The Half Marathon can be a grueling, cramp inducing, blister forming, out of breath, sweat fest of a race distance. So who wouldn’t want to experience all of that for thirteen miles? If you are new to running, and looking for a way to embrace the best of those thirteen miles with a half marathon training plan, you are starting in the right place by checking out these 12 steps towards a 16 week half marathon training schedule for beginners.
- #1: Formulate a Running Plan
- #2: Schedule Your Training Runs
- #3: Pick a Destination Race
- #4: Schedule Rest
- #5: Schedule Strength Training/Cross Training/Stretching
- #6: Invest in Proper Nutrition
- #7: Increase Mileage Intentionally
- #8: Listen to Your Body
- #9: Run Outside and Vary Your Routes
- #10: Choose Solo or Group
- #11: Get the Right Gear
- #12: Collaborate With Others
Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used for my own half marathon training schedule for beginners plan!
Table of Contents
12 Steps to a 16 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule for Beginners
Now in the double digits for half marathons completed, I have to say that this running distance is by far my favorite. And that is saying a lot, because barely over a decade ago I could not run a mile. I straight loathed running, period. Hence the reason I have found it so valuable to have created a precise half marathon training schedule to follow.
Years later, I have finished some of my most difficult races so far, from 5,000 steps on the Great Wall Half Marathon, to 13 frozen miles at the Polar Circle Half Marathon (by far one of the best experiences you can have in Greenland), and many, many miles in between.
“Runcations” are now an integral part of my active travel lifestyle. It has been a slow, intentional learning process, but one that has given me a lot of insights from tried and true practices.
So, are you ready to take on your first half marathon? Of course you are, but first you will need a comprehensive 16 week half marathon training schedule for beginners.
#1: Formulate a Running Plan
One thing I have learned about implementing a half marathon training schedule for beginners, is that you cannot just wing your training. You have to intentionally schedule your training runs, and be consistent every week. There are a lot of training programs out there, and each are different. This is something you have to learn from tried and true practice, and how your body reacts to your training schedule.
The majority of half marathon training plan schedules I have seen will have you running four times a week. I did this for a while, until my body started to burn out. I have found that an ideal training schedule for myself is running three times a week, with two days of cross training and strength training, and two days of rest. Here is the plan I personally developed and have followed for over 16 years:
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#2: Schedule Your Runs
Running is a mental game. If you tell yourself that you will run “when I have some free time”, your mind will attempt to talk you out of it every time! You have to intentionally set aside the time, and consistency is key! The one thing that has worked like magic for me is to have designated “running” days. Otherwise, I know I will come up with a million reasons why I can’t get around to running.
My designated days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, as shown in my half marathon training plan above. Sure, things come up and adjustments have to be made at times. But if you have your running days marked on the calendar and have given them priority, you will find that other things that pop up have a way of being able to be worked around your running schedule. You will probably get teased for prioritizing running, but you are the one that gets to cross that finish line!
Yes, I literally have my running days marked on my calendar, and I highly recommend you plan out your days as well. I even go so far as to check off or highlight each run on my calendar when completed. I give myself four months to train for every half marathon race I take on, so my calendar will have my entire four months of Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays runs mapped out in advance (including any adjustments or “makeups” I know about in advance).
#3: Pick a Destination Race
This is not a hard and fast rule, but I have found that it offers me the most motivation. Knowing your end game gives you a reason to train, and something to look forward to. Active travel is the best reason to travel, and I have continually found that going for a run in a new place is the best way to become intimately acquainted with that spot!
It is simply a strategy to keep you motivated throughout your training, because it can and often does become grueling. Besides, if you have already picked out a race, paid for it, and secured your travel plans, you are far less likely to back out of that first half marathon! Give yourself as much motivation as possible, because again, running a half marathon is largely a mental game!
#4: Schedule Rest
As important as it is to schedule your runs, schedule your rest! I give myself two rest days a week in my half marathon training plan, Sundays and Wednesdays. When you are training for a big race, getting those runs in will almost start to feel like your religion, and it will become hard to sit still. But again, be intentional in your rest, because it is very, very difficult to come back from an injury due to over use.
Taking an occasional extra day off, or a reduced mileage day, is not a terrible idea either. I usually try to schedule one every three or four weeks of training. You can see them built in to my training schedule outlined above.
