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8 Week Half Marathon Training Plan – Beginner

ow Long Does It Take To Run a 10K

Are you in a crunch to knock out your next half marathon, but don’t have 12 weeks to train? Check out this 8-week half marathon training plan for beginner runners.

Half Marathon Training Schedule 8 week beginner

Preparing for the 8-week half marathon training

First and foremost, this intermediate 8 week half marathon training schedule is recommended for runners that:

  • Can run 3 miles comfortably (you can still have a conversation at the end of the 3 miles – not huffing and puffing – gasping for air)
  • Has a weekly running volume of at least 10+ miles a week
  • Need to be running consistently for at least 2 months (10+ miles a week)

If you aren’t or can’t do any of the prior requirements, you need to spend a longer amount of time training for your half marathon. Possibly a 12-week or 15-week training schedule. You can get a free 12-week or 15-week training half marathon training schedule here: 12-week half marathon training schedule (novice)

What if I’m a novice beginner?

If you’re a novice beginner (someone that is brand new to running or does little exercising) you should not be using this plan. The only time I would recommend a novice beginner use this plan would be if the novice runner was walking the majority of the half marathon and they were in a time crunch.

If you’re interested in walking the majority of a half marathon or marathon check out these detail posts with pacing strategies:

If you’re really wanting to run most of the half marathon but you find running extremely hard, take a few minutes and check out one of my popular posts: Why is running so hard? – 35 tips to make your running easier

Preparing for a half marathon is essential to making sure that all of your efforts don’t go to waste. Running a half marathon is something that anybody can accomplish however few of us actually do run half marathons. During the 8-week Half Marathon training, you will help prepare your body and mind to run the 13.1 miles (21.1 km). Make sure you follow these minimal basic steps to make your training successful:

Right Shoes

Make sure you have a decent pair of running shoes. You need specially designed running shoes which will make it more comfortable to train in. You need to wear your running shoes during the training program before you wear them in the half marathon. Whatever you do make sure that your new shoes are broken in before running your half marathon race. I recommend at least 60 to 80 miles logged on your shoes before racing in them. Are your shoes getting too worn out? Find out when its time to retire your running shoes?

Stay Hydrated

Being hydrated during your training helps you to stay healthy and injury-free. If you do not have the required amount of water during training, you will feel weak, cramping, and dizziness. Depending on the distance you plan to run, you should intake enough water to keep you hydrated throughout your training period.

You can probably get away with no water during runs that are less than 60 minutes. However, if it’s hot bring along something to drink so that you can adequately perform the run. For a detailed post about how much water to drink and whether or not to carry it for a half marathon check out this post – Should I Carry Water For a Half Marathon?

What Should I eat before a long run?

A long run will require more energy out of you therefore you need to consider your fueling strategy for the half marathon race. The best place to test the strategy is on your long runs. The rule says for runs that last less than 60-90 minutes you shouldn’t need any extra energy to comfortably finish the run. However, this depends on the runner.

For a detailed post about fueling for a half marathon check out: Should I Fuel For A Half Marathon?

Stick to your training schedule

Keeping your training on track is essential to tackling a half marathon in 8 weeks. Never divert your mind from your training and always stay focused. Stick to your 8-week training plan. If you find yourself skipping runs regularly your schedule might be too busy or the task of taking on a half marathon in 8 weeks might be too steep. Be disciplined and stay true to your training plan from start to finish without fail.

Log your progress

Don’t forget the easiest way to quiet your inner critic is by having a logsheet to show how far you’ve come. When you’re thinking about quitting halfway through your 8-week training schedule take a look at your log sheet for a quick breath of inspiration. You can grab a logsheet from my resources page.

Don’t Overdo it

Overtraining leads to injury – I’ve seen it time and time again. Almost every running injury I’ve witnessed first hand was due to overtraining in some form. You can’t run 8 to 10 miles every day in the first week. Instead, you have to start with smaller targets and build yourself upwards. Begin with 4 to 6 miles in the first week and gradually increase the distance. This will prepare you for the long-distance run. Increase your long-distance mileage and running volume every week. This will continue to help build your aerobic base and also increase your stamina.

