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Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan 12 Weeks

by
Taren Gesell

If you’re a beginner runner looking to train for a half marathon over the next three months, you’re in the right place. This article will provide you with a Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan 12 Weeks. It will help you get started running from the couch to a half marathon, confidently.  

This training plan is designed for runners who have run in the past, but maybe this is your first attempt at doing a half marathon. Or maybe it’s your first time following a structured training plan. To follow this training plan, you should already be able to run continuously for an hour. If you’re completely new to running and can’t run at all yet, check out our learn to run article here.

This half marathon program is adapted from the training plans in our app that are written by coaches who know exactly what it takes for amateur age group runners to overcome challenges, and reach their endurance race goals. 

MOTTIV athlete Leighton running in the Mooloolaba Olympic triathlon

In this post, you will learn:

  • How long is a half marathon
  • What’s an average finish time for a half marathon
  • How to train for a half marathon
  • What’s a good half marathon finish time
  • How long you should train for a half marathon
  • What is your half marathon pace
  • What is a 12 week half marathon training program

To train for this half marathon you can absolutely use the plan below. But if you really want a personalized program that’s designed for your abilities, your goals, and your schedule, you should check out the MOTTIV Training App. You can use it for free and it includes much more detailed and personalized plans than we can include in a blog post.

Training Tips to Successfully Train for a Half-Marathon

Before diving into the training schedule, we need to provide some half marathon training tips that will help you prepare for the race successfully, while avoiding a lot of the pitfalls runners often encounter.

How long is a half marathon?

First, we'll answer the question, “How many miles is a half marathon?” (or “How many kilometers is a half marathon?” for our metric friends around the world.) A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers.

What is an average half marathon finish time?

Enter your age and gender into the calculator below to find out what’s a good finish time in the half marathon for your age group.

How much do you need to train for a half marathon?

Knowing your weekly mileage (how many miles per week you should run in training) depends on your race distance, your athletic background, and your goals. It will take more training if you don’t have any endurance sports background and you want to win a marathon, than if you’re previously an elite endurance athlete who just wants to finish a 5k. Use the calculator below to get a sense of our recommended training time and the miles per week required to meet your goals.

What gear do you need to train for a half marathon?

There are two items we recommend all runners have to prepare for a half marathon: proper running shoes and a strap based heart rate monitor. Here’s a video about what to look for in running shoes, and here’s an article on everything you need to know about heart rate training zones and why we use them.

Heart Rate Training Zones for Running

Low intensity running should always be dictated by heart rate, not pace. This may mean your easy run training is quite slow, but that’s okay because it means you’re building endurance without a lot of physical stress. This is exactly what we want. Here is a complete guide for low heart rate training. Calculate your heart rate training zones with this calculator:

Half-Marathon Training Paces


Interval running workouts, also known as “speed work”, should be done using pace as opposed to heart rate. Pace is better than heart rate for intense runs because heart rate will lag by 60-120 seconds, while your running pace is instant. Use this calculator to calculate your run training pace per mile and kilometer.

Low Intensity Running

Our training plans are based on the pyramidal model (similar to polarized training, 80/20 running, and the Maffetone Method, but with improvements) where 70-80% of the training is done at low intensity Zone 1 and 2. Studies have shown that all athletes will perform better when performing the bulk of their training at a low intensity, it may be difficult to run in Zone 2, but you’ll perform much better if you train at a low intensity.

What to Eat When Training for a Half Marathon

What you eat before running, during your training runs, during your half marathon, and what you take for hydration is super important. The right fuel will make the workouts you perform so much more effective. Physiologists we’ve worked with believe that proper nutrition and hydration can generate the same race results with half the training. This article discusses what to eat before your runs, and this article explains what you should eat during running workouts and races.

BONUS: Check out the example workout below from a marathon training plan in our app. Every workout comes with personalized nutrition guidance for pre and during-workout nutrition to maximize the workout effectiveness.

Rest & Recovery

Your training plan will have complete rest days. Also, every third or fourth week will be a rest week with reduced training hours. It’s critical that you take these as days to truly rest and recover. If you do a pile of heavy yard work, or spend the recovery days on your feet walking around a mall, you won’t be resting and you won’t actually be improving from your training. Remember that


WORKOUTS + REST = PROGRESS


So, take rest days seriously to make sure you avoid overtraining. You need true rest to actually progress in your training.

Taper Week

The training plan will have a taper period in the week prior to race day where training volumes will be reduced by roughly 50-60%, though some intense bursts of speed will be maintained. This process will allow your body to flush out all the training fatigue, so you'll have lots of energy in your race. Take the taper process seriously, resting and sleeping as much as possible during taper week.

