance for the long runs at the end of the week. The other great thing about this training plan is there’s no cross-training ingrained into it, which is great for those of us that don’t have a gym membership or a bike (especially those of us that crash into things on bike rides).
You can switch around what days are your rest days, but it’s incredibly important to make sure you only run three days in a row without a rest day and that you also have a rest day the day after your long run. Trust me, your body will need it! Don’t be stupid like me and try to run four miles the day after you ran 12. If you’re in the same place I was before training for my first half marathon and you don’t have a time goal, I highly recommend this plan. It doesn’t get more simple than this!
Halfmarathons.net is the only place I recommend new runners to go to when it’s time to start training because they make it SO easy. Depending on how new you are to running and how far in advance you want to start training, they have individualized plans lasting from eight to 20 weeks long. They’re completely straightforward and a life-saver to beginner runners. Seriously, zero brain power is necessary to follow it.
If you are completely new to running, running coach Matt Forsman created the perfect training plan for you on Competitor. If you’re unsure if you’re able to run three miles at the beginning of training or want to incorporate cross-training throughout your training, this is the plan for you! Matt incorporated cross-training twice a week to build up your aerobic endurance without making you or your joints feel like you died and it can keep you from getting bored.
There are a lot of snobby runners out there that think they’re too good to cross-train when they’re training for a race. Don’t be one of them! I had that mentality when I first started running, but there’s no shame in cross-training. I thought I wasn’t earning that medal if I didn’t run the entirety of my training. That simply isn’t true and it doesn’t make you any less of a runner.
I’ve made a million mistakes when it comes to running and I’ve done a lot of stupid things, so I hope I can help prevent you from making the same ones through these blog posts. So go through all of these training plans and pick the one that aligns with your goals and let me know which one you chose below!