BEFORE STARTING TO TRAIN FOR A HALF MARATHON, you need to possess a basic fitness level. But assuming no major problems, most healthy people can train themselves to complete a 13.1-mile race. Running 13.1 miles is not easy. If it were easy, there would be little challenge to an event such as the half marathon. Whether you plan your half as a singular accomplishment or as a stepping stone to the even more challenging full marathon, crossing the finish line will give you a feeling of great accomplishment. Good luck with your training.
The terms used in the training schedule are somewhat obvious, but let me explain what I mean anyway.
Pace: Don't worry about how fast you run your regular workouts. Run at a comfortable pace, a conversational pace. If you can't do that, you're running too fast. (For those wearing heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum pulse rate.)
Distance: The training schedule dictates workouts at distances, from 3 to 10 miles. Don't worry about running precisely those distances, but you should come close. Pick a course through the neighborhood, or in some scenic area. In deciding where to train, talk to other runners. GPS watches make measuring courses easy.
Rest: Rest is as important a part of your training as the runs. You will be able to run the long runs on the weekend better if you rest before, and rest after.
Long Runs: The key to half marathon training is the long run, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. Over a period of 12 weeks, your longest run will increase from 3 to 10 miles. Then, after a brief taper, you jump to 13.1. The schedule below suggests doing your long runs on Sundays, but you can do them Saturdays, or any other convenient day,
Cross-Train: On the schedule below, this is identified simply as "cross." What form of cross-training? Aerobic exercises work best. It could be swimming, cycling, walking (see below), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or even some combination that could include strength training. Cross train on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays. Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week.
Walking: Walking is an excellent exercise that a lot of runners overlook in their training. I don't specify walking breaks, but feel free to walk during your running workouts any time you feel tired. Be aware that I also offer a separate half marathon training program for those who plan to walk all the way.
Strength Training: If you never have lifted weights before, now might not be the best time to start. Wait until after completing this program. If you are an experienced lifter, continue, although you may want to cut back somewhat as the mileage builds near the end. Tuesdays and Thursdays after your run would be good days on which to lift.
Racing: Consider doing a couple of races to familiarize yourself with the sport. I have suggested a 5-K race at the end of Week 6 and a 10-K race at the end of Week 9. If you can't find races at those distances on the weeks suggested, feel free to modify the schedule.
Juggling: Don't be afraid to juggle the workouts from day to day and week to week. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won't matter.