Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

If you are an experienced runner and you have been training with shorter race distances already, then training for a half-marathon shouldn’t be an issue.

Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

Saying this, you can expect to spend up to three months training for a half-marathon, if you currently run 10k each week.

But what if you do not have this running experience? And, even more important, what if you do not have 12 weeks to prepare for the half-marathon race that you want to run?

Preparing for a half-marathon is essential as your body needs to build the strength and endurance for the longer run.

It will also make you feel easier, so we put together a 4-week training plan that can help you to prepare for an upcoming half-marathon.

Is This Plan For New Beginning Runners?

Before we jump into the prep and training, we should mention that this training plan is quite extensive, and that we do not recommend this plan for running beginners.

In order for you to work safely with this plan, it’s best that you have running experience of at least three months, with a minimum weekly distance of six miles.

Of course, we cannot stop you from trying but our plan does require a few basics for your body to be in shape, such as glycogen storage and pronounced aerobic basics.

If you do not have these, then it is likely that you will not make it to the finish line.

Typically, runners prepare for a half marathon for a minimum of 12 weeks.

In these three months, the capillaries in your legs will slowly expand and your body’s glycogen stores will learn to hold the energy that you need for the run.

The expansion of the muscle fibers is important as this is what transports the energy through your body and gives you the fuel to push on. It will also get more oxygen into your cells and removes any waste products.

With the right training and preparation, your body can learn to make this energy transportation process more efficient.

If you have no previous experience with running longer distances, then it will take much longer than four weeks to train your body to run an efficient energy exchange (Here are some tips to help you run longer).

That’s why, we recommend that you start running shorter distances first, and then slowly increase over time.

Who Is This 4-Week Half-Marathon Training Schedule For?

Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

The below 4-week training schedule for a half-marathon has been designed for runners who are physically fit and do not have any injuries.

Ideally, this shouldn’t be your first half-marathon, and you already have a significant amount of running experience.

Generally, the training plan is designed for every runner who:

  • Can run more than six miles with ease (you should still be able to hold a conversation at the end without being out of breath)
  • Run at least twenty miles per week
  • Has been running 20+ miles weekly for at least three months

If you do not fit these requirements, then we would recommend that you take a much longer time to train for a half marathon.

Why Use A 4-Week Training Plan?

The 4-week training schedule has been designed to help you prepare for a half-marathon race after only for weeks (and not the typical training time of three months).

There are a number of different reasons why you may need a training plan that is much shorter than the average.

One of the main reasons is time. Sometimes event organizers consider cancelling events, but they still end up happening, and runners only get very short notice.

If you have at least four weeks to prepare for a half-marathon and you have some solid running experience, then you are in with a chance of successfully completing the race.

Preparation For The 4-Week Half-Marathon Training

When it comes to your marathon training, you should not just jump straight in.

There are a few essentials that you will need, and need to know, before you can start. This will help that you get the most of the schedule.

While there are only relatively few people run a half marathon, it is something that most of us are capable of doing.

With the right equipment and some of our prep tips below, you are guaranteed to get to a good start with your training.

Here are some of the important basics you need for preparing for a half-marathon.

Use The Right Shoes

Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

Everyone with some good running experience knows that shoes are your gear to achieving your goal.

With the right running shoes, you will be able to run comfortably for much longer and without injuring yourself. After all, you don’t want blisters, sprained ankles or worse.

That’s why, make sure that your running shoes are very good quality. They should be designed for running longer distances.

You will also need to ensure that you break your shoes in before you start training, and racing. We always recommend that you should have run at least 80 miles in your shoes before racing.

You will need to wear your shoes for each training session as well, so your shoes should also not be too old.

Drink Plenty Of Water

When you are planning a long distance run, then you will need to stay hydrated. Water and other fluids will help to fuel your body and it will give you the energy you need to finish the race.

If you do not drink enough during training or the race, then your muscles will start cramping, and you may feel dizzy or weak.

