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How Do I Set Up a Half Marathon Training Schedule?

Runners can train for a race by monitoring their time and speed.
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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 March 2014
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The first step in setting up a half marathon training schedule is to determine what your goal is when running the half marathon. Is your goal simply to finish the race and have a good time, or do you have a specific goal time in mind? Are you running to support a charity or local race or are you running the half marathon to prepare for a longer race? The answers to this question will help you determine the appropriate half marathon training schedule.

If you want to go to the race and have fun, you can prepare running three days a week. One day should be an easy run. If you are new to running, begin by completing one mile (1.6 kilometers). Increase the distance of this run by one half mile (0.8 kilometers) each week until you are running six miles (9.6 kilometers) comfortably. If, at any time, you find this run too strenuous, back off for a few weeks then increase the distance again.

The second workout of the week will be a speed workout. There are a variety of speed workouts that you can do. You may think that speed workouts are not important if you are not running for time. They are beneficial because on race day, you are likely to get caught up in the excitement and may run faster than you had planned. If your body is accustomed to running fast occasionally, you won’t be as sore after the race.

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If you like to run on a track, you may enjoy speed workouts such as six sets of 200 meter sprints with 200 meter recovery walks or jogs in between. 400 and 800 meter repeats are also popular distances. Anytime that you do speed workouts on the track it is important to allow amble recovery time between each sprint.

If you want to do speed workouts on the road or trail you can do fartleks or tempo runs. Fartlek is the Swedish word for speed play. A fartlek workout is when you intersperse quick sprints into your regular run. There is no set speed or distance.

For instance, you may see a telephone pole in the distance and sprint to it. You then slow down to a jog. Once you recover, you look for another landmark to sprint toward. It is unlikely that these sprints will be as fast as your track sprints, because you are not recovering as fully between each one.

Tempo runs involve running for one half to two miles (0.8 to 3.2 kilometers)to warm up, then speeding up. You run the middle of your tempo run at a pace that you can maintain, but is difficult. You finish with another one half to one mile (0.8 to 1.6 kilometers)cool down.

Speed training is great for a half marathon training schedule because it simulates real world racing conditions, where you may want to speed up to pass someone and then slow down to catch your breath. The final type of run that you need to add to a half marathon training schedule is a long run. For a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles (21 kilometers), you may start with a long run of five miles (8 kilometers). Gradually increase the length of your long run until you are running 12 miles (19 kilometers). Once you can complete this distance, you are ready for your half marathon.

If your goal is more aggressive, you can change your half marathon training schedule to reflect this. Run more days of the week, adding more easy runs. If you are running five days a week, you can have one long run, one speed workout and one day where you run hilly terrain. The other two days should be easy runs. Always take at least one day off each week so that your body can recover.

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