This half-marathon plan is for anybody who has been running consistently for at least four times a week for the past six months. Also, you’ve had no major (4+ weeks) breaks for illness or injuries, have already participated in a half-marathon or full marathon, and want to see your hard work reflected in your PRs.
On this plan, you will run five days a week; you have an option of running six days a week if you’d like. There are very few straight-up runs; most have bursts of speed—anything from 20 seconds to miles—added in. All the runs are in minutes, although some segments of them correspond to distance. Easy days will be unbelievably easy, but hard days will be, comparatively, pretty hard. The result? If you do the work, you will likely PR on this plan.
On easy runs, you’ll aim to keep your heart rate at or under 140 beats per minute (bpm). Why 140? Based on Maffetone’s Formula (180-age, with a few qualifications), 140 is a solid number that works for nearly every body. Because the half-marathon is an endurance event, keeping your heart rate under 140 greatly expands your cardiovascular/aerobic base, greatly decreases your chances of injury, significantly lessens post-run fatigue, and makes running feel very doable and even fun. (Truly!)
Fair warning: Your initial pace at 140 bpm will surprise you. You will likely be 2-3 minutes slower than your current average run pace, and you’ll walk quite a bit to keep your heart rate within range, especially when you climb hills. You will be frustrated and possibly teary and maybe even think about dropping the program.
We’ll keep you going, though, and over the base building period of the first six weeks, your average speed at 140 bpm will begin to increase. Over the following fourteen weeks, you will morph into a speedy cardio monster who can run for hours and hours with no pain and no anguish.
Although you’ll have an EXCELLENT half-marathon in twenty weeks, consider this plan as your introduction to a long-term investment in your running. Its (priceless) yield? Low on injury and fatigue, and correspondingly high on enjoyment and performance.
You need to please:
- Be able to currently jog for 90 consecutive minutes. For at least the previous three months, you’ve averaged 20 miles a week.
- Own a heart rate monitor with a chest strap, and understand you need to wear it all the time while training. The majority of your time, you’ll be training with a heart rate <140.
- Be able to say adios to your ego and put your usual pace expectations away for this program. Your training splits will likely be 2-3 minutes slower than they currently are. You will be passed by other (#uncoached, #unloved) runners who will have no idea about the magic you’re creating within yourself. You will think people in cars are talking about your turtle-like speed. (They aren’t, but it’ll feel like that.) For at least the first six weeks, you will likely walk up most hills and take regular walk breaks. Race pace will be a different thing, and we’ll cover that in depth, but your training is going to be s.l.o.w. Remember, you’ll have a group of #motherrunners doing the exact same thing, so you’ll have plenty of camaraderie and compassion.
- Have time—and patience—to devote to 20 weeks of training. During week one, you’ll run for five hours, 30 minutes over the course of five workouts. By week 17, the biggest week of training, you’ll be running seven hours, fifty minutes over the course of five workouts. The longest run distances are two, 180-minute runs.
WEEK OF TRAINING: Seven hours, fifty minutes.
LONGEST LONG RUN DISTANCES: Two, 180-minute runs.
The first three weeks of the plan are previewed above and to the left. (Quick key: EE: Easy Effort; RR: Recovery Run; PU: Pickup; FR: Free Run; LR: Long Run)
(Too much? Consider the AMAZING Half-Marathon Plan.)
The first date is date you officially start your 20 week plan; the date should align with the weekend of your goal race. If you don’t see a wave that aligns with your schedule, find upcoming registration dates + waves here.