Ideally, you should drink enough water before your training run to keep you hydrated during the training session.

However, this does depend on the weather and how long you are planning to run. If your run is shorter than an hour, then you should be fine without carrying extra water.

But if the weather is hot or you are running for a longer period of time, then it’s best that you take a suitable running bottle or a running bladder bag with you.

This will ensure that you are performing at your best during the training, and the race.

What You Should Eat Before Your Run

One question we often get asked is what you should eat before a long distance run.

It’s important to understand that, essentially, a longer run means that your body needs more energy, so you will need to consider carefully what to eat.

We recommend that you try a few different strategies during your practice runs, and find out what food works best for you.

As a rule of thumb, most runners will not need any additional food intake when they stick a 60-90 minutes run.

However, this depends on your personal preferences, and whether or not you want to carry extra food with you.

Stick To The Training Schedule

Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

What makes running a truly effective part of a workout is that it can be integrated as an essential element in your weekly exercise routine.

For this reason, it is important that you keep your training on track. This is especially true when you are under time pressure, and you only have four weeks to prepare for a half marathon.

If you regularly skip your training runs because you are too busy, then try to find something that motivates you.

Many runners find that when they focus on their goal, such as completing a half marathon, then this can be a great motivation.

Keep A Log Of Your Progress

Watching your progress on a logsheet can be a truly satisfying feeling and it motivates you to continue with the training.

You can grab your logsheet anytime, if you feel like your inner critic is too pessimistic, and remind yourself that you have made great progress.

Don’t Overdo It

While a good exercise routine is essential to achieve your running goals, overtraining can quickly lead to unwelcome injuries.

Generally, you should start with smaller running targets, such as 4 to 6 miles training in the first week, and then slowly increase your distance.

It’s a good idea to increase the volume of your running and the long-distance mileage every week. This will help you to continually build a solid aerobic base, and it will also increase your stamina.

Don’t Worry Too Much About A Failed Run

Running is a sport, and just like every other sport, not every training session may go according to plan, but you should not worry about any failed runs too much.

They do, and will, happen. After all, we are all human and we simply make mistakes now and then.

The trick here is to keep these mistakes to a minimum, and try to not make a bigger mistake, such as a major injury.

Opt For Cross-Training

Cross-training can be an excellent way to engage some other muscle groups that you wouldn’t usually use during running.

This is not a must-do, especially if you are just looking to complete a half marathon rather than compete, you may skip this step.

Saying this, switching to other workouts is a good option, if you find running every day boring, or you just need a change.

Then it’s a good idea to add in some other interval workouts, such as swimming, yoga, cycling, hiking, walking, cross-training and whatever else you enjoy.

It’s worthwhile considering what would help you to get to the finish line of the race. Do you need more mental balance? Then yoga or pilates are a good additional choice.

If you are after some high-speed training with leg workout, then cycling is a good add-on to your regular sessions.

You do not have to stick to one or the other, as long as you continue with your scheduled running training, then you can alternate with any other workouts.

We found that specific strength training to strengthen your core muscles can prevent some typical running injuries.

It’s worthwhile doing core muscle exercises at least once a week, ideally twice a week. These exercises could be weight machines or free weights.

Some runners also prefer to do bodyweight exercises combined with a kettlebell. This allows them to do their weight workout wherever they like without having to go to a gym.

Stretching

Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

A few dynamic stretching exercises (stretches in motion) before running is a must for every runner, including side gallops, knee hikes and butt-kicks.

Dynamic stretching is one of the most popular stretching, also because there is much debate around static stretching after your workout.

Stretching is good as it helps to keep the muscles elastic, especially when you hold a stretch for 30 seconds and then release.

Many runners are not in favor of static stretching because they believe that it extends the muscle beyond the normal range of motion.

This could cause wrong positioning of the muscle after the stretch which could lead to possible injuries.

Some elite runners and athletes don’t do much stretching, while others stretch in every free second before and after the run.