Don’t sweat a failed run

All runners at all levels from time-to-time have completely botched a run if not several. This is part of the whole life cycle of running and the mere fact that our imperfection is being human – we will make mistakes. The trick is to minimize those mistakes and hope that they aren’t big mistakes like a major injury that takes 6 months to heal.

Check out these 3 posts for info on bad runs and preventing running injuries from occurring:

  1. How to avoid your next running injury
  2. 5 questions to ask yourself after a bad run
  3. You have two choices after a bad run

Cross-train

If this is your first half marathon and you’re trying to simply complete instead of competing the half marathon then you don’t have to cross-train. Cross-training is good to engage other muscle groups outside of your core running muscles, however it isn’t absolutely required in order to cross the half marathon finish line.

If you find running every day is boring or tiring, switch to other workouts. Add other interval workouts to your training, such as cross-training, swimming, cycling, yoga, walking, hiking, etc. You can select different types of workouts according to your taste and comfort. You can alternate with any training that is meant to keep you fit. Remember that cross-training comes second in your priority to running your half marathon. Sticking to race-specific workouts 80% of the time will make sure you make it to the finish line on your own terms.

Strength Training Prevents Injury

Make sure that you are strengthing your core muscles at a bare minimum of once per week (twice per week is preferred). You can perform strength training exercises at the gym on free weights, weight machines, body weight, or a mix of any of these. I prefer doing bodyweight exercises (check out my recommendations page for a cool bodyweight card deck – shuffle, select 15 random cards, start workout) coupled with a kettlebell. This frees me from a gym and I can essentially perform my strength training almost anywhere.

Stretching

Dynamic stretching is ideal prior to running. Knee hikes, butt-kicks, side gallops, etc., are all great dynamic stretching, that is stretching in motion. Unfortunately, there is still much ongoing debate on whether we are supposed to perform static stretching after a workout. Some elite runners do little stretching at all, while others perform dynamic stretching after warming up and before a run and minimal static stretching after the run.

The elasticity of your muscles is pulled and contracted during a static stretch of hold for 30 seconds and release. The rationale behind avoiding the static stretch is that your muscles are not meant to go beyond the normal range of motion which could cause an imbalanced extension and positioning of the muscle after the stretch.

All in all, you want to do what helps you and your body avoid injury. If you have specific questions you should ask a running coach for guidance. you can choose those that are best for your age and fitness level.

Rest

Why do new runners need more rest than advanced runners? Simply because your muscles, joints, and neuromuscular tissues aren’t used to the impacting that running causes on the body. The only time your muscles, joints, and neuromuscular tissues are repairing and restoring is when you’re sleeping. Seasoned runners have already formed these muscular and neuropathways within your body, in other words, they’ve been conditioned by the physical exertion of running.

Since your running a condensed version of a 10 to 12 week half marathon training cycle, you need to take off at least one day from running.  Rest allows your body to recover. A proper training plan is vital to achieving your goal, of which rest is necessary for your body to recover and rebuild your muscles. You’re not building your muscles when you run – it only happens when you rest. One rest day should equate to at least 24 hours of no running.

  • 1 Rest Day = 24 hours of no running

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Most beginner half marathon runners will be running almost all of their runs at a conversational pace (easy effort). If you’re a beginner running that is possibly interested in speeding up their pace then you can look at the RPE charts below. If you simply want to complete instead of compete then skip this section for now.

Gauging how hard and how fast you run varies from runner to runner. No two runners are alike. In order for beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners to push themselves to their next level of performance, they need a scale that they can relate to and share with a coach, running buddy, or running group/club. If you’ve never created your own RPE chart, take the time to do so now. With simple timed assessments you should be able to determine your thresholds and pace tolerances with each of the RPE zones. See the example below:

RPEDifficultyTalk TestPace
10All-out - Max Effort (Sprints/Strides)Can't talk, out of breath
9Extremely hard (Speedwork)one or two words at a time
7-8Medium to Hard Effort (Interval/Speedwork)Can speak in small sentences
4-6Moderate Effort (Endurance)can have a conversation
2-3Light Effort (walking)No problem talking
1No Effort (Sitting/Standing)No problem talking

