My Tried and True Half Marathon Training Plan

First a disclaimer: I am not a running coach nor do I have any running certifications or affiliations. What I am is a runner who has been running races since 2000 and I’ve run a half marathon in all 50 states (plus a marathon, 5ks, 10ks, a 10-miler, and a 15k). Over the years, I’ve used many training plans including ones I’ve gotten from books, online, and from other runners. Since I’ve run more half marathons by far than any other distance, that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

When I discovered this particular half marathon training plan several years ago, I liked it for a few different reasons, which I’ll cover in a moment, but I did tweak it over the years. At first glance, you can see there are 5 running days with an option for another. When I first used this plan I was going by the “Run Less Run Faster” training plan where you only run 3 days a week so it would have been a stretch for me to go from 3 days a week to 6 and even jumping from 3 to 5 concerned me. It turns out running 5 days a week was the perfect sweet spot for me.

If you’re not familiar, the Run Less Run Faster program focuses entirely on speed work and a long run; there are no easy recovery days. This seemed to be working for me for a while but I began to feel like I was in a running rut and I needed a new plan, hence the training plan I will go over here. I feel like this training plan needs a name so I’ll just call it “Donna’s Half Marathon Training Plan” to keep it simple, or “Donna’s Plan” to keep it even more simple from here on since we all know it’s a half marathon training plan.

I finished first in my age group with this training plan (in Missouri)!!!

In Donna’s Plan, there are both timed runs and distance-measured runs, so for example, some days you may run for 45 minutes and other days you may run 5 miles. I like this mix of both timed and distance-measured runs because I feel like if you’re only running by time all of the time it may be not give you enough time on your feet to prepare you for the race. If a training plan says to run for 60 minutes and you’re super-speedy you’re going to cover much more ground than someone who’s running 11- or 12 minute-miles. No matter what your speed is you need to get that time on your feet before the half marathon.

On the other hand, if you only run by distance, it can get to be a bit of a head game for some people. You see that you have to run 12 miles and you think, “I’ve never run that far before. I’m not sure I can do that” and you may talk yourself out of it and run for 9 miles instead. Likewise, if you see you’re supposed to run for 6 miles during the week and you work full-time and have a family and a million other things to do, it’s too easy to tell yourself it’s ok to just run 4 miles even though the plan calls for 6 miles. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like people are more likely to get hung up on the distance-measured runs than timed runs.

Having a mix of both timed and distance-measured runs seems like a good mix to give you the confidence you need as you gradually build up both the distance and time you run. Speaking of gradual build-up, it’s important to give yourself the full 14 weeks to complete the plan. You don’t want to jump into the plan by skipping the first few weeks nor do you want to cut the training plan short by skipping the last few weeks. Donna’s Plan also assumes you’ve already built up a base of at least 25 miles/week and have been consistently running at least 5 miles for your long run.

I’ll discuss some of the terms used in the plan now.

Distance Runs are timed by minutes. They’re meant to be easy runs.

Intervals are speed workouts that include tempo runs and runs at interval pace. Tempo runs are meant to be about 25 seconds per mile slower than 5k race pace. Interval pace is supposed to be close to your current 3k or 5k race pace. This could also be referred to as a VO2max workout.

Fartlek runs are divided into three parts, a warmup, then faster brief segments that are usually repeated such as 8 x 45 seconds, and a cooldown. These are timed runs in Donna’s Plan.

Long runs sometimes include part of them at your goal half marathon pace or they can be at even distance/long run pace.

One day is slated as either a rest day, aerobic cross training (such as cycling, eliptical, rowing or some other non-impact activity) or an easy 30 minute run. If you’ve never run a half marathon before or haven’t run one in a while, I suggest you take this as a rest day.

Strides are usually done at the end of a run but can be done in the middle if you need a little pick-me-up. They aren’t meant to be sprinted all-out but help improve turnover. Focus on your form; you want to be relaxed with light footfall landings, and quick push-off. These are 15-20 seconds each.

One last note, the plan starts on Monday and includes runs on Monday, Tuesday, (optional on Wednesday), Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Sunday is a rest day every week. If you prefer to do your long runs on Sundays, you should shift everything so that you’re still running three days in a row. In this case, your day off would be Thursday instead of Wednesday and you would run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I PR’d with this plan for my 51st half marathon in state number 49 (Iowa)!!!