So, it’s really up to you how often you feel like you need to stretch to avoid injuring yourself.

A running coach may be able to answer any specific questions on stretching based on your fitness levels and running experience.

Rest

You may have heard before that running beginners need much more rest than experienced runners, but why is that?

There is a surprisingly simply answer to this question. Running is a high impact sport and our joints, muscles and neuromuscular tissues are just not used to the impact.

Luckily, your muscles, neuromuscular system and the joints repair themselves during sleep and resting phases.

This is the time when your body restores strength. Rest helps to create additional muscular layers as well as neuro-pathways throughout your body.

This means that experienced runners are already conditioned to this physical exertion, and their body has already learned to go through an effective process of restoration.

Rest is an essential part of our four week half marathon training, because it is a condensed version of the typical three months training cycle.

This means that there is at least one day per week when you should not be running. This allows your body to recover from the physical exercise.

What many runners do not realize is that the body doesn’t build muscles when running but during the resting phases. A good resting period is vital to let your body build these all important muscles.

That’s why, you should not run for at least 24 hours once a week when training with the 4-week schedule.

Create A Running Chart

The majority of beginning half-marathon runners will run their first race at a pace where you can still hold a conversation without being out of breath.

If you just want to complete the half marathon, then that is absolutely fine and you do not need to worrying about speeding up or improving your rate of perceived exertion (a measurement as to how fast you run at a certain pace).

Finding out how fast and how hard someone runs varies from runner to runner. There are never one and the same runners. We all have different techniques and work with a different fitness level.

But if you are an advanced, intermediate or beginner runner, and you may want to move up a level to up your speed and effectiveness, then you will need something to compare yourself to, such as running club, a coach or a running buddy.

It’s worthwhile spending some time on creating your own running chart.

It’s relatively easy to assess your rate of perceived exertion. Here is a broad overview of an example with some RPE zones and thresholds.

  • 10 RPE: This is the highest effort where you go all out for it in a sprint or strides. You are out of breath and cannot talk.
  • 9 RPE: Just shy of 10, you are running extremely hard, and you can only get out a couple of a word at a time.
  • 7-8 RPE: This intermediate speedwork still allows you to speak small sentences.
  • 4-6 RPE: This moderate level requires mostly endurance and you can have a conversation now and then.
  • 2-3 RPE: You only walk and talking is no problem at all.
  • 1 RPE: There is no effort required and this level is mostly just standing or sitting. You do not have any issues with talking.

Try to create a similar chart, and add your time to each level.

When it comes to training for a half-marathon, your RPE should be on a medium level between 4 and 6 for 80% of the time.

The remaining 20% should be in the higher difficulty level of 7-8 RPE. That’s why it is so important that you keep track of your individual RPE and progress.

When you’re continually training at certain level, then you will naturally become fitter and faster. You will also be able to tolerate a much higher running effort.

This means that you will also need to keep updating your perceived running chart with each training cycle at a minimum of twice a year.

Optional Speed Workout Day

As the 4-week training schedule is already relatively intense, there is no need to add speed work to your training as well.

If you are keen on adding some speedwork, then you can just swap it out with a running day, and then use the 4-day running schedule with one day rest after the speed workout.

It’s a good idea not to schedule your speed workout day the day right after or before your long run day.

Remember, your body does need a break to recover and rebuild muscles for all workouts and exercises to be effective.

4-Week Training Schedule For A Half Marathon

Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

Now that you have a better understanding of all the things you need to prepare for the training and the half marathon, it’s time to take a look at the training schedule.

You will need to schedule all your workouts and runs for the coming four weeks in advance.

You can do cross-training for one or two days and run for four days. Your cross-training can be almost any type of activities, such as cycling, swimming, yoga, strength training, aerobics or any other workouts that you like.

It’s also important to schedule a period of 24 hours as a rest day. This is the time when you do not run. It allows your body to recuperate and it helps to prevent any injuries.