Half Marathon Race Pace

Workouts in a good training plan will have race pace intervals where you’ll develop the ability to run fast without getting tired. You can use the calculator below to calculate your approximate half marathon race pace for these intervals.

The Best Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan for Every Runner

Our run training plans are written by the excellent coaches at Run Free Training who know what it takes to help amateur athletes reach their goals. While the coaches are elite runners themselves, they have a great understanding of how to create training plans that are time-efficient and that help age group athletes over overcome the most common obstacles they'll face while getting ready for a race.

Beginner Workouts To Train For A Half Marathon

The Beginner Half Marathon Plan has runs on three days a week and maxes out at just under five hours of running per week. 

Beginner runners are athletes who are one of the following:

  • Athletes who are tight on time and want a training plan with as little training as possible
  • Brand new athletes to running who want to ease into running slowly and safely for their first half marathon
  • Athletes who just want to finish the half marathon and don’t care about their finish time

If this doesn’t sound like you, check out our Intermediate 12 week half marathon training plan here.

Long Run (50mins - 2:15hrs)

The most important run in a run training plan is the weekly long run; most runners do this workout on the weekend when they have more time available. The long run is low intensity, building up gradually to eventually reach 2:15 hours for a half marathon training program. This run will build endurance and teach your body to produce the energy necessary to complete the distance of your race.  You can learn all about the long run, how to execute it well, and what to eat before and during your sessions, in this article.

Here is an example of what a long run looks like from a half marathon training plan in our app:

Interval Run (40-80mins)

The second most important run in a run training plan is a weekly interval run, which we call the “Intense Run” in our training plans. Most athletes do this run on a weekday. The interval run will build your top end speed and be based on your run pace determined in the calculator above. You can learn all about how to execute an interval run, and what to eat before and during the workout to get the most out of it in this article here.

Here is an example of what an interval run looks like from a half marathon training plan in our app:

Tempo Run (45mins - 2hrs)

The weekly tempo run (which we call the Steady Run) bridges the gap between the endurance you build in the long run, and the speed you build in the interval run. It teaches you how to run fast without getting tired. Tempo runs have been proven to be a key component of a successful run training plan. You can learn all about tempo runs in this article here.

Here is an example of what a tempo run looks like from a half marathon training plan in our app:

Strength Workout (30 minutes)

Cross-training with strength workouts is critical for athletes who don’t want to simply finish their race, but actually want to finish feeling strong. Strength training for runners has been proven to improve race performances, and athletes tend to feel much better physically. We believe so strongly in strength training that our app has 25 hours of guided strength workouts designed specifically for the needs and imbalances of endurance athletes. You can read all about strength training for runners here.

Here is an example of what a strength workout looks like from a half marathon training plan in our app:

