8-Week Half Marathon Training Plan For Intermediate Runners

Most intermediate runners still want to give themselves as much time as possible to train for a half marathon. Even if they have completed a few organized runs in the last few years, it pays to ensure you can comfortably hit the distance.

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8-Week Half Marathon Training Plan For Intermediate Runners

A more tailored training plan can also help hit a desired PB by showing you how to do it and what effort it requires. You may require longer yet eight weeks should be long enough to train for a half marathon, even if you have already done a few.

In this guide, we will look at an 8-week half marathon training plan for intermediate runners and offer a few tips. 

A Few Weeks Before Starting The Training Plan: The Right Preparation

Initial preparation should be ensuring that you can rightly consider yourself an intermediate runner. That means being able to comfortably run at least three miles and cover double that distance on a long run.

The distance of 13.1 miles (21.1 km) can be quite daunting for a lot of people, even regular runners.

If you can run close to that distance already then you may already have your preparation sorted so you can loosely follow a plan, if not here is some guidance and a few handy tips to follow.

Hydration

Taking on the right hydration can not only improve your energy levels but also help keep you free of injuries. You can soon tell if you are not quite hydrated if you feel dizzy and weak with some cramping.

Make sure that you drink around 500ml of water up to half an hour before you run, you may even prefer some pre-workout for those longer runs.   

For shorter training runs earlier in the training plan that are less than an hour long, you may not need water but it helps to be hydrated anyway.

Your hydration needs may change depending on the weather conditions too as if it’s hot you should take water with you. Should you opt for morning runs then take on some water or pre-workout in good time before you leave the door.

However, for runs in the evening, you should keep hydrated during the day and ensure that you have hydrated effectively to the extent of a liter or two. 

Proper Running Shoes

The last thing that you want during a half marathon is to suffer a blister from uncomfortable running shoes. If you are embarking on your first half marathon then treat yourself to some new running shoes.

They should be comfortable, supportive, and feel almost weightless on your feet.

Your running shoes should be broken in before you begin the training plan and you should have run between 60 and 80 miles before the half marathon.

If your running shoes are getting too worn out then it may be time to replace them. You really do not want to replace them too close to race day.  

Nutrition: Part 1 

Just like hydration, eating the right amount for fuel and the correct types of food is essential to your performance.

This is not just the day before or even the weeks before the half marathon but something to think about before you embark on the training plan.

Your fueling strategy is important so work on creating a meal plan of healthy meals with plenty of fruit, vegetables, and protein from meat while building up your level of carbohydrates later on.  

You will need energy for those long runs so make sure you know what works best as you go along. Update the meal plan if you feel sluggish at all as you may need less heavy foods and fewer carbohydrates during the plan.

Do make sure that you include your favorite foods and try not to get too regimented with the meal plan as you should be allowed some treats now and then. 

The Building Blocks

There are four parts to a training plan that all add up; your base mileage, speed work, long runs, and recovery. Your base mileage is built up by running around three to five times every week or 10 days.

Then there is your long run which is typically once a week (usually at the weekend) where you give yourself some time to see how far you can go long distance and increase it week on week.

Speed work builds up your cardio capacity while the recovery helps your muscles build and keep burnout away. 

During The Training Plan

During The Training Plan

Once you have agreed on your training plan, stick to it. Remain focused, and disciplined, so keep with it.

Should you find yourself skipping runs because your work and home life are too busy then the half marathon may seem too daunting on the day. If you cannot complete the distance during training then it may seem too far at the start line.

Make sure that you log your progress too, simply to show yourself your own progress. If this is your first half marathon then simply increasing your mileage can feel like an achievement in itself, even before race day.

You should feel confident with your running so knowing that you can keep going further than you did on your last run should help.

Start Slow

The training plan will be designed for an intermediate runner to start slow. Even if you are used to running a few times a week and going further than the plan suggests, it makes sense to stick with whatever instructions you are given.

Overtraining only leads to injury so make sure you start slow, hit the targets, and build up from there. By starting slow, you can gradually increase how far your weekly long run is and your running volume to hit the target at the right time. 

It may even seem like a blessing that you can do a little less than you normally would in those first few weeks of the plan. Stick to the plan and you should increase your aerobic base as well as your stamina gradually to be at the right level.

If you do happen to miss a run or pull up halfway through one, do not worry as it is rare that any runner can nail the training plan from start to finish.

