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Half Marathon Training Guide Overview

Amanda Wendorff

In this complete guide, you’ll learn the answers to many questions beginner and experienced runners have about running a half marathon race.

Specifically, you’ll learn the answers to the following questions:

  1. How long is a half marathon?
  2. Can you walk a half marathon?
  3. What’s the average half marathon time?
  4. How long does it take to train for a half marathon?
  5. Can you train for a half marathon on the treadmill?
  6. What’s the weekly mileage you need to train for a half marathon?
  7. How should you pace a half marathon?
  8. What should you wear for a half marathon?
  9. What are good things to eat and drink during a half marathon?
  10. What should you eat after a half marathon?
  11. What should you eat and drink while training for a half marathon?
  12. What should you do before running a half marathon?
  13. What should you eat before a half marathon?
  14. Should you carb load before a half marathon?
  15. What does a half marathon taper look like?
  16. How do you recover from a half marathon?
  17. How should you breathe while running a half marathon?
  18. How should you train to run a half marathon on trails?
  19. How can you improve your half marathon time?
  20. How can you train to break two hours in the half marathon?

You’ll also see several half-marathon training plans ranging from 8-week to 24-week half marathon training plans with variations for beginners, intermediate, and advanced runners.

MOTTIV app user Marty Webster gives a fist pump to celebrate nearing the finish line of his race.

Complete Half Race Guide

How Long is a Half Marathon?

A half marathon running race is 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers long.

Read the full article here.

Can You Walk a Half Marathon?

You can walk some or all of a half marathon. In fact, many experienced runners incorporate short walks into their half marathons.

If you’re walking the entire half marathon or a large portion of it, you will need to be aware of race cut-off times, which are usually between 3.5 and 4. hours.

Read the full article here.

What’s the Average Half Marathon Time?

The average finish time for a half marathon is around 1 hour and 50 minutes. However, that takes into account runners of all ages, genders, and experience levels.

To determine a good half marathon time for your age and gender, you can reference this article.

How Long Does it Take to Train for a Half Marathon?

Training for a half marathon can take anywhere from a handful of weeks to close to a year. The number of weeks you should expect to devote to half marathon training depends on several factors, including your existing fitness level, how many miles you’ve been running lately, and your goals for the race.

You can find out all the details in this article.

Can You Train for a Half Marathon on a Treadmill?

You can do a lot of your half-marathon training on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill has some distinct advantages, such as time efficiency and the ability to avoid adverse weather conditions. However, the treadmill also has some serious drawbacks. We would not suggest doing all of your training on a treadmill.

Read more about training on a treadmill here.

What’s the Weekly Mileage You Need to Train for a Half Marathon?

The ideal weekly mileage is individual for each runner, depending on their run experience, race goals, and experience with running injuries. More important than the actual number of miles run is whether you increase running volume gradually and carefully.

You can read all about the details here.

How Should You Pace a Half Marathon?

Pacing a half marathon requires patience and good body awareness. For your best finish time, you should either aim to have the second half of the race be a little faster than the first half or aim to have even pacing across the entire 13.1 miles.

To properly pace a half marathon, you should have a good idea of your goal pace before you start and practice running at that tempo many times in training.

You can read more about half marathon pacing here.

What Should You Wear For a Half Marathon?

During a half marathon, you should wear comfortable, temperature-appropriate, and sweat-wicking clothing that you’ve tried out in training. You also should wear running-specific socks and a good pair of running shoes.

See more details about what to wear when running here.

What Should You Eat and Drink During a Half Marathon?

To perform your best in a half marathon, you should consume easily digestible carbohydrates such as sports gels, chews, or sports drinks. This will ensure you have sufficient energy to cover the 13.1 miles without bonking.

You can read about race day nutrition here.

What Should You Eat After Running a Half Marathon?

Almost immediately after a half marathon, you should consume a snack or small meal containing carbohydrates and protein. A bit later, when your stomach has settled, have a well-balanced meal with at least 15- 30 grams of protein and 50 - 100 grams of carbohydrates.

We discuss all the options for post-half marathon fueling here.

What Should You Eat and Drink While Training For a Half Marathon?

