Train for a half marathon in three months

16. August 2017

If you are already capable of running around one to one-and-a-half hours at a stretch, then with three months of training you’ll be able to enjoy running a half marathon with a good feeling. The most important factors:

1st month: develop the basics

  • The training in this first month is not complicated. The main thing is that you follow through on your intentions to train regularly.
  • Your runs should have a duration of 50-80 minutes if possible. Approach the distance step-by-step and don’t increase your current normal workload too quickly. Define your running training times at the start of each week and stick to them whenever possible.
  • The first month mainly calls for endurance runs at low to medium intensity where you have enough breath to talk.
  • From time to time, an unfamiliar training unit such as speed variation* or interval training** is allowed, which intermittently raises the heart rate.
  • The total amount of training each week should correspond to at least the half-marathon distance, i.e. around 20 kilometres.
  • Don’t forget to do your homework in terms of flexibility and strength training! Core and foot strength are of crucial importance in running.

2nd month: become more versatile and sustain your tempo for longer

  • The second four weeks are somewhat harder, but don’t worry, the focus is still on easy training runs. They can now be a little bit longer (up to 90 minutes) than those in the first month.
  • You can also specifically plan shorter and more intensive runs in between (e.g. during a 45-min run, run fast for 15 minutes and then at an easy pace for 5 minutes and repeat, or run for 10 minutes, alternating between 1 minute fast and 1 minute slow).
  • Hill runs*** can also be beneficial in this phase, e.g. two sets of 6 to 8 fast hill runs over roughly 150 metres with a 90-second break in between.
  • Targeted increases in speed make your running repertoire more varied. Suggestion: 6-10 x 80-100 metres on a flat road, each with a 1-minute jogging break. Or on the 400-m track: 6-10 speed increases on the straight, jogging breaks in the curves.
  • Stretching in front of the TV or when you have a few quiet minutes helps to achieve a better body feeling and is somewhat relaxing.

3rd month: become faster and better in technique

  • The third month serves to sustain your tempo pace, as well as increase your speed and thus also improve your running technique. Longer runs of around 60-90 minutes should still be scheduled between the fast units.
  • Running fast is fun and gives you a good feeling. Incorporate individual technique elements into a training run (e.g. for 15 minutes in the middle of your training). Typical running style exercises include jogging with very small steps and a high frequency from the ankle, rope jumping with high knees, kicking your buttocks with your heels, exaggerated skipping or even running sideways.
  • Sprints also improve your running technique. Suggestion: 8-10 x 200 metres at an 800-metre race pace with a slower jogging break every 200 metres, or 12-15 x 150 metres at an 800-metre race pace with a 1-minute slower jogging break in between.
  • The four weeks of the third month can best be divided in such a way that the first three weeks are focused on increasing your training, and in the fourth week the training volume is significantly reduced. Training is somewhat relaxed during the week of the competition and the main focus is on regeneration to ensure you start the race completely recovered.

Speed variation* training examples

Speed variation means running fast at various speeds during the approx. 40-50-minute training session, whereby the speed is logically adapted to the terrain. For example, running quickly up the ascent, then slower along the next long straight, and then quickly again to the tree at the end of the road, etc. You can choose the distances of the individual sections according to how you feel and your performance capability and use the topography or landmarks in the terrain as reference points. Your heart rate is not constant during speed variation training due to the changes in speed and frequently changes from being relaxed to being extremely challenged.

Interval** training examples

In interval training, the individual high intensity phases and the intervening periods of rest are clearly defined. The distinction between speed variation is blurred. During extensive interval training, the intensity is chosen to be just so high that the fast sections can be frequently repeated and only need to be interrupted by short breaks. During intensive interval training, the running pace is higher than that of extensive interval training and the breaks are correspondingly longer. Examples:

  • 6-8 x 1 km at a 30-minute race pace, each with a 3-minute jogging break (intensive)
  • 5 x 1 km at just below the 30-minute race pace with a 4-minute jogging break (intensive)
  • 12-15 x 150 m at a 400-m race pace, each with a 1-minute slower jogging break (intensive)
  • 10-12 x 400 m at a pace somewhat faster than the 30-minute race pace, each with a 60-90-second jogging break (extensive)
  • 8-10 x 300 m at a pace significantly faster than the 30-minute racing pace, each with a 2-minute jogging break (extensive)

Hill run*** training examples

Hill runs build up strength and stamina. Run up the mountain as quickly as possible, and then jog back to the starting point in a relaxed manner.

  • Two sets of 6 to 8 hill runs over 150 m
  • 10-12 hill runs of about 20 seconds with a 90-second break