Should you begin to feel a strain or a niggle, take it easy and steer away from pushing yourself if it becomes too painful.

Introduce Some Variety

Cross training or strength training can really help you with a training plan, even if it is not implicitly detailed. There may come a time when you are hitting your runs, feeling comfortable with the increased distance but it all seems a bit too boring.

This is where you can mix it up with some different forms of exercise such as swimming, walking, hiking, cycling, or even yoga.

As long as you take the time to keep fit and stick to around 80% of your training plan, you can excuse yourself for skipping the odd run. 

Strength Training

As an addition to your training plan, ensure that you add some strength training, specifically to prevent an injury. This does not have to take a huge amount of time, just once or twice a week try to strengthen your core muscles.

You can do this at the gym by performing certain exercises on weight machines, free weights, or just using your body weight. Even try a combination of weights to see what works. 

Stretching

Having a regular stretching routine can really help your runs. Dynamic stretching such as butt-kicks, knee hikes, and side gallops performed after your warm-up and just before you run can help, especially on long runs.

You may want to stick to some static stretching after your run if that’s what you are used to. 

Whatever works for you, you should stick to but try dynamic stretching if you have not already. There is some wiggle room with static stretching as many believe that your muscles are not supposed to go beyond their normal range of motion.

As you stretch, your muscles are pulled and then contracted for however long you stretch for. If you begin to feel unbalanced while you run then see how you feel without the static stretching. 

Know Your Limits

Once you have your training plan, you should focus on the running but do not forget about your rest days. If you cannot fit in a run on a certain day, make sure you still give yourself a full 24 hours off from running.

That means avoiding consecutive days of running as you allow your body some time to recover. Try to consider the rest as just as important as the running as this will be the time when you are building up your muscles.

Consider Your Rate Of Perceived Exertion

Your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) can help you work out how hard and fast you run. This varies between runners so should be personal to you as only you will know how far you can push yourself. 

If you have room on your training plan, mark down your RPE next to each run so you can judge how you are progressing. For instance, an RPE of 10 should be considered maximum effort when you cannot talk and are out of breath.

A 9 should be considered for speed work whereas a 7 to 8 should be for interval training where you can talk in small sentences. At an RPE of 4 to 6, you can have a conversation and at 2 to 3 you should have no problem talking. 

Your RPE is also useful for working out how your training plan is going. There is the 80/20 rule to consider where around 80% of your runs should be considered mild to easy with an RPE of 4 to 6.

Only 20% of your runs should have an RPE of 7 to 8 whereby they are medium-hard to difficult. This will give you the right level of pushing yourself during the plan. 

Speed Work

If you can find a day to do some speed work then you may really feel the benefit. Not just by changing up your plan but by helping you find out how far you can push yourself.

That’s because the speed work is based on an RPE of between 7 and 9 so will be a hard effort. You may only be able to manage a couple of words as your oxygen consumption and heart rate are teetering above 90% of their maximum.

Try running up a hill, walking down, then running back up that hill. Tempo runs also help as a 20 to 30-minute-long tempo run at your peak volume can really set you up for a half marathon.

If you enjoy interval training then try strides where you quickly go from an RPE of between 2 and 4 to an RPE of between 8 and 10 then back down to a jogging pace. Strides can really help you remain alactic, with no lactate buildup, and remain anaerobic.  

Nutrition: Part 2

The closer you get to race day, the more you should be looking at your nutrition. You will need more energy for the long runs so consider your fueling strategy more.

A lot of your energy can come from carbohydrates so concentrate on including more carb-heavy food the week before. In the days before the half marathon try to avoid spicy foods and alcohol as these may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

The 8-Week Training Plan

The 8-Week Training Plan

Your training plan will run from Monday to Sunday beginning the week with a mild to easy run before doing strength or cross training on Tuesday.

Wednesday should involve speed work and Thursday will have some cross-training. On Friday, you can do an easy run before conquering a long run on Saturday. Sunday will be your rest day so take it easy. 

You will also find that the distances gradually increase over the weeks with the easy runs being the same distance for both Monday and Friday so you can try the same route for consistency.

If the actual days of the week do not fit with your schedule then mix it up but ensure it remains the same week on week.