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) - EXAMPLE

This shows a possible example for a new runner's paces based on RPE. Once you know your RPE you can determine approximately what your interval pace should be. In this example, the runner's RPE of 7-8 comes at pace of 10:00 minutes/mile. Therfore the high interval training should be performed at 10:00 minutes/mile.
RPEDifficultyTalk TestPace
10All-out - Max EffortCan't talk, out of breath8:00
9Extremely hardone or two words at a time8:30
7-8Medium to Hard Effort (Interval)Can speak in small sentences10:00
4-6Moderate Effort (Endurance)can have a conversation12:00
2-3Light Effort (walking)No problem talking15:00
1No Effort (Sitting/Standing)No problem talking0:00

80/20 Running Effort

The 80/20 rule says that during a half marathon or marathon training cycle 80% of your running efforts should be mild to easy (RPE of 4-6) while 20% should be medium-hard to difficult (RPE of 7-8). This is why it’s important that you update and track your perceived exertion. When you train at a certain level to push yourself you will naturally become faster, fitter, and more tolerable of higher threshold running efforts, therefore you need to update your perceived running chart once every training cycle or at least twice a year.

Speed workout day

Since this is an 8-week beginner training schedule you do not need to mess with speed work. If you want to add some speedwork in checkout the 8-week half marathon training schedule for intermediate runners.

SCHEDULE

The next important step to bear in mind is the schedule. You should have a proper training plan scheduled for your 8-week half marathon training plan. Schedule your runs and workouts properly for all 8 weeks. You can keep running for four days and cross-training for two days. Cross-Training activities can include and are not limited to swimming, cycling, strength training, yoga, aerobics, or any activity that interests you. Schedule one day as your rest day, which is important to prevent injuries. If you feel overworked, you can take another rest day depending on how you feel.

If you need one more rest day DO NOT SUBSTITUTE YOUR LONG RUN. Instead rest an additional day after your long run or a cross-training day.

Warming up and cooling down

Always start with a warm-up session of 1/2 a mile to 1 mile or 5-10 minutes at an easy conversational pace. Also, when your workout is complete make sure you cool down adequately by bringing yourself back to an easy pace and/or walking pace before stopping.

8-week-half-marathon-training-plan-beginner-miles-p

8-week Half Marathon Training Schedule (Miles)

Half Marathon Week 1 (miles)

  • Monday: 4-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 to 45 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 4-mile easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 4-mile easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 5-mile long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 2 (miles)

  • Monday: 4-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 to 45 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 4-mile easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 4-mile easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 6-mile long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 3 (miles)

  • Monday: 5-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 6-mile easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 5-mile easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 8-mile long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 4 (miles)

  • Monday: 5-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 6-mile easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 5-mile easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 8-mile long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

After approximately one month of your 8-week half marathon training, your body makes a lot of changes in terms of overall strength. To relax your aching muscles and to recover, an ice bath is beneficial, though an ice bath may not be everyone’s go-to recovery aid. Foam rollers and triggers point massage balls are a favorite of mine.

The second month of your 8-week half marathon training will require mental focus and discipline.  Stay focused and keep your mind stable till the end of the race day. Don’t push yourself too much in the second month of training. Give your body enough time for healing and recovery.

Half Marathon Week 5 (miles)

  • Monday: 5-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 5-mile easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 5-mile easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 10-mile long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 6 (miles)

  • Monday: 5-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 5-mile easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 4-mile easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 12-mile long run at an easy effort (After this point start reducing the distance for preparation for race day)
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 7 (miles)

  • Monday: 4-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 to 45 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 4-mile easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 3-mile easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 8-mile long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 8 (miles)

  • Monday: 4-mile easy run
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 4-mile easy run
  • Thursday:  cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Race day
  • Sunday: Rest

8-week-half-marathon-training-plan-beginner-kilometers-p

8-week Half Marathon Training Schedule (Kilometers)

Half Marathon Week 1 (Kilometers)

  • Monday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 to 45 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 6.4 km easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 6.4 km long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 2 (kilometers)

  • Monday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 to 45 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 6.4 km easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 8.0 km long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 3 (kilometers)

  • Monday: 8.0 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 9.6 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 8.0 km easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 9.6 km long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 4 (kilometers)

  • Monday: 8.0 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 9.6 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 8.0 km easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 12.8 km long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

After approximately one month of your 8-week half marathon training, your body makes a lot of changes in terms of overall strength. To relax your aching muscles and to recover, an ice bath is beneficial, though an ice bath may not be everyone’s go-to recovery aid. Foam rollers and triggers point massage balls are a favorite of mine.