12-Week Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan

  • WEEK 1: Start Half Marathon Training. (3:20-4:00hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (50-70mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 6-8x1k at 10k race pace, with 2-3min easy walk/jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace.
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:00-1:20hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 2x20min at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 1min walk/jog between intervals
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout: 30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (60mins)
  •    Warm Up: 10min easy jog warm up. 5mins of dynamic stretching and 5x50m strides building to Zone 4
  •    Running time trial: 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) as fast as possible. Enter this time into our pace calculator to get your training paces. Run the remainder of the run in Zone 2 until you reach a 60min total run.
  • WEEK 2: Adapt to Half Marathon Training. (3:55-4:50hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (60-80mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 5-6x1 mile at 10k race pace, with 2-3min easy walk/jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace.
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:10-1:30hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 3 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 1-2min walk/jog between intervals
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace 
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout: 30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:15-1:30hrs)
  •    75-90min long run in Zone 2 heart rate
  • WEEK 3: Build Your Half Marathon Training. (3:55-4:55hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (60-80mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 20x1min at Zone 5 pace, 1min slow jog
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:05-1:25hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 3x15min at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 1min walk/jog between intervals
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:20-1:40hrs)
  •    80-100min long run in Zone 2 heart rate
  • WEEK 4: Rest Focused Week. (3:00-3:40hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (50-60mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 12-16x200m a little faster than 5k race pace, with 60-90 sec easy walk/jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace 
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (50-70mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 30min at the top of your Zone 3 pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work.
  •  Sunday: Long Run (50-60mins)
  •    50-60min long run in Zone 2 heart rate
  • WEEK 5: Build Half Marathon Training. (4:05-4:55hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (55-75mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 6-8x3min at 10k race pace, with 2-3min easy jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:10-1:30hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 3x2 miles at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 1-2min walk/jog between intervals
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging at Zone 2 pace
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:30-1:40hrs)
  •    90-100min long run in Zone 2 heart rate
  • WEEK 6: Build Half Marathon Training. (4:10-5:10hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (50-70mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 6-8x800m at 5k race pace, with 2-3min easy walk/jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:20-1:40hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 4x15min at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 1min walk/jog between intervals
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:30-1:50hrs)
  •    90-110min long run in Zone 2 heart rate
  • WEEK 7: Build Half Marathon Training. (4:20-5:20hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (60-80mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 10-12x1k at 10k race pace, with 2-3min easy walk/jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (70-90mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 3x3 miles at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 1-2min walk/jog between intervals
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •    Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:40-2:00hrs)
  •    100-120min long run with your heart rate in Zone 2
  • WEEK 8: Rest Focused Week. (3:05-3:55hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (50-60mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 12-16x200m a little faster than 5k race pace, with 60-90 sec easy walk/jog recovery between intervals
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (45-65mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 25min at the top of your Zone 3 pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:00-1:20hrs)
  •    60-80min long run with your heart rate in Zone 2
  • WEEK 9: Start Larger Half Marathon Workouts. (4:15-5:15hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (55-75mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 10-12x2min at 10k race pace, with 1-minute easy jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging.
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:20-1:40hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 7-8x1 mile (1600m) the bottom of your Zone 4 pace, with 1min walk/jog between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging.
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:40-1:50hrs)
  •    100-110min long run with your heart rate in Zone 2
  • WEEK 10: Build Endurance and Speed. (4:50-5:45hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (55-75mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort.
  •    Main Set: 4-5x1 mile at 10k race pace, with 2-3min easy walk/jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace.
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:40-2:00hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 4x3 miles at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 1-2min walk/jog between intervals.
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging.
  •  Friday: Rest Day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (1:45-2:00hrs)
  •    105-120min long run with your heart rate in Zone 2
  • WEEK 11: Peak Training Week. (4:45-5:40hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (60-80mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort. Main Set: 10-12x1k at 10k race pace, with 2-3min easy walk/jog recovery between intervals. End when you feel like the next interval is the last one you could possibly do at the same pace
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging.
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (1:15-1:35hrs)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 7-8 miles continuous at the top of your Zone 3 pace.
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging.
  •  Friday: Rest day
  •  Saturday: Strength Workout
  •    30 minutes of light strength work. 
  •  Sunday: Long Run (2:00-2:15hrs)
  •    120-135min long run with your heart rate in Zone 2
  • WEEK 12: Taper to Rest up for Race Day. (1:50-2:10hrs)
  •  Monday: Rest Day take a complete day off where all you do is rest
  •  Tuesday. Interval Run (25mins)
  •    25min easy run with heart rate in Zone 2 with 8x30sec fast pick ups at Zone 4 pace spread throughout.
  •  Wednesday: Rest Day
  •  Thursday. Tempo Run (60-80mins)
  •    Warmup: 10-20min easy jogging Zone 2 Pace, include running drills, and 5x15sec strides Zone 4 effort
  •    Main Set: 3x1k at the top of your Zone 3 pace, with 2min jog between intervals.
  •    Cooldown: 10-20min easy jogging.
  • Friday. Run Primer (15mins)
  •    15 minute run. Entire run is easy effort besides 3x1min at race effort, take whatever rest you need between efforts to feel totally recovered.
  •  Saturday: Easy Run (10mins)
       Just run easy for 10 minutes
  •  Sunday: Long Run
  •    Race Day! You’re ready!

MOTTIV athlete Leighton running in the Mooloolaba Olympic triathlon

Wrap-Up on Training for a Half Marathon in 12 Weeks

Once you've achieved your race goal, it might be time to move on and start training for your first full marathon, or your next half marathon where you give yourself more time and see if you can run the half marathon faster.  We find taking 12 weeks or more, and following the entire training plan will help you pick up the pace and nail the half marathon distance.

If you're looking to set big personal goals, and you want the best for your body, check out our app with unlimited options for half marathon training. You can choose a training plan setup that's personalized specifically for you, and will get you training as well as you could possibly imagine.

You're ready to take on that big challenge, and when you train with MOTTIV, you're ready for race day! Check out the app here and try it for free.

Written on:

April 6, 2023

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Taren Gesell
Taren Gesell
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"Triathlon Taren" Gesell is founder of MOTTIV and one of the world's top experts on helping adults become endurance athletes later in life. Best known for his YouTube channel and podcast Taren is the author of the Triathlon Foundations series of books and has been published featured in endurance publications around the world.

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