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Thinking about tackling a half marathon? We have the simplest and easiest plan ever to take you from ‘new but regular runner’ to completing a half marathon in three months.


Sometimes we can overcomplicate running… this ‘Keep It Simple’ plan does the opposite. Firstly though, let’s look at the half marathon. At 13.1 miles it’s a challenge for most runners, yet, unlike the marathon, it’s more doable and a great goal to aim for. But don’t underestimate it. It’ll still require around two hours of running (or more) and you’ll need some mileage under your belt if you want to get round comfortably and without injury.

Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to train. If you are currently able to run for about 45-60 minutes without stopping, then you should be able to get ready for a half marathon following a 12-week programme. If you’re not quite at that level yet, then you’ll need more time. Be realistic. This programme is based on ‘time’ spent running, not miles – so its a good idea to get a digital stopwatch of some sort.

Your main goal for your first half marathon is to ‘get round’ so mileage is less important and time spent ‘on your feet’ becomes your focus. The programme consists of three runs per week, plus there is an additional cross training/conditioning session. Pilates, strength training or cycling would be ideal. Also spend 20-30 minutes foam rolling 3-4 times per week.

Ideally, by the end of the programme you need to be able to jog (or a mix of running and walking) for close to the length of time you think the half marathon will take you – possibly something in the region of 2 hours or more

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When training for the half, you’re aiming to do three things:

  1.  Build consistency. By this we mean a regular running pattern of easy steady running, three times a week, week in week out. Avoid pushing too, which may require longer periods of recovery. It’s a fine balance.
  2.  Gradually build up your long run. Running/jog-walking at a really easy pace and developing your aerobic base fitness is the key to half marathon success.
  3.  Avoiding injury. Do this by regular foam rolling, strength work (get advice from a good trainer or coach) and listening to your body. Get any niggles treated.

The most important aspect of any training programme however, is to listen to your own body and not blindly follow the plan. If you’re really tired or you feel ill or have a cold (see Health, p38), then adjust the programme accordingly– take a day off or swap days around. Don’t push yourself to exhaustion – remember, this is meant to be fun! If you have a niggle or something feels tight or sore, then get along to a physio or sports massage therapist. Don’t ignore it or just rest; active treatment is always much better.

In a nutshell, just keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate your running by looking for magic bullets or convoluted speed sessions. Consistency, enjoyment and easy paced long runs are the key. Good luck!

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Note: Warm up with some dynamic mobility before your run – leg swings, lunges, squats, hacky sacks, knee hugs and upper body rotations. Cool down afterwards with an easy walk for a few minutes. The plan over the page simply shows the four sessions you need to do; it is up to you to choose when you do them. Try if possible to spread them out throughout the week (in other words, try to avoid doing back-to-back runs) and aim to factor in an easy or rest day before or after your longest run.

Session Terminology Easy: As it says, jog, chat and enjoy at an ‘easy’ pace. If you were working on a scale of 1-10 (10 being flat out) you might be around 5/10. Preferably a nice, easy flat route.

Steady: A slightly quicker pace than ‘easy’. On the scale, around 7/10. This might be a slightly more challenging route with some hills for example.

Jog/Walk: The goal here is to spend time on your feet. It doesn’t matter if you walk bits of this session, just get out there and get the time in. Plan a walk break (1-2 mins) every 10-15 mins and stick to it even if you feel good. Take fluid, sports drinks or gels with you. As you progress, take slightly fewer walk breaks, but still factor them in.

Pace: A quicker pace. Somewhere in the region of 8/10. You will be breathing harder and may not be able to chat as easily. These sessions only come later in the programme. They need to feel ‘controlled’ but that you are working a bit harder. You also need to add a five min jog warm-up and cool-down to these sessions.

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