If the first couple of weeks feel too strenuous, then you can also add another rest day. However you shouldn’t substitute a long run with a rest day.

Instead, integrate your rest after a long run day or swap it out with a cross-training day.

Warming Up And Cooling Down

Just a quick note on the warming up and cooling down before and after each training run. You should always start your training with a warm-up session that includes up to one mile easy running or 10 minutes conversational pace.

Once you completed your workout, you should ensure that you allow for a cool down period. This means that you also spend some time walking at a reasonable pace.

After cooling down fully, you can then stop your workout.

4-Week Half Marathon Training Schedule (Time Based)

There are two different types of 4-week half-marathon training programs that you can choose.

The first schedule is time based. This means that your training is measured in time.

The time-based training schedule includes a few different definitions that we already touched on above.

These are:

  • Goal Race Pace (GRP) which involve an RPE 7-8. You should make sure that you warm yourself up properly and run for the specified time at a good pace. Then you will need to cool down for at least five minutes.
  • Easy Pace involves an RPE 4-6 which means that this should be a light run with easy effort and you are able to talk short sentences.
  • Long runs involve an RPE 4-6, and these runs are a very easy pace. They should be between 30 seconds and 2 minutes flower than your goal race pace. Don’t overdo it with these runs as you just want to finish them.

Half Marathon Training: Week 1

  • Monday: Run for 20 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run for 30 minutes at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run for 40 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run for 30 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Long run for 90 minutes at an RPE 4-6
  • Sunday: Cross-training or strength training for 30 minutes

You should have a total run time for week one of 230 minutes.

Half Marathon Training: Week 2

  • Monday: Run for 30 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run for 40 minutes at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run for 50 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run for 40 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes light recovery run – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Long run for 120 minutes at an RPE 4-6
  • Sunday: Cross-training or strength training for 30 minutes

You should have a total run time for week two of 300 minutes.

Half Marathon Training: Week 3

  • Monday: Run for 40 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run for 50 minutes at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run for 60 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run for 50 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes light recovery run – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Long run for 150 minutes at an RPE 4-6
  • Sunday: Cross-training or strength training for 30 minutes

You should have a total run time for week three of 370 minutes.

Half Marathon Training: Week 4

  • Monday: Run for 40 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run for 50 minutes at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run for 60 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run for 30 minutes at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Race day
  • Sunday: Rest

You should have a total run time for week four of 200 minutes. This will be much higher as you will need to include your individual race time to the weekly sum.

4 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule (Distance Based)

The following half marathon schedule is based on the distance you run.

Half Marathon Training: Week 1

  • Monday: Run 2-3 miles (3.2-4.8 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run 3-4 miles (4.8-6.4 km) at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run 4-5 miles (6.4-8 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run 3-4 miles (4.8-6.4 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Long run for 8-9 miles (12.8-14.5 km) (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Sunday: Cross-training or strength training for 30 minutes

You should have a total run distance for week one of maximum 25 miles (40.2 km).

Half Marathon Training: Week 2

  • Monday: Run 3-4 miles (4.8-6.4 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run 4-5 miles (6.4-8 km) at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run 5-6 miles (8-9.6 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run 4-5 miles (6.4-8 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Long run for 10-11 miles (16.1-17.7 km) (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Sunday: Cross-training or strength training for 30 minutes

You should have a total run distance for week two of maximum 31 miles (49.7 km).

Half Marathon Training: Week 3

  • Monday: Run 4-5 miles (6.4-8 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run 5-6 miles (8-9.6 km) at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run 6-7 miles (9.6-11.2 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run 5-6 miles (8-9.6 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Long run for 11-12 miles (17.7-19.3 km) (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Sunday: Cross-training or strength training for 30 minutes

You should have a total run distance for week three of maximum 36 miles (58 km).

