12 Week Half Marathon Training Program

12 Week Half Marathon Training Program by Ryan Ghelfi

Are you an occasional runner who is thinking about a half marathon? Perhaps you’ve run a couple of short races or jog a few miles a week. If a half-marathon is in your future and you are looking to run it with authority and not “just finish,” then this training program is for you.

If you train with this program, you should expect to get faster and you should find running easier and more fluid. If you are a casual runner who has run a half marathon, you may set a personal record. If you are relatively new to running, you should be able to run the entire half and feel comfortable doing it.

Weeks 1-4 Base Phase

During the base phase, most of your runs should be easy or base runs. Easy runs will help you stay injury free while building the necessary running fitness to move on to the endurance phase of training where things get a bit harder. There is no reason to push things during the base phase as there will be plenty of time to get stronger and faster in the weeks to come.

Day
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Sunday30 minute easy run30 minute easy run+
3X50 meter strides
35 minute easy run+
4X50 meter strides
40 minute easy run+2X100 meter strides
MondayOffOffOffOff
Tuesday35 minute easy run35 minute easy run40 minute easy run40 minute easy run
WednesdayOffOffOffOff
ThursdayCross Train 40 minutes25 minute easy run30 minute easy run35 minute easy run
Friday40 minute easy run45 minute easy run50 minute easy run50 minute easy run
SaturdayOffOff or Cross Train 30 minOff or Cross Train 30 minOff or Cross Train 30 min
Appx. Miles9 -14 Miles12-16 Miles14-18 Miles15-19 Miles

Weeks 5-10 Endurance Phase

This phase is the meat of the training program. You continue to put in miles while adding some harder workouts that are designed to help you improve your speed and your lactic threshold so you can run at a faster pace with less effort. You also increase the mileage of your long runs, which will help you run the half-marathon distance.

What are VO2 Max % runs?

These runs can be tough to figure out at first but are some of the most important and beneficial runs in your training cycle. We aren’t going into the science here, but these runs are meant to help you buffer lactic acid more efficiently and at a faster pace. The pace you do these runs at is important. To help with this I have attached a link to an online calculator which has a formula that uses heart rate to help us figure out how fast to be running. On the calculator titled “Percent VO2max to Heart Rate Conversion Calculator,” you type in your age and the VO2 Max percentage I have prescribed for that day and the form will calculate your estimated heart rate.

Your goal for VO2 Max runs will be to run at your estimated heart rate. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, four to six minutes into one of these runs, stop, find your pulse and count the beats for ten seconds; multiply this by 6 and then continue your run. Slow down or speed up according to what your heart rate was. Lastly, I will say that VO2 Max% runs are meant to be run “in control.” This means that you are breathing effectively and can even spit out short sentences to your running partner. If you are running harder than this, slow down even if you are at the prescribed heart rate.

Min “on” Min “off” workouts

In addition to your VO2Max workouts, we added a few Min “on” Min “off” workouts. I explain them in more detail here. In short, the “on” phase is run at around 75 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate and the “off” is an easy jog or walk with time to lower your heart rate to fifty to sixty percent of maximum.

Day
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Sunday55 minute easy run65 minute easy run70 minute easy run80 minute easy run60 minute easy run90 minute easy run
MondayOffOffOffOffOffOff
Tuesday35 minute easy run+2X100 meter strides45 minute easy + 2X100 meter strides45 minute easy + 2X100 meter strides15 minute warm up + 2X100 meter strides, 3 sets of 4X400 meter, 10 minute cool down15 minute warm up + 2X100 meter strides, 3 sets of 2X800 meter, 10 minute cool down15 minute warm up + 2X100 meter strides, 5X 3 min “on" 3 min “off’ 10 min cool down
WednesdayOffOffOffOffOffOff
Thursday40 minute easy run45 minute easy run45 minute easy run50 minute easy run50 minute easy run40 minute easy run
Friday15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides, 16X1 min “on” 1 min “off” 10 min cool down15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides,10X2 min “on” 2 min “off”, 10 min cool down15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides, 12 minute @ 85% VO2 max, 10 minute cool down15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides, 2X10 minute @85% of VO2 max, 1 minute jog between, 10 min cool down15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides, 25 minute @85% of VO2 max, 10 minute cool down15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides, 30 minute @ 85% of VO2 max, 10 minute cool down
SaturdayOff or Cross Train 30 minOff or Cross Train 30 minOff or Cross Train 30 minOff or Cross Train 30 minOff or Cross Train 30 minOff or Cross Train 30 min
Appx. Miles16 -22 Miles20-25 Miles20-25 Miles23-27 Miles20-25 Miles28-32 Miles

Weeks 11-12 Taper Phase

The two weeks leading to the half marathon, you will begin to taper or slow down and lower your mileage. Your goal is to peak on race day and not before. Your longest run is sixty minutes and your last VO2 max workout is four days before the race.

Day
Week 11
Week 12
Sunday60 minute easy run45 minute easy run
MondayOffOff
Tuesday15 minute warm up+2X100 meter strides, 3 sets of 3X400 meter, 10 min cool down15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides, 10 minute @85% of VO2 max, 10 minute cool down
WednesdayOffOff
Thursday40 minute easy run35 minute easy run
Friday15 minute warm up +2X100 meter strides, 2X10 minute @85% of VO2 max 1 minute jog between, 10 minute cool down20 minute easy run + 2X100 meter strides
SaturdayOff or Cross Train 30 minHalf Marathon!
Appx. Miles21-24 Miles12-16 miles pre-race

Race strategy

In a marathon, if you go out too fast, you risk not finishing. In a half marathon, you risk misery and a poor time. You will find several race calculators online, but the best place to start is your pace at 85 percent of VO2 max since you trained at that pace. The best way to describe half-marathon pace is to stay on the slower side of uncomfortable. If your breathing is labored during the first half of the race, you are going too fast.

You will want to finish strong so it’s important to start at your race pace. If the race has a minute per mile pacer, stay with the pacer that matches your predicted pace. If you have a gps watch, use it to make sure you are running at your predicted pace.

Your adrenaline will be pumping so it will be easy to go out too fast. You will want to go faster. Don’t do it. Your best chance of a good time is to run a reverse split race (the second half is faster than the first half). You will also get the thrill of passing people and not being passed.

Hydration and Food

Dehydration is debilitating and dangerous, especially if you are running in the heat. Drink. Carry water or take advantage of the water stations. Most races will offer drinks with electrolytes at several drink stations. If you carry water, add some electrolytes to it. Some races offer food in the form of energy gels. If you plan to use them, find out what they are and practice with them before the race. You can also carry gels with you.

Finally, have fun! A half marathon is a great race to test your endurance. It is also the most popular distance so you will have company during the race. Enjoy the camaraderie, the weather and the race.

About Ryan Ghelfi

After running track and cross-country at Southern Oregon University, Ryan Ghelfi took his talents to Mt. Shasta in the summer where he guides hikers and in the winter he guides skiers in Wallowa. In his “off time,” he runs ultra marathons, fast. You can follow Ryan’s blog here.