Can I Run a Half Marathon?

The half marathon, unlike the full marathon, takes less training time. Not only does a half marathon require a decreased training cycle but the sheer training is far less demanding on your body both physically and mentally. It’s a common question to ask yourself, “can I run a half marathon?” It’s a question I asked myself after 10 years of only running 5K distances, not one extra mile beyond this distance.

Can I run a half marathon? In order to answer this question you need to answer 3 things:

  1. Can you currently run a 5K without stopping?
  2. Do you have any limiting injuries?
  3. Have you ever run long distances before?

Depending on these answers, you’ll be able to assess how long you’ll need to train in order to finish a half marathon race. You can adjust the length of your training schedule so that you can finish a half marathon race by walking or running. In order to determine what course to take, you need to dive deeper into a half marathon assessment.

Half marathon assessment

Before you dive in and begin your half marathon training, you need to answer a couple of questions for yourself. By evaluating your current fitness level you can help prevent yourself from giving up because you started off way beyond your physical capabilities. Remember, that the number one reason why new runners give up is that they try to run too much too soon.

First things first, can you run a 5K without slowing down to a walk during the race?

Why do we use the 5K race as a benchmark for half marathon running? Simply because it is the most common race with the most available sets of data.

Yes, I can run a 5K but I’ve’ never run beyond 3.1 miles.

If you can run the entire 5K race without walking, at any pace, you’re ready for a 12-week half marathon training plan. A 12-week half marathon plan gives you the perfect amount of time to train for a half marathon without overexerting yourself, especially if the idea of long-distance running is new to you.

Yes, I can run a 5K AND I’ve run longer distances beyond 3.1 miles

If you’re no novice to long-distance running, then you can narrow the time span required to train by 4 weeks. An 8 week half marathon training schedule is what you might want to experiment with. Yes, you can shorten this as well by another 2 weeks, but you need to have run at least 9-10 miles within that last month a couple of times. A 6-week schedule really crunches your training time and is only recommending for intermediate to advanced runners.

No, I have to walk some of the 5K race.

So, you have to walk at some point during a 5K but you run a good majority of the race. No problem. You could pull back about 3 weeks to train 15 total weeks for a half marathon race. The 15-week training schedule is nothing more than 3 extra weeks to get you up to the distance of running a 5K. The remaining 12 weeks is the same as the above mentioned 12-week half marathon training schedule.

No, I have to walk ALL of the 5K race.

Don’t sweat the fact that you can’t yet run a 5K race. You can still train for a half marathon by walking the distance. If your goal is to get yourself out of walking 5K races and running them instead, it might take you a little bit longer to get you up to running speed. You might want to try a couch to 5K running program or my nine-week – 5K Fury – training schedule. The schedule works on building up a walk-run routine and then rolling the majority of walking over to running. Eventually, by the end of the 9 weeks, you’ll be able to run all if not most of the 5K distance (3.1 miles)

When should you start training for a half marathon?

To answer this question it depends on your current fitness level and volume of weekly running. Check out, when should you start training for a half marathon, for information on when to start training and how long it will take to train for a half marathon.

Comfort zone vs discomfort zone

I’ll touch briefly on our comfort zone when it pertains to running. Your comfort zone is your current comfort within the sport of running. For example, if you’re comfortable running 5Ks but have never run long distances then your discomfort zone would be long-distance running. In order to grow as human beings both mentally and physically, we have to step out of our comfort zone and move towards our discomfort zone. It’s the same thing as a baby bird leaving the nest to go fly.

The path between the comfort zone and the discomfort zone is filled with forces that want to push you back to the zone of comfort. Things that  pull you back into your comfort zone could be:

  • Spouse
  • Running partner
  • The pain of pushing yourself
  • mental stubbornness
  • Ourself (probably the biggest factor)

You’ll experience growth, both mentally and physically, when you head down the path to start and finish a half marathon race. In order to grow our ultimate goal is to continually change our comfort zone and move towards a new discomfort zone. That is the only way we grow.

Limiting beliefs

We all at one point in our life have formed some type of limiting beliefs. Limiting beliefs are thoughts that constrain us or hold us back in some way. Some of these limiting beliefs were instilled in us by our parents to help protect us from harm. Others were recklessly given to us without the other person realizing they could be doing harm. These generally are beliefs developed at younger ages that were learned or conveyed to us by ourselves or some other person. These are sometimes deeply rooted and tie back to self-identity and our abilities.

Limiting belief examples:

  • I’m not a runner – I can never run a half marathon
  • I’m too overweight to finish a half marathon
  • You’ll never be able to run (possibly told to you by a coach when you were young)

These limited beliefs surround us and to some point lock us into our own prison. The good news is we can break free from these beliefs and constraints. Two of these techniques are using affirmations and the idea of reframing (which goes way beyond the scope of this article). I will touch briefly on affirmations below

Choose the right running strategy for a half marathon

Run-walk strategy

A run-walk strategy focuses on most of your locomotion being in the form of a runner. You run more than you walk.

Walk-run strategy

On the flip side, a walk-run strategy focuses on walking more than running. This is a great way to start your training for any type of running race such as a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon.

Run strategy

This is what all of the beginning half marathon runners strive for – to run a half marathon with minimal walking involved. If you’re not able to run most of the half marathon then revert back to the run-walk or walk-run strategy. It’s totally ok to walk during your half marathon race. If you find yourself stuck in this loop of getting down about not being able to run a half marathon, read this article I wrote about 6 things running coaches wish you would stop doing.