Week 1

Monday: Three-mile easy run
Tuesday: 30 to 45-minute cross training or strength training
Wednesday: Two and a half miles of speed work involving a tempo run with an easy pace for half a mile, race pace for one and a half miles then a cool down
Thursday: 30 to 45-minute cross training
Friday: Another three-mile easy run
Saturday: A long run of four and a half miles
Sunday: Rest Day

Week 2

Monday: Three and a half miles easy run
Tuesday: 30 to 45-minute cross training or strength training
Wednesday: Four miles of speed work with the first mile being a warm-up, two miles of race pace, and a one-mile cool down
Thursday: 30 to 45-minute cross training
Friday: Another three and a half miles easy run
Saturday: A long run of six miles
Sunday: Rest Day

Week 3

Monday: Four miles easy run
Tuesday: 30 to 45-minute cross training or strength training
Wednesday: Five and a half miles of speed work with hill repeats
Thursday: 30 to 45-minute cross training
Friday: Another four miles easy run
Saturday: A long run of eight miles
Sunday: Rest Day

Week 4

Monday: Five miles easy run
Tuesday: 45 to 60-minute cross training or strength training
Wednesday: Seven miles of speed work with a one-mile warm-up, five miles at race pace, and a one-mile cool down
Thursday: 45 to 60-minute cross training
Friday: Another five miles easy run
Saturday: A long run of ten miles
Sunday: Rest Day

After The First Half Of Your Training Plan

Once you have completed the first four weeks of your training plan, you can begin to assess your progress. The tougher runs are just around the corner but if you are feeling strong and gaining in confidence then the plan is running right on schedule.

If you are struggling with niggles then you may want to look at some different stretches or a combination of your nutrition and hydration.  

If this is your first half marathon then you may not have felt fitter but try to take it easy. Enjoy your rest days and ensure that you eat well and stretch appropriately.

The remaining half of your training plan is as much about physical activity as it is building up the mental strength to keep you focussed.

Should you run with music (and are allowed to on race day) then take the time to build up a playlist tailored to how your long runs are going and what you think your finishing time will be.

After those first four weeks, your body should feel different, stronger even. That’s a good sign but you should also look after it more with stretches and the odd ice bath to relax those aching muscles.

This may be a good time to find a foam roller to make sure you can massage effectively as soon as you need to. Race day will be fast approaching so give your body the time it needs to heal and recover. 

Learn When To Rest

If this is your first or 20th half marathon, it is still to be considered a major achievement. With the end goal in sight, you should know how to go easy on yourself as much as you can.

That could be with an easy run on some pleasant terrain or simply the time during the week when you do not have to run at all. If that means simply sitting on the couch or lying under the sun for hours then that’s fine.

You may wake up with aching muscles and, if you can, lay in bed for a bit longer in the morning or learn to go to bed earlier. If you want to relax with a glass of wine or a beer then do so but in moderation.

Try not to look at the training plan as a stringent program as your social plans may dictate that on a certain day you cannot run so just go the next day.

Keep Up With The Training Plan

Yes, you should learn to rest but the training plan is there to get you prepared for the distance. Should you fall behind and miss runs then that is putting the final race in jeopardy and you may find it harder to finish than you envisaged.

Eight weeks is a long time and if you have booked some time away from home on vacation or a business trip, take your running gear with you so you can still fit in a run. 

Create A Playlist

Those long runs can begin to feel awfully lonely so if you are allowed to wear headphones or earphones during the half marathon, create your playlist.

This can also help you on the day if you know the route itself and how long you expect it to take to complete the distance so you can expect certain songs at certain times (unless you have the playlist on shuffle).

For instance, if you want to start easy then build, have some mellow songs to begin then build up to dance music or whatever you like. Make sure there are some of your favorite songs involved as these can help distract you from how tough it may be.

Check Your Running Gear

Keep Up With The Training Plan

Your running shoes should feel comfortable and sufficiently broken in, even if you bought them just before beginning the training plan.

They should feel comfortable for a 5k run and remain so for 13.1 miles so you do not get any blisters that could curtail your run. As the distance increases, you may find yourself needing hydration during the run itself.

Remember that there should be water stations on a half marathon yet for those longer runs you may want to invest in a running vest or simply carry a handheld water bottle. 

You will likely need to attach a running bib to see what works. Whether it is safety pins or running magnets, you may want to check it’s comfortable and that the bib stays in place.

Try to gauge what the weather will be like on the day as you may want to run with a jacket or base layer, or simply find the most comfortable pair of shorts or leggings that you can. 

