16 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule for Beginners

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


Half marathon training schedule for beginners

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!



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.


Running the Great Wall Marathon
Running the Great Wall Half Marathon, one of many runs I’ve successfully trained for!



#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:

My Beginner's Training Plan



*Not sure where to start with your training plan? Want professional coaching and support to help develop your own INDIVIDUALIZED training calendar like the one you see above?  Let me help you create your OWN plan for success with tailored cross training, incremental long runs, and weekly practice runs built in that work for YOU!  I’ll assess where you are today, and build you a plan to get you where you need to be!  Get started HERE!



#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. 


Schedule your runs on your 16 week half marathon training schedule
One of my humble, local trails I train on for my half marathons


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!


****Check out my post on 3 Steps to Choosing a Destination “Runcation”!



Running in New Orleans for a destination "runcation"
Views from a “runcation” in NOLA!



#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.


***Don’t forget, you can grab your own download of my 16 week half marathon training calendar HERE!



#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. 


***Grab a personalized at home HIIT workout plan HERE!


Crosstraining is part of half marathon training
Cross training, such as kayaking, is an important part of a half marathon training plan



#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?

Grab this handy Weekly Food Prep download HERE!


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?

Get Your Own Daily Water Tracker Download HERE!



#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!


Training run on my 16 week half marathon training schedule
Running bridges in Ohio!



#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. 


Know when to stop on your 16 week half marathon training schedule for beginners



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.  


Running bridges in Carlsbad, New Mexico
Running in the Southwest means turquoise bridges!



#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!


Training with a group for my 16 week half marathon training schedule for beginners



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!



Running Shoes:


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!   


>Grab the shoes that propelled me through 5,000 steps on the Great Wall Marathon!


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.  


Prepare for trail running with my 16 week half marathon training schedule for beginners
Trail running in the mountains of West Texas


Sports Bra:


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
  • Hilly Women's Twin Skin Anket, Magenta/Grey Marl, Small
Smartwool Merino 150 Beanie
  • Material: 87% merino wool. 13% nylon
Black Merino Wool Buff
  • Top selling color of the Wool Buff series is black
Icebreaker Merino Women's Siren Tank Top, Black, Small
  • 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.
BALEAF Women's Fleece Lined Leggings Thermal Warm Winter Tights High Waisted Thick Yoga Pants Cold Weather with Pockets Black XS
  • [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.
  • Choose bright or reflective gear and/or clothing if you are a dawn or dusk runner (night running not recommended).
LED Safety Light (2 Pack) - Clip On Strobe/Running Lights for Runners, Dog, Bike, Walking, Boat, Kayak, Stroller and More - High Visibility Accessories for Your Reflective Gear, Bicycle, Green
  • 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.
FlipBelt FB0114-BLK-XL.1, Black, Extra Large
  • 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!
CamelBak Women's Circuit Run Vest 50oz Hydration Bladder, Aqua Sea/ Silver
  • 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!


One of my faves, the Yellowstone Half Marathon
One of my all time favorite “runcations”, the Yellowstone Half Marathon!



***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!



Ready to Start Training for Your Own Half Marathon?

Get the key to success with your own 16 Week Half Marathon Training Calendar!




Take advantage of my 1:1 coaching consults, where we can develop a customized training calendar that takes into account your current foundation, your strengths, your personal goals, your intended distance, and your preferred timeframe! Take a look below, and get started by FILLING OUT THIS INTEREST FORM!

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Last update on 2023-08-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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  1. Couldn’t agree more with everything on this list. You nailed it. As an avid marathoner, I think that cross-training/strength training is the key to longevity and success. Not to mention you keep your athleticism when you incorporate other activities in your training. As opposed to becoming an aching, stiff, fragile looking runner. Good read!

    1. Chris, couldn’t agree more! Just finished a round of Pilates myself as I’m reading this. It’s easy to think that being a good runner means getting in as many practice runs as possible, but you have to add strength training and cross training, not to mention rest! Thanks for reading!

  2. I’m a huge fan of “runcations!” I love that you’ve done the Great Wall Marathon… that’s one of the marathons on my list! You have such great tips in this guide. I need to find another half to do so I can increase my training load.

    1. Meg, the Great Wall was such a wonderful experience. It definitely earns the label of being one of the toughest races in the world, but the chance to leave footprints on something as historically significant as the Wall is worth it! I hope you are able to do it!

  3. I ran a marathon years ago. I think a half-marathon will be more to my liking these days. One thing for the race: have a small holder that straps around your waist to carry energy gels to use at certain predesignated mileages. In other words, don’t depend just on the cups of water, Gatorade, etc., to get you through an endurance race.

    Good post!. Motivating me to get back to distance running.

    1. You’re right Phil, it’s a good idea on race day to have a form of small holder to carry gels and such. I have a very small version of a fanny pack that I strap around my waist, but I know there’s a couple other good options out there!

  4. I LOVE this post! I am dying to incorporate racing into my travels. I, too, am a 3 day per week runner (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). My weak point is strength training. I know that I should, but do I actually do so when training for a race? No. I like the schedule you’ve posted though, and will try to get those strength training days in.

    1. I struggled with strength training as well initially. I kept getting plagued with injuries, until I realized that all I was doing was running and never any cross training. Now I think I’m on a good track with my cross training and 3 days a week runs!

  5. Such a great post, thank you! I’ve looked at a whole load of possible schedules/plans around the Half Marathon – but yours covers it really helpfully, and comprehensively. I’m off to sign up for a local race and then get going – thank you for helping with the process!

    1. Thanks for sharing! I’m so happy to hear this was helpful, it’s all about finding a plan that works for you and that you know you can stick to. I’ve been through a lot of half marathon successes and roadblocks, and it’s helped me figure out a training plan that is really effective! And choosing your race is the most fun part, you will have to share which race you choose!

  6. Hi there. Curious as to why you only have 10mile runs in the training plan instead of 13. I’m sure there’s a good reason- just curious as to what! Thanks ?

    1. Hi Jenna,

      Great question! Many training plans, including my own, recommend not running the full distance until race day. It’s all about working up in increments, but that last push is best saved for the adrenaline that comes on race day. The last long run of 10 miles, plus all the training runs prior, will be a perfect foundation for that 13 miler. It’s not that you can’t run the full 13 before, but for newbies and for training purposes, it is recommended to build the foundation, and then make the final push on race day. Hope that helps!