Hal Higdon: Half Marathon Novice 1

Average Weekly Training Hours 00:33
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours 00:33
Training Load By Week

Hal Higdon: Half Marathon Novice 1: The Novice 1 program is designed for beginning runners who want to prepare for their first 13.1-mile race. If you have run several half or full marathons before, you might want to take a look at my Novice 2 half marathon program, which is designed for more experienced runner.

First-timer? This is the program for you. In choosing the half marathon, you are choosing the most popular race distance in America. According to Running USA, 2 million runners did a half marathon last year. That is four times the number of the half million who ran full marathons. If your long-range goal is 26.2 miles, a 13.1 mile race offers a good starting point. Or if 13.1 is more than enough race mileage with no desires to go 26.2 (at least for now), you have discovered one of my most gentle training programs. If you can handle the 3-to-4-mile runs prescriibed in Week 1, I will get you ready to run 13.1 week at the end of 12 weeks.

Click on the attached chart for a look at the 12-week schedule, then click on the attached directions for some information on how to run the workouts. That information is also available on my website: www.halhigdon.com.

Other than that, each day I will send you emails telling you how to train. And perhaps even more important, I will include tips and other motivational material to push you out the door each day. Good luck as you train for your half marathon using Novice 1.

Consider also visiting halhigdon.bluefinapps.com to obtain an app for your iPhone or other e-device.

Sample Day 2

Three miles at a comfortable pace. If you are a complete novice, these might even be your first running steps! Whether a total beginner or an experienced hand, run at a pace easy enough so that you can hold a conversation with a friend. You simply want to cover the distance, not cover it fast. And if you chose not to do your strength training yesterday, do it today. It always works best to do strength training exercises after your run, rather than before. That's because your muscles will be looser after they're warmed up. Also, too heavy lifting before can actually tighten your muscles and make running more difficult.

Sample Day 3

Today is an option day. Run or cross-train. You will have this option every Wednesday for the 12 weeks of this training program. If you choose to run, go for 2 miles. If you decide to cross-train, I would recommend cycling or swimming or walking, maybe even coupled with some light jogging if you're up to it. A half hour or so should do.

Sample Day 4

Run 3 miles at the same comfortable pace you ran on Tuesday. Speed doesn't matter; distance does. You will burn approximately 300 calories covering 3 miles. Over a period of 12 weeks--if you kept the distance the same--you would burn 3,600 calories on Thursdays. Theoretically, this would allow you to lose one pound of weight from your Thursday workouts alone. After your run, do some strength training, similar to what I suggested for Monday or Tuesday. As the countdown to your half marathon race continues, I'll ask you to increase your Thursday commitment gradually from 3 to 5 miles.

Sample Day 6

Thirty minutes of cross-training. In this training program, most Saturdays will feature some form of cross-training with a build-up from 30 to 40 to 50 to 60 minutes as the program continues. What kind of cross-training should you do? In the instructions to Wednesday's workout, I suggested swimming, cycling, walking or even some light jogging. Cross-country skiing or snowshoeing also works well if there's snow on the ground. Regardless, the cross-training you choose should be some form of aerobic exercise done at an easy level.

Sample Day 7

This is the key day of our novice program for the half marathon. On Sundays, we run long. Four miles this first weekend may not seem long, particularly if you have a previous background as a runner, but over the next 11 weeks we will take you to 10 miles for your maximum long run. That comes in the penultimate week and is far enough for a long run. I'm confident that you will be able to run the extra 3 miles on the climactic race weekend, just as runners following my marathon training program jump from a maximum 20-miler to 26 in the race. I'll explain how as we go along, but in the meatime, have faith.

Sample Day 9

A relatively easy day. Go 3 miles at a comfortable pace. One way to determine that comfortable pace is to wear a heart monitor that tells you that you are keeping your pulse rate between 65 to 75 percent of maximum. Or listen to your body. If you begin feeling uncomfortable, slow down.

Sample Day 10

Option day. You can either run 2 miles or do some cross-training. For example, pump some iron--but keep it light, and keep it fast. If working with free weights or a machine, focus on the upper body, using relatively light weights and high repetitions. At a certain level, strength training can be an aerobic sport. My cross-training exercise of late has been swimming, either in a heated pool during the winter or in Lake Michigan when water warms in the summer. I don't count laps or how fast I do the laps. I avoid making this a killer workout.

Hal Higdon
Hal Higdon Communications

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for Runner's World, that magazine's longest lasting writer, Hal's having contributed an article to RW's second issue in 1966. He also is the author of more than three dozen books, including Marathon: The Utimate Training Guide and the recently published Hal Higdon's Half Marathon Training and Run Fast (3rd edition).