And by the way, rest days don’t mean you can’t do anything physical. On some of my rest days, I still go out and do yardwork. Or take my son on a short stroll in the jogger. Just be sure to prioritize taking it easy and giving your body a break.
#5: Schedule Strength Training/Cross Training/Stretching
As you can see, intentional scheduling is a critical component. If all you do is run, you run the risk of burning out, mentally and physically. Your body will perform at its peak when all the muscle groups are firing symbiotically. You need all those muscle groups not only to perform at your best, but to avoid injury.
So even though you might feel that another training run is more beneficial than yoga, be consistent in giving your body alternative forms of training. This can take many different forms. I personally enjoy mixing in yoga, Pilates, hiking, kayaking, high intensity interval training (HIIT) home workouts, road cycling, or just going for a long walk.
#6: Invest in Proper Nutrition
You will hear the term “carb-loading” when you talk to runners about food. True, carbs are an integral part of a successful race day, but when you are training for the months leading up, you will want to be conscientious and mindful of your nutrition.
I love my carbs, but there are ways to get them in healthier versions. In addition to healthy carbs, think foods like almonds, eggs, sweet potatoes, whole grains like bread, cereal, and pasta, chicken, fish, beans, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables, and the like.
*Need help planning nutritious, fuel filled meals for your training?
You may want to cut down or cut out alcohol in the months or weeks leading up to a big run. This is up to personal preference, but many people, including myself, find increased performance and quicker recovery without drinking for a month or two before the big race day.
Drink lots of water, consistently. Even in cold weather, your body will sweat when you run. For especially hot and longer runs, ensure that you monitor and replace your sodium levels.
***Need Help Staying Consistent with Healthy Hydration?
#7: Increase Mileage Intentionally
Once you get rolling through your half marathon training plan runs, you are going to have those days where everything is clicking and you just know you could do 10 miles, even if you are only slated for a 4 mile training run! It is hard to reign in the horses in those situations, but better for you in the long run.
You want to increase your mileage in weekly increments. Going all out before your body is ready will make you more prone to injury, overuse, and burnout. Schedule your weekly increments, and stick to them!
#8: Listen to Your Body
This point is personally a tough one for me. I have a lot of confidence in my abilities, and it is hard for me to acknowledge when my body is telling me to give it a break. Your mental mindset will be tempted to overpower your internal body’s voice, and tell you that little twinge of pain you feel is no big deal and you can power through it. But in these cases, it is best to listen to your body.
You can always come back from a botched training run that didn’t go how you planned it, but you cannot always come back from an injury. Know that you WILL have bad training runs during your half marathon training plan, and often you won’t even know why. The stars just won’t align some days, but it won’t be the end of the world. Keep the big picture in mind on those days.
#9: Run Outside and Vary Your Routes
This is more of a personal choice, but I believe that running outside allows you to really enjoy running at its fullest, especially if you find ways to vary your route. I simply can’t run on a treadmill, I get too bored and burn out. That is the single quickest way I have found to kill my motivation.
So if you are feeling a little under-motivated, try picking out a new local park to run at, or going a different direction on your regular runs, or adding some hills and varying terrain to your regular course. Turn it into a creative checklist if necessary, such as making it a personal goal to complete a training run in each of your city’s parks.
#10: Choose Solo or Group
Again, another personal choice, depending on what motivates you. I would recommend trying out both, and see if you enjoy the peace and solitude of a mind-clearing solo run, or the collaboration of a group run! Or you can find ways to mix and match both! Most large cities now have running clubs, or you can find plenty of options on social media, such as Facebook running groups.
A lot of running stores also put on their own social runs, as well as local neighborhood groups. There are so many options out there these days for finding local running clubs or groups, it does not have to be intimidating!
If you choose to run solo, take these 7 necessary precautions to ensure your safety. Let someone know ahead of time where and when you are going running, and what your anticipated course is. Wear bright and reflective clothing, and always be aware of your surroundings.
Have a way to carry your phone with you, so that you have it at all times in case of an emergency. Use common sense if wearing earbuds. There are certain situations, such as close proximity to a busy road, that may necessitate going music-less so that you can pay attention to your surroundings.
#11: Get the Right Gear for Your 16 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule
There are several key items that are beneficial to a successful 16 week half marathon training schedule.
Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used!
The most important thing you will need is obviously a pair of running shoes. The initial step to take is to go get fitted at any number of local running stores. There will be knowledgeable staff there who can observe your gait and make recommendations. You can also start by referring to some of the most reputable brands on the market. I know there’s one in particular that I swear by, and have completed 10 + half marathons in!