Week 5

On Week 5, you will hit your longest distance at 12 miles and you should feel up to it. With a distance of 13.1 miles to complete, you may want to go further to see if you can complete the full distance.

You do not have to but if this is your first half marathon then knowing you can cover the distance can give you a welcome confidence boost. Go even further and recall how you feel as the half marathon should be even easier.

Monday: Four miles easy run

Tuesday: 60-minute cross training or strength training

Wednesday: Long hill repeats with a longer hill than the one in week 3

Thursday: 60-minute cross training

Friday: Another four miles easy run

Saturday: A long run of 12 miles

Sunday: Rest Day

Week 6

Monday: Five miles easy run

Tuesday: 60-minute cross training or strength training

Wednesday: Eight miles of speed work with a one-mile warm-up, six miles at race pace, and a one-mile cool down

Thursday: 60-minute cross training

Friday: Four miles easy run

Saturday: A long run of ten miles

Sunday: Rest Day

Week 7

Monday: Five miles easy run

Tuesday: 30-minute cross training or strength training

Wednesday: Four miles of a cut down run with one mile of warm-up before increasing the pace for the remaining three miles

Thursday: 30-minute cross training

Friday: Four and a half miles easy run

Saturday: A long run of eight miles

Sunday: Rest Day

Week 8

This week is a little different as you will need to fit in your half marathon race, likely on the Sunday. Wednesday and Friday will be your rest days as you build up to a race so take care in taking it easy.

Avoid alcohol and spicy foods in the couple of days before the race and make sure that you get plenty of rest and water. Look to carb-load to provide a good energy base level before race day, and enjoy your Saturday run at a leisurely pace to avoid any injuries. 

Monday: Six miles long run

Tuesday: 30-minute cross training or strength training

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: A four-mile speed run with a one-mile warm-up, two miles at race pace, and a one-mile cool down

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Three miles easy run

Sunday: Race Day

Learn Your Running Strategy

As you go further on your long runs, you may want to consider your running strategy. If you can, try to practice on the half marathon route itself so you know where it feels tougher and where you can pick up the pace better.

You may even want to look at a negative split pacing strategy where you start slow and end faster, especially if it helps you reach your personal best.

This is where the RPE notes come in as you will know how far you can push yourself and what your goal race pace should be.

The Day Before Race Day 

On the day before your half marathon, you have done the hard work and you should be feeling confident.

Now is the time to relax so take some time out and only focus on the mental side of things as the physical preparation is largely complete, if you followed the plan.

Relax your mind, reduce your anxiety and stay calm with an easy run while you finalize your playlist, your running gear, and your meals.

Make sure that you have everything you need and lay it out so it is ready to pack on the day. That includes your water bottle, any energy gels or snacks you can eat during the race, and your listening equipment (if you need it).

Make sure that you have your racing bib and that you know how to attach it to your vest or jersey. If you are taking your cell phone, charge it up, and the same goes for a fitness tracker.

The Morning Before The Race

Hopefully, you have had a good night’s sleep and got up early enough for a nutritious breakfast. Oats and fruit or wholewheat bread with peanut butter are good options and try to fit in some caffeine for an energy boost.

Make sure you are hydrated, that your running gear is clean and ready to go, plus you can pack everything you need securely. Get to the event with plenty of time so you can scope out a last-minute toilet break and know where to begin.

As long as you have followed the training plan and all your gear is in top condition, you are ready to run your half marathon. 

Final Thoughts

Once you have followed the eight-week training plan, you should feel confident when it comes to race day.

The training plan is only part of the preparation as your running shoes should feel comfortable and you should be feeling good in your body.

Hydration, nutrition, a good playlist, and the right gear will also help so take the time to consider all of those factors.

If you have been keeping track of your runs, you should have seen the progression and it helps if you have been running in all sorts of weather conditions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Good Finishing Time For An Intermediate Runner Completing A Half Marathon?

For intermediate runners, a finishing time of around 1:45 to 2 hours is considered good. Men and women who consider themselves to be intermediate runners should finish inside 2:10.  

What Is An Appropriate Amount Of Time To Train For A Half Marathon?

Intermediate runners should have a good base level of running already. This means they can complete an eight-week-long training program as adequate preparation for a half marathon.

Any beginners, or those completing their first half marathon, should likely give themselves a bit more time. A training plan that extends to three months, or 12 weeks, should be sufficient.

Jessica Knight