Because training for a half marathon requires a lot of energy, it’s important to fuel your body with a well-balanced diet, making sure to eat enough to support your training load. It’s also important to stay hydrated between sessions, as dehydration can hinder training.

Read more about how to fuel your half marathon training here.

What Should You Do in the Days Before a Half Marathon?

In the few days before a half marathon, you should focus on getting lots of rest, eating well, planning out your race day, and doing some shorter run workouts.

All the details of what to do on the day before a half marathon are here.

What Should You Eat Before a Half Marathon?

In the days before a half marathon, you should increase your carbohydrate intake while still eating balanced meals with protein and fats. As the race gets closer, change your diet to more bland, easily digestible foods that you have practiced with in training.

This article discusses pre-race fueling a bit more.

Should You Carb Load Before a Half Marathon?

Because your body relies largely on carbohydrates for energy, carb loading is a good idea to set yourself up for a fast half marathon. Carb loading is more than just a big plate of spaghetti, though—it’s a multi-meal approach to ensuring that your glycogen stores are topped up without making you feel bloated.

All the details on carbohydrate loading are here.

What Does a Half Marathon Taper Look Like?

Generally, a half marathon taper lasts 7 to 10 days. During this time, you should decrease your overall training volume while still maintaining some small doses of speed work.

Read about a few approaches to the half marathon taper here.

How Do You Recover From a Half Marathon?

Recovery from a half marathon starts the minute you cross the finish line. It’s important to eat a combination of protein and carbohydrates shortly after your race to jump-start the recovery process. Additionally, incorporate active recovery, rehydrate, and get plenty of rest.

Some tips on post-half marathon recovery are here.

How Should You Breathe While Running a Half Marathon?

Learning how to breathe properly while running can really enhance your performance. Read this article to learn more about various breathing patterns that you can try during your half marathon.

How Should You Train to Run a Half Marathon on Trails?

Training for a trail half marathon is much like training for a half marathon on the roads, with a few additions. If you have a trail run coming up, you should spend more time off-road, learning to navigate unique terrain while also incorporating plenty of hill climbing.

Read more about training for a trail half marathon here.

How Can You Improve Your Half Marathon Time?

Once you have completed a half marathon or two, you may want to focus on improving your time. Improving your half marathon time means training smarter, using proper training zones, and incorporating lots of different intensities in your weekly mileage.

This article has lots of tips on how to get faster over the half marathon distance.

How Should You Train to Break Two Hours in the Half Marathon?

Training to break two hours is a great goal. It requires smart, focused training and spending plenty of time practicing at your goal marathon pace.

Read more about how to structure your training to get your two-hour half-marathon finish time here.

Half Marathon Training Plans

Beginner Half Marathon Training Plans

Beginner runners are people who fall into one of the following categories:

  1. You have never run before and have very little fitness background
  2. You want to train as little as possible
  3. You just want to finish a race and don’t care at all about the time

You can see a beginner half marathon training plan here.

Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plans

Intermediate runners are people who fall into one of the following categories:

  1. You have a strong fitness background in another high-level sport
  2. You want to train a moderate amount, but not to huge levels
  3. You want to finish the race in a solid time

You can see an intermediate half marathon training plan here.

Advanced Half Marathon Training Plans

Intermediate runners are people who fall into one of the following categories:

  1. You have an elite fitness background in other endurance sports
  2. You’ve been running and competing in running races for quite a while.
  3. You don’t mind training as much as reasonably possible
  4. You want to finish the race in as fast a time as you possibly can.

You can see an advanced half marathon training plan here.


Read through this half marathon training guide, and you’ll learn what it takes to finish a half marathon race feeling great!

You can also check out our Learn to Run guide and our complete list of 5k and 10k training plans.

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Amanda Wendorff

| Author

Amanda Wendorff is a professional triathlete, focusing on the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman distances. In the last several years she’s competed in multiple gravel bike races. Top Achievements: Top 3 Ironman Ireland and Ironman 70.3 Coquimbo, Multiple time top-5 finisher, 3rd Overall at Moran 166 Gravel Race in Michigan, Age group podium at Gravel Worlds, Big Sugar, and Ned Gravel in first year of gravel racing.

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