The second month of your 8-week half marathon training will require mental focus and discipline.  Stay focused and keep your mind stable till the end of the race day. Don’t push yourself too much in the second month of training. Give your body enough time for healing and recovery.

Half Marathon Week 5 (kilometers)

  • Monday: 8.0 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 8.0 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 8.0 km easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 16.0 km long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 6 (kilometers)

  • Monday: 8.0 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 45 to 60 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 8.0 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 6.4 km easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 19.3 km run at an easy effort. (After this point start reducing the distance for preparation for race day)
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 7 (kilometers)

  • Monday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 to 45 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: 4.8 km easy to moderate run
  • Saturday: 12.8 km long run at an easy effort
  • Sunday: Rest

Half Marathon Week 8 (kilometers)

  • Monday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Tuesday: 30 minutes of strength training
  • Wednesday: 6.4 km easy run
  • Thursday: cross-train 30 minutes or rest
  • Friday: Rest Day
  • Saturday: Race day
  • Sunday: Rest day

Negative Split Pacing Strategy

Plan on racing a negative split race (start off slower the first half and end faster than the second half). If you need help figuring out what your negative splits should be based on your half marathon goal race pace, check out this detailed post with negative split calculators – Can Negative Splits Help Me Run A Faster Half Marathon?

Allow yourself some wiggle room in your schedule

For any given run in your schedule allow yourself plus or minus 1 mile. If you’re having a great run and you feel fine go ahead and run the extra mile. Also, If you’re not having such a great run pull back and take off 1 mile for the run. When you find yourself consistently pulling back 1 mile on every run, you might need to adjust your schedule. Changing the intensity, duration, or distance might be in your best interest if you are clearly not hitting your mile goals.

Your schedule is adjustable

If you don’t like running your long runs on Saturday then by all means don’t run them on Saturday. Switch up your schedule as needed. One thing I would be careful of is putting a speed workout back to back with a long run. You should separate your longer and tougher workouts to help your body recover efficiently.

If you’re struggling with time management check out this post – How to find the time to train for a half marathon

What should you do the week of your half marathon race?

I’ve created an extensive post of what to do the week of your half marathon race including a half marathon checklist for your pre and post-race kits. Check out the post here: Halfmarathon Checklist

Are you running a virtual half marathon?

What is a virtual half marathon? A virtual half marathon is exactly what it sounds like a race that is taken place from wherever you want to, even a treadmill. Basically, you receive a bib online, it’s either shipped to you or you download it. Next, you train for the race, and then you upload your results to the entity sponsoring the virtual half marathon. If a virtual half marathon sounds virtually boring, check out – 17 ways to boost your motivation for a virtual half marathon.

One day before the race

Prepare yourself mentally and take some time out. Read some books to relax your mind. Reduce anxiety and keep yourself calm. Your Saturday’s run should not be intense. Focus on your form. Prepare your body by having good sleep and eating right. Don’t make any drastic changes to your sleeping pattern and eating habits. Be hydrated by drinking lots of water and increase your energy level by consuming the proper amount of carbohydrates.

Race Day

It’s the day to shine from all of your training. Remember to run the race as you’ve trained for it. Start slow out of the gate, aim for negative splits if possible, and keep chanting your mantra while you run. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line. Revel in the feeling of glory!

Recovery

If this is your first half marathon your body might be just a bit sore the day of and days following the race. Make sure that you continue walking after the finish line for at least 30 minutes. If your legs are extremely sore, lie down on the ground (after walking 30 minutes) and prop your feet up so that they are elevated past your head. This will force your body to recirculate your blood and give you a break off of your feet. Follow this detailed guideline on how to recover from a half marathon race.

Check out these additional tips for a half marathon race: 102 half marathon tips 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 13th half marathon race. 

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