12-Week Beginners Half Marathon Training Plan

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Some people sign up for a marathon without being a regular runner and while it’s possible to get round on the day with a lot of hard work, it can end up being a bit grim. Half marathons are a smarter choice for the occasional runner who’s keen to tackle a big challenge. And if you follow a good training plan, you may even get around the course with a smile on your face – a training plan like this one by Justin Reid-Simms, UK Athletics-qualified running coach at Alamer Athletic.

Bear in mind, however, that this plan is designed for people who can already run for 20-30 minutes – it’s not a couch to half marathon plan. On the other hand, if you take a look at the plan and decide you could tackle something more demanding, try this 12-week training plan by Reid-Simms which aims to get you to the finish line in under two hours.

Unlike other training plans that ask you to cover a certain distance each session, this one just asks you to run for a certain amount of time and a particular piece. “Running by time allows you to plan out your day,” explains Reid-Simms. “It helps avoid rushing through runs because you’re trying to have a life!”

Speaking of lives, you’ll notice there are six sessions a week, but three are optional. “I’d advise people to do as many sessions as they can,” says Reid-Simms, “but plans change so don’t beat yourself up if you skip the optional workouts. Just be consistent with the key sessions.”

Those key sessions are a 20- to 30-minute run on a Tuesday, a run on Thursday that gradually increases in time up to 45 minutes, and a long run on Sunday that tops out at one hour 15 minutes. Not too bad, right?

The optional extras are an easy run on Saturday which will help get your body used to spending time on your feet, plus two strength training sessions on Wednesday and Friday.

You’ll also notice that on some of the Thursday and Sunday runs, Reid-Simms has included the option to walk if you need a quick break. “At that stage it’s all about time on your feet. There’s no need to push really hard, so just take a little bit of a breather, but after a while you want to be able to run consistently.”

How the plan works

The plan is split into three four-week blocks. The first builds a base of fitness, the second increases your endurance and the third starts with the hardest week of the plan before winding down to make sure your body’s well rested and ready for race day.

You’ll notice there’s a pattern to the first two blocks. The time you spend running builds gradually for three weeks, before dropping slightly in the final week to give your body a chance to recover from the increased workload.

The final block is different because it’s when you taper off your training. “It’s vital to listen to your body throughout this block,” says Reid-Simms. “The most important thing is to feel strong when you get to the start line, so if you feel that an extra rest day would be beneficial, then take it.”

Types of run

You’ll notice there are three types of run in this plan: aerobic, endurance and recovery. Each corresponds to the amount of effort you should put in, with the aerobic being the greatest amount of effort, endurance after that and recovery the least. The easiest way to work out the right amount of effort is to use the talk test. On the aerobic runs you should be able to get two or three sentences out, while during the endurance run you should be able to carry on a full conversation. During the recovery run you should be able to rant at length. We’re sure you can judge it without talking to yourself out loud if you’re running alone, but Reid-Simms does recommend running with someone else if possible “because you can both be a check on each other”.

Block 1: Base Building

Week 1

Monday Rest
Tuesday 20min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 30min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 30min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Week 2

Monday Rest
Tuesday 20min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 30min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 35min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Week 3

Monday Rest
Tuesday 20min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 35min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 40min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Week 4

Monday Rest
Tuesday 20min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 30min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 35min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Block 2: Endurance

Week 5

Monday Rest
Tuesday 30min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 35min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 45min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Week 6

Monday Rest
Tuesday 30min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 40min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 55min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Week 7

Monday Rest
Tuesday 30min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 40min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 1hr 5min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Week 8

Monday Rest
Tuesday 30min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 35min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 55min endurance, walk for periods if you need to

Block 3: Race Ready!

Week 9

Monday Rest
Tuesday 30min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 45min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 1hr 15min endurance

Week 10

Monday Rest
Tuesday 30min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 35min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 60min endurance

Week 11

Monday Rest
Tuesday 30min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 25min aerobic, walk for periods if you need to
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (optional)
Sunday 45min endurance

Week 12

Monday Rest
Tuesday 20min aerobic
Wednesday Strength training (optional)
Thursday 30min aerobic
Friday Strength training (optional)
Saturday 20min recovery (shake-out run)
Sunday Race day