Week 1

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy running, 6 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery between. Cooldown 1 mile easy. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 35 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 2 x 3 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 35 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 5 to 6 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 2

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 10 x 300 meters at interval pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 35 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 5-7 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 35 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 5 to 6 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 3

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 8 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 3 x 3 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 6 to 7 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 4

Monday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 6 x 1000 meters at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 8 x 1 minute pickups at 5k race effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 8 mile long run. First 4 miles at long distance easy pace then last 4 miles at half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 5

Monday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 10 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5-6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 3 x 4 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 9 to 10 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 6

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo run- Warmup 1 mile easy, 4 x 1 mile at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 15 minutes easy, then 12 x 30 seconds pickups at 5k effort with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 11 miles. First 5 miles at long distance run pace, last 6 miles at goal half marathon pace.

Week 7

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 4-5 x 1 miles at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 7-9 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 10 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 13-14 miles at easy even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 8

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 3 miles at tempo pace with 5 minutes jogging recovery, 1 mile at tempo pace. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 10 x 45 second pickups at 5k race pace with 45 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 12 miles. First 6 miles at easy long distance pace, last 6 at half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 9

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 2 x 2 miles at tempo pace with 2 minutes jogging recovery. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 8 x 1 minute pickups at 5k race pace with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 13-14 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 10

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 3 miles at tempo pace followed by 2 miles easy, followed by 2 x 1 miles at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 8-10 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 4 x 1:30 minute pickups at 5k race pace with 1:30 minute easy between then 4 x 1:00 minute pickups with 1:00 easy + 4 x 30 seconds pickups with 30 seconds easy. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 11 miles. First 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase last 7-8 miles to goal half marathon pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 11

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 4-5 x 1 mile at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-9 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 10 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 13-14 miles at easy pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 12

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 6-7 x 1000 meters at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 8 x 45 second pickups at 5k race pace with 45 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 11 miles. Run first 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase final miles to half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 13

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1 mile easy, then 3 miles at tempo pace. Cooldown 1 mile easy. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 8 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 20-30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 7-8 miles. Run first 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase final miles to half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 14

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1 mile easy, then 4 x 1000 meters at tempo pace. 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1 mile easy.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Easy short run 30 minutes + 6 x 10 second strides.

Friday- Rest day.

Saturday- Easy 20-30 minute shakeout run.

Sunday- RACE DAY!

That’s it! That’s Donna’s Half Marathon Training Plan. It’s worked well for me because I was able to PR using this plan for my 51st half marathon in Iowa, my 49th state last October. I like the plan because it’s challenging enough but not so overwhelming that I’m not able to hit my goal times or run the specified distances.

What about you- do you have a tried and true half marathon plan you use for races? Or would you prefer to just wing it and run by feel on race day? Do you feel too “locked-in” or are you just too busy to follow most training plans?

Happy running!

Donna

Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

11 thoughts on “My Tried and True Half Marathon Training Plan”

  1. Thanks for sharing. I have used posted training plans. I find that they did not account for age, years run and race goal.

    So through the years I’ve adapted them to fit my needs.

    I’ve run 59 so I know what I need to do..

    Just 3 short easy 3 milers sometime during the week (when I did more my long runs suffered) and a long run on the weekend.

    I usually run at least 6-8 miles anyway but before the race I always run 9, 10, 11, 12, 8-10 and then race day. How I do has a lot to do with the difficulty of course, the weather…. things out of my control.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I should have mentioned this race plan takes into account race goal in a way but you would have to calculate that and run the appropriate times for speed work. It also assumes you’re not a brand-new runner since it’s more of a moderate plan for someone with a decent baseline before starting on the plan.
      You sure do seem to know what you need to do!

      Like

  2. Thanks for sharing this! Right now I’m lucky to squeeze in 3 runs, plus running significantly less than 25 miles/week. And I’m winging it! I’m also just looking to finish. Someday in the future that may change — although I doubt I’ll ever be running 5 X week.

    It’s really nice to see what others do!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm… maybe I should just start running again. Won’t ever work up to your plan, but just running would be something. Summer is such a killer. I hate running in the heat. Once it cools down to 50 degree mornings we may have the perfect conditions to start again.

    Liked by 1 person

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