It is also important to consider the type of terrain you will be running over on your half marathon race. The majority of my races have taken place on pavement, hence the reason I use a good road running shoe like the one above.
However, there are many half marathon routes across the country and the world that take place on natural surfaces. For races like these, I recommend a good trail running shoe with better grip, such as my HOKA One One Speedgoat Trail Runners. Unbeatable cushioning and traction, with a proven reputation in trail running shoes.
If you are a woman, I think the second most important piece of gear is a good wicking, drying, sports bra. Again, read up on recommendations and try some on in person. You want a bra that will not rub in any of the wrong places, or your runs will be torture! Again, your local running store is a good place to start when looking for a good sports bra for running in particular.
I can attest to going through literal YEARS without a good running bra that could hold up to my runs. On my longest runs, I would be bleeding by the end. The stinging was often insufferable, but I pushed through it for longer than I like to admit, largely because I had to try and fail with so many different bras before I found one that really worked, and has continued to work!
This is why I personally recommend the Brooks Fiona sports bra, as I have never had any issues with chafing, and it does the job in medium to high impact running over varied distances.
Additional Clothing Accessories:
A few more important articles of clothing are necessary before getting started with your half marathon training schedule for beginners:
- Hilly Women's Twin Skin Anket, Magenta/Grey Marl, Small
- or a super versatile and multi functional Buff head covering
- Top selling color of the Wool Buff series is black
- comfy, lightweight, breathable, moisture wicking clothing, like my favorite wool running tank!
- WOOL HIKING TANK: A sleek, stylish & versatile layering piece for any day of the year from hiking during warm weather to the slopes. Corespun fabric combined with stretchy material for added strength & durability.
- shorts such as this pair of breathable, quick drying, wool lined shorts
- responsive pants such as this wool base layer
- [Gifts for Women] These fleece lined leggings are suitable for daily casual wear or yoga, running, hiking, cycling, fitness, travel, camping, skiing and ice skating. These thermal leggings must become your favourite go-to winter pants.
- weather permitting, a jacket like this breathable, lightweight, wool lined shell that got me through a frigid half marathon in Greenland!
- Choose bright or reflective gear and/or clothing if you are a dawn or dusk runner (night running not recommended).
- EXCEPTIONAL DESIGN. WINNING FUNCTIONALITY. Stay safe with this slim, lightweight, compact and super bright set of safety lights. Each light weighs just 1/3 oz, small as a USB stick. So light and compact you won't know you're wearing them, but motorists will spot you right away. 3 powerful lights per device means high visibility, 3 eye-catching lighting modes for any occasion : steady, slow flashing, fast flash. Industry leading batteries included give you up to 100 hours battery life.
- Use a handy running belt to carry necessary stuff, like this convenient and easy to use FlipBelt model
- COMFY RUNNING WAIST BELT: Made to keep you in motion, the FlipBelt is an exercise-belt phone holder and carrier pouch for small vital essentials. Designed to pull on and lay flat on your hips without slipping, it is a light alternative to bulky running bags and armbands.
- for a more robust way of transporting water and your personal gear, including phones, check out this Camelbak hydration vest that is water bladder compatible!
- RUNNING HYDRATION VEST FOR WOMEN: The infusion of 3D Micro Mesh, ultra-lightweight materials, and reflectivity make the CamelBak Women’s Circuit Hydration Vest the preferred choice of trail and ultra runners looking for a minimalist running vest.
#12: Collaborate with Others
You may be wondering how to increase your pace, or how to treat an injury, or interested in helpful cross training routines. One of the best ways to improve your performance and increase your knowledge is to lean on others. In today’s age of social media, there is no reason why you cannot glean experience from others.
There are Facebook groups and other social media channels dedicated to all things running: trail runs, long distance run, fun runs, etc. Join one, be an active member, and grow through others!
***Read More: now that you are ready to implement a 16 week half marathon training schedule for beginners, where will it be? If you are looking for some pointers as to how to plan your next “runcation”, check out my guide to the 3 steps of planning a destination race.You can also revisit some of my past “runcations”, such as the Yellowstone Half Marathon and the Great Wall Half Marathon!
*Some of the best half marathons in the U.S. take place in our great National Parks! Check out this post dedicated to the best National Park races in the country!
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Last update on 2023-08-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API