Are you physically able to finish a half marathon?

This is a simple but sometimes purposefully overlooked question. Are you physically able to finish a half marathon? This question is stating the obvious point that you need to be in decent health to finish a half marathon. Do you have to be completely healthy? No. However, I’m not a medically licensed physician so I can’t determine whether you can or can’t complete a half marathon. Knowing this sounds cliche, you should go get a green light approval from a medically licensed physician. Beyond this initial question the next questions are:

How long can you run without becoming winded?

This is a good indicator of what your current fitness level is all else being equal (good health, good rest, good nutrition, no injuries, etc.) This is probably the best indicator of your current ability to complete a half marathon. The good news is that if you do get winded just a couple of miles in and you’re in fair shape, then you can train yourself to not become winded so easily by following a 12-week half marathon training schedule. The more weekly base miles you run the better your overall aerobic endurance will become.

Can you run the entire 5K distance?

This question stems from the question from above. Again this comes down to an assessment of your current fitness level. It’s perfectly fine if you can’t complete the 5K distance by running the entire way. You can train yourself to do this but it might take an extended period of time beyond a standard 12-week plan.

Do you have any past injuries that might prevent long-distance running?

With running injuries, you need to be cautious when running longer distances for extended periods of time. Also, you don’t want to push yourself too much during your harder workouts. You’ll have to find the right balance and talk with a sports rehab professional about what he bests recommends that you do when it comes to running and exercise. My goal as a coach is to help new runners become injury-free race finishers. If you’re injury-free hopefully you can and will sustain a life of running.

Are you mentally able?

Just as much as a half marathon requires physical fitness demands, the mind will need to be positioned in the correct state so that you’re not fighting yourself both physically and mentally. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well we’ve trained our minds. Sometimes the mind will win no matter what. The goal is to beat your mind most of the time when it comes to running.

Running affirmations

One way to start training the brain to fortify your running mindset is to begin with a simple trick called affirmations. I first came across affirmations while reading one of my favorite books on personal growth and development by Jack Canfield. In fact, I contribute a lot for my success in life to his book, The Success PrinciplesAffirmations are simple positive beliefs about yourself or a subject that helps you implant that seed into your head. For instance, you could use these as affirmations:

  • I’m a runner
  • I’m training to run a half marathon in 12 weeks
  • I can run a half marathon (stop asking if you can – say you can)
  • I’ll finish my half marathon in time (keep your finish time realistic)

Mantras to keep you going

Mantras keep you going when the tough gets tough and the miles get longer and longer. Mantras are nothing more than short bits of verbiage that you tell yourself over and over to finish a run. Examples of mantras:

  • I’m strong, I’ll finish the race (repeated)
  • Run hard, run fast, finish the race (repeated)
  • Stay strong, hang in there (repeated)

Mantras are good to help your mind stay focused and interrupt a negative thought pattern so that your mind can change direction.

Running mindset

Training for a 5K is fairly simple when it comes to the physical and mental demands required to make this happen. When you step into longer distances races, there are more requirements that are interjected. You’ll need to strengthen your mind for longer distances, build lots of base miles during your 3-month training, and stick to a training plan to see you through to the half marathon finish line. I believe this all starts with reframing your identity as a runner. If you already know that you’re a runner continue if not check out both of these articles I wrote about the Running Mindset and the Runner’s Identity.

Don’t forget to ask for help if you need it


Running with your smartphone and earbuds/headphones is a great way to help you improve your running. There are so many apps that you can download to your smartphone that can help you with keeping pace, interval training, tempo training, as well as keeping you motivated by listening to your playlist. If you want to run with your smartphone but can’t stand holding it in your hand I’ve researched four different products that are top of the line when it comes to storing your smartphone while running.

Paced runners

Many half marathon races will be coupled with bigger marathon races. Some of them might have pacers as well. Pacers are usually volunteer racers that run the race at a specific pace. They will normally hold a sign that states the finish time that they are going to hold for the entire race. Pacers are usually set anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes apart.  for instances, 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, 2:30, 2:45, 3:00, etc. Pacers are a great reassurance on race day to help you hold you to your goal finish time.

For a detailed post about the pros and cons of pacers checkout:

What is a Pacer and should I follow one on my next big race?

Do you have a support system?

Do you run with a partner or a running club? Both of these support systems can give you great support when you need it. They can offer someone to run with during your longer runs. They can also provide coaching and advice from an outside perspective. Running clubs and running partners are also perfect for accountability. Sometimes we all need an extra push out the door to get our legs up and running.

Sometimes we all need a little bit of extra support and motivation for half marathon training. These two links give you great half marathon motivation during your training and on race day.

Stage your race for a little bit more help on race day?

Do you like eating a small peanut butter and jelly sandwich on your long runs but don’t want to carry it. Have your friends stand at specific points of your race for instance. Have someone at mile marker number 4 holding an ice-cold sports drink. At mile number 8 you can have your peanut butter and jelly sandwich waiting for you. At mile 11 you can have a gu energy packet and 8 oz water awaiting your arrival.

What’s next?

Hopefully, I’ve helped you answer the question, “Can I run a half marathon?” As long as you don’t let yourself be constrained about the ability to run or walk a half marathon. Stick to a training plan within your capabilities and you can make it to the finish line. Now that you know that you can run a half marathon you might want to check my other articles like what is a half marathon.

Another one of my favorite posts is 102 Half Marathon Tips For Beginners. This post is a lengthy post, but well worth the read for beginners.

Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

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12-Week Half Marathon Training Plan based on your current fitness level!