Going from the couch to half marathon is a challenging undertaking. But it’s worth it. When you train for a half marathon as a beginner, expect to lose weight, improve your energy levels, reduce stress, and improve your overall outlook and confidence.
Would you like to reap some of these benefits than some more?
Then keep on reading.
In this article, I’m sharing with you a training plan that will carry from the couch to the starting line of a half marathon—and across the finish too!
More specifically, I’ll dive into the following topics:
- What is a half marathon race?
- How many miles in a half marathon?
- What’s a good half marathon finish time?
- How to start training for your first half marathon
- How long your long runs should be
- The exact half marathon pace chart you need for success
- A step-by-step couch to half marathon training plan
- And so much more
Let’s lace up and dig in
Medical Note: I’d love for the record to clearly state that I’m not a doctor, nor a professional runner. What I’m sharing here is nothing more than my personal experiences and observation. Don’t take it as professional advice. If you have a medical condition or feel the need for professional help, please get in touch with a professional. And always remember to get the green light from a doctor before starting a new exercise or diet program.
What is A Half Marathon Race?
The race is a fantastic medium-sized event.
The half marathon event is one of the most popular running races in the U.S, with about four times as many finishers as a marathon.
In fact, nearly two million people crossed the finish line of the half marathon in 2019.
How Many Miles Is A Half-Marathon?
Before we get into the practical plan, let’s first talk about how long a half-marathon actually is.
A half marathon is 13.1 miles.
13.1 miles may not seem as much, but it’s an impressive distance.
It’s actually the equivalent of 231 football fields,
Getting ready for a half marathon is also the ideal stepping stone to a full marathon—it offers you the basic endurance and strength needed to increase distance.
What’s A Good Time For A Marathon?
A good race time for any event can differ vastly based on the runner’s age, gender, fitness level, racecourse, and so on.
Thanks to the distance of a half-marathon, you’ll more than likely be impacted by factors such as temperatures and weather.
So it’s actually a lot to consider.
Survey reports that male runners finish half-marathon with an average of 2:05:15 in the US, while female runners clocked it at roughly 2:23:45.
That’s about a 9:30-mile pace for men and an 11.00-mile pace for women.
In general, breaking the two-hour mark in a half marathon is considered a good finish time for beginners, especially those with some running experience and would love to push themselves.
Check the following chart for the exact breakdown of common couch to half marathon running paces:
The best way to improve your endurance when you’re a complete beginner is to use a run/walk method.
This method is a mix of jogging intervals interspersed with walking breaks.
This helps you get fit without getting hurt.
The typical run/walk session starts with a 10-minute brisk walk as a warm-up, then you alternate between a set time of running with a set time of walking for a set period of time.
Then finish it with a walking cool-down.
How do you know that you’re doing it right?
It should feel challenging but also sustainable.
Don’t chew more than you can swallow—or else, you’ll get hurt, and you don’t want that.
For example, in the first session in week one, jog at an easy pace for one minute and then follow it with one minute of walking to recovery.
Then repeat the cycle for a total of 10 rounds.
As the weeks go by, you slowly increase your running time and take less for recovery until you’re running straight for 30 to 40 minutes without taking any breaks. (that’s typically around week 8 or 9).
As the plan progresses forward, aim to increase the time spent running and reduce the walking until you’re running non-stop.
The Long Run
Around week 10 or 11 of the couch to half marathon plan, you’ll start doing one long workout a week, usually on the weekend.
Why do you need to do so?
Long runs are the bread and butter of endurance training, especially half marathon training.
These help build endurance and strength—and get you used to spend long times on your feet.
If you plan to eat during the race, use the same strategy out on your long runs, so you’ll know what type of food works the best for you.
Experimentation is key.
It’s also an ideal time to practice your diet and hydration strategy during the race, especially the few longs runs in the last few weeks.
For the couch to half marathon plan, build up slowly your long run to at least 10 to 12 miles before the event.
You may start with a 4 to 5 miles run, adding one mile every two weeks.
It’s up to you and how much your body can handle.
As the plan progress, you’ll be asked to finish two 10-mile long runs to get your body ready for the 13.1-mile distance.
Once you finish these without a problem, then know for sure that you can run 13.1 miles without succumbing to fatigue half-way.
Long Run Pace
Don’t worry about your long run pace.
As long as you’re spending time on your feet and increase your physical and mental endurance, you’re going in the right direction.
While logging miles should make up the bulk of any endurance running plan, working on improving your range of motion and strength to ward off injuries is also important.
You’ll want to build and/or keep aerobic fitness while also giving your muscles and joints a break from the wear and tear of running.
That’s where cross-training comes into the picture.
Cross-training refers to performing non-running exercises that can help you score gains in your main sport, which is running.
Don’t take my word for it.
Research has shown that performing non-running activities such as swimming and elliptical training can help keep, even improve, fitness and performance in runners.
Some of the best cross-training examples for runners include:
Take Care of Your Body
Improving running performance isn’t about logging one mile after the other.
Your recovery is also crucial.
In fact, it can be as important as the training itself.
Recovery days allow your muscles to bounce from the hard work as a result of hard training.
That’s why any well-rounded, effective running plan should also focus on recovery, especially when following an endurance running program.
Schedule one day for complete rest.
This is especially crucial during the early weeks of the base-building phase.
Don’t force your body to do more than it can handle.
Pay Attention To Your Body
It’s key to pay attention to your body training.
If you find it hard to finish a certain session or are dealing with pains and aches, it might be a sign that your body hasn’t fully recovered.
When it’s the case, either take more days off or repeat the current week program.
You can also keep the same running duration but do more walking and less running.
The Couch to Half Marathon Plan Explained
My plan will have you hitting the pavement three times per week, but don’t worry if that seems too challenging.
Throughout the first few weeks, every session involves alternating between jogging and walking, and the distance (as well as the intensity) you’ll cover do builds up slowly and gradually.
That’s, after all, the essence of the walk/run method, which is the best way to get fit without getting hurt—as I always say.
As you get fitter, you’ll spend more time jogging and less time walking until you can run straight for one hour.
Then it’s more endurance building from there.
Each session connects to the next until you can eventually run for about two hours in on your long run by week 15.
But don’t try to get ahead of yourself.
Start at the beginning and work it up from there.
The rest is just details.
Remember also that you’ll be doing other forms of exercise besides running.
And don’t feel like a loser if you miss a session—that happens to the best of us.
We cannot always control our circumstances.
Note – if you already can straight for 30 minutes at slow pacing without much huffing and puffing, then feel free to pick the training plan from week 8.
Personalize The Couch to Half Marathon Program
The most important thing to understand about this plan that it is not written in stone.
Feel free to adjust it to make fit your own lifestyle and fitness needs.
Sure, I’m listing specific sessions, but the plan is all about flexibility.
Feel free to follow my plan as spelled out, or, especially if it’s moving too fast for you, or change it up to include less running and more walking.
You call the shots.
There you have it.
If you’re serious about running your first half-marathon, then the above couch to half marathon plan should get you started on the right foot.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.
In the meantime thank you for dropping by.