If you’re brand new to running and are looking to train for your first half marathon, below is an example plan I’ve built and shared with numerous clients and members of the TwitchGym who are curious about running. This plan is tailored for someone who has never completed a high mileage run before and is designed to be printed and hung up so you can cross off runs as they are completed. Even if you don’t have a race on the calendar, you can still use the plan below as an outline to get comfortable running continuously at increasing mileages. Before downloading the plan I’d recommend you check out the notes below:
For your first race I’d recommend focusing on completing in the upright position and not limping across the finish line as opposed to completing under a specific time. Focus on building strength and endurance and when running, you should absolutely NOT be huffing and puffing. When starting out with long-distance running you should be able to carry a conversation if need be in order to finish strong. Avoid timing yourself when you’re first starting out because you want to get comfortable listening to your body; if you’re huffing and puffing and feeling exhausted after half a mile, odds are you’re running way too fast. The goal is to run continuously, regardless of pace. If you’re a fan of the run/walk method (which is how I started out when I signed up for my first marathon a few years back and I absolutely believe every new runner should try) I’ll give a quick primer on it below.
If you’re brand new to running the run/walk method may be beneficial on long runs. The idea is to find a ratio that’s comfortable for you for the duration of the long run. When I first started I’d do 1/1 (1 minute running, 1 minute walking) and I gradually increased to 5/1, then 10/1. Find a pace that’s comfortable but not too easy for you, whether it be 30/30 (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) or more.
The goal with these is to get accustomed to continuous running for increasing lengths of time. Run at a steady pace that you can hold for the duration of the run, ideally as quickly as possible without needing to stop. Even if you’re planning to alternate between running and walking on race day, run continuously on Tuesdays/Thursdays (even if it’s a slow pace) in order to build endurance and sustain cardiovascular conditioning.
Preferably cross training will consist of an aerobic, non-running workout such as cycling, rowing, elliptical, walking, etc. This allows you to target different lower-body muscles while still building strength and endurance, however this should be completed at a relatively low intensity as the goal is to recover from your runs. If you do not have access to any other form of aerobic exercise running can be substituted, however these runs should be considerably easier as the main goal is active recovery on cross training days. That being said, avoid anything that is overly strenuous to the calf muscles such as stair machines.
I cannot count how many of my clients want to push themselves to their limit when they begin training, however doing this leads to burnout, over-training and increases your risk of injury. Especially if you’re just starting out with running/training for a race, rest tends to get overlooked when it is as integral to training as long runs. In order to perform your best on long runs (which are the bread and butter of half marathoners), be sure to rest after each of your long runs.
I advise each of my clients to complete a short run on Saturdays at a comfortable pace (slower than race pace, continuous if possible) in order to get accustomed to the physical demands of long distance running. The long run on Sundays can be completed on another day if more convenient, however be sure to have water on you and if you’ll be running for longer than an hour, have some sort of easily digestible carb on you, such as energy gels or sports beans.
If you’re looking for some additional information, watch the video below!