Half Marathon Training: Week 4

  • Monday: Run 4-5 miles (6.4-8 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Tuesday: Run 5-6 miles (8-9.6 km) at a goal race pace (with an RPE 7-8)
  • Wednesday: Run 6-7 miles (9.6-11.2 km) at an easy pace (with an RPE 4-6) – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Thursday: Run 3-4 miles (4.8-6.4 km) @ easy pace (with an RPE 4-6)
  • Friday: Run a light recovery run for 20 minutes – alternatively, you can also rest on this day
  • Saturday: Race day
  • Sunday: Time for an extended rest, and celebrations!

You should have a total run distance for the four weeks together of maximum 200 miles (322 km), plus your race distance of 13.1 miles (21 km).

Whenever you have a rest day planned, make sure that you really do rest and relax your muscles.

You may also want to try an ice bath, although it may not be everyone’s understanding of rest and relaxation.

Alternatively, you can also use trigger point massage balls or foam rollers.

Allow Some Flexibility In Your Schedule

Your Ultimate 4-Week Training Plan For The Half Marathon

It’s important that you allow your schedule to be a bit more flexible when it comes to your daily running distances and times.

If you opt for the time-based schedule, then you can allow +/- 5 minutes. On the other hand, if you are running with the distance-based schedule, then you can give yourself +/- one mile (1.6 km).

This little extra wiggle room allows you to be flexible when you are not feeling a hundred percent motivated.

However, when you find that you are always pulling back a mile on each run, then you may want to adjust your schedule.

You can either change the duration, intensity or the distance to suit your needs, and to make sure that you hit your distance goals.

The Day Before The Race

As you probably spotted, our schedule only included a light run or a rest period on the day before the race.

You have done all the hard work, and it’s time to allow your mind to relax and build some calm within yourself.

You can use the day before the race to prepare your body with a healthy meal and a good amount of sleep.

Ensure that you are not making any changes to your sleeping pattern, and keep hydrated.

Race Day

This is the time when all your hard training will pay off. Start slow when you get out the gate, and concentrate on your mind.

Many runners also find it useful to visualize themselves crossing the finish line, and it’s hugely satisfying when you eventually do!

Recovery

First marathons are always the most difficult and you may find that your body feels a little sore in the days after the race.

Right after the race, it’s a good idea to include your usual cooling down period. Make sure you walk after you crossed the finish line for at least half an hour.

Then you can lie down and rest your sore feet for a while. We found it useful to prop the feet up a little to help the blood circulation. Plus, it gives your feet a little break.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Train For A Half Marathon In 3 Weeks?

We believe that you need at least four weeks to get your body in shape for a half marathon.

Three weeks would simply not be enough to prepare your muscles and joints sufficiently to ensure that you cross the finish line without any serious injury or pain (if you cross it at all).

Saying this, some runners have done it in three weeks or even less time. Other runners hardly have any half marathon training at all.

However, they may be full time athletes or have other training programs that allow them to run a half marathon without sufficient training.

Anyone who didn’t give their body enough time to prepare for a half marathon will run the risk of injuries or possibly worse.

What Can You Do If Your Half Marathon Is Less Than Three Weeks Away?

There are a few options if your half marathon doesn’t allow you to train sufficiently.

You could skip the race, or alternatively you could also walk the majority of the race and possible run some of it.

Then you can use the next three weeks to practice some run/walk interval sessions.

We would not recommend running the entire half marathon, as this could pose a serious risk to your health. It could lead to injuries and even overheating.

Final Thoughts

When we talked about this schedule with some runners, we often heard the question: Is one month really enough to train for a half marathon?

That’s a fair question, considering that usually you should allow a minimum of 12 weeks for this.

We found that four weeks is the minimum amount of time you would need to properly prepare for a half-marathon.

But due to its high impact, the schedule is not suitable for new runners. You will need to be physically fit and have previous long-distance running experience.

If that’s you, then the above mentioned training program will get you towards your goal: completing and competing in the next half marathon.

Jessica Knight