How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 13 Weeks

Setting up a goal for yourself gives your life purpose. It also adds a sense of fulfillment and joy few things can come close to.

Yet, is it really worth it? That’s one of the most common questions new runners ask. Then, once they’re enticed by the thrill of it all, they start looking around for a suitable training program.

So, to help encourage all you runners out there, we put together this plan. It’s a straightforward guide on how to prepare for a half marathon in 13 weeks.

That’s plenty of time to get your muscles fit and toned and ready to run 13.3 miles.

Let’s get started.

How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 13 Weeks

Training for a half marathon is more manageable than other races. It’s easier to plan and doesn’t require the strict discipline needed to train for a full marathon.

Furthermore, most people have no trouble adjusting their schedules to make room for a half marathon training schedule.

Now, let’s say your race will be on a Saturday. Here’s a quick rundown of what each day of the next 13 weeks will look like until race day rolls around.

Sundays: Rest Days

How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 13 Weeks:Resting

Rest days are just as important as training and running. They’re meant for your body to recover, recharge, and get ready for the next day’s workout.

Your muscles use those rest days to replenish their glycogen levels to avoid muscle fatigue during training. Plus, it gives them a chance to grow and become leaner.

Not to mention your knees and ankles. They need a break too from that pounding they have to put up with.

Mondays: Cross-Training

Cross-training is a vital part of any runner’s training program. It helps strengthen muscles and boost joint resilience.

In return, your performance improves, which helps boost your race time while lowering the risk of injuries.

The good news is that there’s no shortage of cross-training workout routines. They’re available on various levels to make them accessible for all runners. You can do them at the gym or even in the comfort of your own home.

Tuesdays: Short Runs

For the first three weeks, run for three miles. Then, on weeks four and five, add half a mile for a total of 3.5 miles per Tuesday.

On week six, go back to running only three miles. By weeks seven and eight, you should be able to run four miles. Then, on weeks nine and ten, make them 4.5 miles.

On week 11, run a maximum of five miles consecutively. Finally, the final two weeks prior to race day, taper down your Tuesday short runs and bring them back to three miles.

Wednesdays: Rest Days/Cross-Training

Rest on the first five Wednesdays of this 13-week half marathon training plan. Then, you can give your muscles a chance to recuperate and regain their strength.

Then, during weeks 6 to 11, do some cross-training exercises. Again, vary them up from week to week to make sure you target all of your muscle groups.

Finally, rest on the last two Wednesdays before the race. If you’re determined to make the most of every minute, try doing some yoga or meditation. They’ll help prepare both your body and mind before the big day.

Thursdays: Short Runs

Follow the same training plan set for Tuesdays. Remember, short runs help build up your stamina and develop your endurance over the 13 weeks.

They also give your body a chance to recover after intense training days. Plus, varying speeds and mileage keeps your body alert and ready for whatever’s coming.

Fridays: Rest Days

Enjoy your rest day and let your mind and body relax. Make sure you eat right and drink plenty of fluids.

Saturdays: Long Runs

No two Saturday runs are going to be the same. Not only that, but Saturdays are your only ‘long-run’ days during this 13-week training program.

Long runs are designed to help you face the physical and mental challenge of being in a half marathon. They should increase gradually to allow you to adapt to the stress of running faster and longer.

Here it is:

Week 1: 3 miles

Week 2: 3.5 miles

Week 3: 4 miles

Week 4: 5 miles

Week 5: 6 miles

Week 6: 4 miles

Week 7: 7 miles

Week 8: 8 miles

Week 9: 9 miles

Week 10: 10 miles

Week 11: 12 miles

Week 12: 6 miles

Week 13: race day!

Half Marathon Dos and Don’ts

Any type of half marathon training plan takes time. So, don’t despair if you’re not seeing quick improvements. The truth is, as long as you’re sticking to the weekly program, your body is slowly building up itself to get stronger and fitter.

Here are a few dos and don’ts we put together for you to get you pumped up and energized on race day:

Do Wear Comfortable Running Gear

Running Shoes

Pick a pair of running shoes that you know and love. Your clothes should feel soft on your skin. They shouldn’t chafe or rub against your skin and cause irritations.

Try to pick moisture-wicking fabric. It’ll help you stay cool throughout your race. Plus, it’s breathable, so it keeps you dry when you sweat.

Do Listen to Your Body

You’ll often hear runners say ‘run by feel.’ So, what does that mean exactly? It means that you check in with your body every couple of miles to see how it’s coping during the race.

It also means you have to know the difference between physical and mental fatigue. If it’s physical, your muscles will feel exhausted and maybe even cramp up.

If it’s mental, your whole body will feel tired. You’ll also try to find ways to get out of the race.

The best way to gauge your body’s ability to finish a half marathon is to break up the race into short-term goals. So, let’s say you make it to the halfway point of 6 miles. Tell yourself you can push through until the 7-point mile.

Still feeling bad? Then, it’s better for your health if you pull out of the race. Make sure you hydrate and get plenty of rest.

Don’t get discouraged. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished so far!

Alternatively, if you can carry on, then keep going to the 9-point mile, and son. Then, before you know it, you’ll see the finish line looming in the distance.

Do Use the Conditions to Your Advantage

Bad weather condition

Did race day happen to fall on a hot day? How about a day with lots of strong wind? Unfortunately, both can hinder your speed and inhibit your performance.

If it’s hot, make sure you’re always hydrated. Drink moderate amounts of water and energy drinks before the race. It’s also a good idea to take sips during the race to prevent your body from heating up too much during your run.

A headwind will cause you to slow down much more than a tailwind on windy days. A crosswind is just as bad. Either way, if it’s windy, you’ll have to run by feel.

So, forget about pace planning and all that. Just find a way to make the weather work in your favor, or at least not slow you down as best as you can.

Don’t Wear New Shoes

Try to avoid wearing new shoes on race day. They may cause your feet to ache, not provide adequate support, and even give you blisters.

That said, you’ll have to invest in a couple of running shoes. Wear each pair for a couple of training runs.

Once you break them in, decide which pair feels more comfortable and offers better cushioning. Then, put those aside for race day.

Don’t Forget to Warm Up

Stretching and warming up before the race gets your body and mind ready for what’s about to happen. It increases blood flow, body temperature, and heart rate.

When your body warms up, your muscles work more efficiently because they get more oxygen. Plus, by stretching and doing some light jogging, your body becomes more competent at turning glucose into glycogen and using it for fuel.

Your mind also benefits from warming up. You’ll be able to get rid of all that nervous energy and get into the ‘zone.’

Don’t Eat Heavy Meals

Sometimes nerves, or lack of experience, make us do things we later regret. One of those things is eating a heavy breakfast on race day.

We’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Although, it’s better to stick with several light snacks of about 30 – 60 grams throughout the day. Also, pick foods high in carbs, such as bananas, yogurt, oatmeal, eggs, and energy gels.

Avoid foods rich in proteins, sugar, or fat. They’ll only make your digestive system feel overwhelmed. Thus, you’ll end up feeling depleted, bloated, or maybe even nauseous before and during the race.

A Final Note On How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 13 Weeks

If you can run three miles, what’s stopping you from running 13.1 miles? All you need is several weeks and the right training plan for you.

Think it’s easier said than done? Think again.

Just follow our guide on how to prepare for a half marathon in 13 weeks, and you’ll be grinning all the way to the finish line.