How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 16 Weeks (Simple Detailed Guide)

Have you ever found it challenging to stick to a half marathon training plan? Trust us, you’re not alone.

We’ve all got responsibilities, families, and jobs to go to. It’s hard trying to fit in a training schedule on top of all that.

We know how difficult it can be to find the right training plan. So, we designed one especially for beginners and intermediate runners. The best part is that we spaced it out over four months so you can get ready at your own pace.

If you’re interested in running 13.1 miles, follow our guide on how to prepare for a half marathon in 16 weeks.

Let’s get started.

How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 16 Weeks

It’s safe to say that 16 weeks is a long stretch of time to train for a half marathon. Yet, that’s the beauty of this training program.

For one, it’s designed for those who lead active lives. This means it works at your own pace. Thus, you increase your mileage gradually without stress or risk of injury.

Another reason why we like this training plan is that it’s accessible for everyone at any fitness level. So you make it work for you without worrying about falling behind.

Remember, there’s no speed or time limit with this plan. Your main aim is to get in the required mileage to finish a half marathon or 13.1 miles.

Many people choose to walk the half marathon. That’s okay too. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you run. The important thing is to finish strong and be proud of all you’ve accomplished.

Below, you’ll find a detailed rundown of what you can expect from this training program. It’s made for a Sunday race. If your race day falls on a Saturday, just shift things over one day, and you’ll be fine.

5 Training Days

According to this half marathon training plan, you’ll be training for five days per week. Four are long runs on the weekend. Then, by mid-week, run short recovery runs to maintain stamina and stabilize your cardiovascular system.

The fifth day of training is reserved for cross-training workouts. These are designed to increase muscle strength and boost joint flexibility.

The great thing about cross-training is it’s varied and easily customizable. You can choose between cycling, pilates, weight-lifting, swimming, and much more!

2 Rest Days

Once you get started, you’ll notice that Mondays are always set aside as rest days for the entire 16 weeks. Wednesdays and Fridays are optional. You can choose when you’d like to use them as rest days or cross-training.

It depends on your personal preference and how your body is feeling. That said, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting two rest days per week.

Rest days aren’t for slacking off. They’re vital for giving your body time to recuperate after the intense runs and workouts of the day before.

Base Building

Base Building

Base building is another word for acclimating your body to run 30 minutes non-stop. This phase takes four weeks to complete.

When you start week 1, make sure you work gradually. There’s no need to rush your training; everything will come in good time.

You’ll notice that the training plan repeats itself each day except for Sundays. This is because you’ll be doing long runs on those days, which you can break down into run/walk sessions. They’re also known as progression runs, which increase gradually over the 16 weeks.

The important thing is to listen to your body and work at your own pace. Here’s a breakdown of the first four weeks of your half marathon training plan:

  • Mondays: rest days
  • Tuesdays: 30 minutes of steady jogging at a comfortable pace
  • Wednesdays: cross-training/rest days
  • Thursdays: 40-minute steady jogs or brisk power walks
  • Fridays: cross-training/rest days
  • Saturday: 20-minute recovery runs (optional, but try to do them as often as you can)
  • Sundays: 45, 55, 65, 55 minutes of endurance runs per week


Improving Endurance : How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 16 Weeks

The next four weeks of training are all about boosting your endurance and stamina. During weeks 5 – 8, Tuesdays will be 30-minute runs. Then, every Thursday is a 50-minute jog or power walk.

Saturdays will be an optional 20-minute recovery run. You can also use them as rest days, along with Mondays.

As for Wednesdays and Fridays, you can choose between cross-training or resting. A good idea is to alternate weeks, so you hit the right balance without the risk of overtraining or too much resting.

If you choose to do cross-training, make sure you vary your routine each week. It’ll keep you from getting bored and make sure you work all your muscle groups.

The long runs are scheduled for Sundays; hence the name ‘Sunday Endurance runs.’

These will begin on week five at 65 minutes of steady jogging or brisk walking. On week 6, you can increase 10 minutes, then 10 minutes the week after that, for a total of 85 minutes of non-stop running.

By week 8, take it down to 75 minutes. This change serves two purposes. First, it helps increase your pace and mileage. It’ll also help get you ready for the next block of quick speed work. More importantly, it breaks the monotony of doing the same thing every single week.

Endurance and Speed

The third block of training will take from weeks 9 to 12. The short and long runs will stay the same, with the Sunday Endurance run reaching 95 minutes on week 11. Then, it’ll just start to taper down from there in anticipation of race day.

Saturday recovery runs will go up to 30 minutes each week. Then, on week 12, take it back down to 20 minutes of light, low-intensity jogging.

Bear in mind these recovery runs are still optional. So, listen to your body and do what feels right.

The only major change will be on Thursdays when you’ll be doing speed work. The whole point of speed work is to boost your cardiovascular health.

Alternating between light jogs and hard runs also firm up your leg muscles. So, when you’re out running your half marathon, your legs are strong and ready to give it their all.

You can do speed work on weeks 9 and 12. During weeks 10 and 11, you can stick to a 60-minute steady run or brisk power walk.

Again, rest days are always on Mondays. Then, you’ll have the option to either do cross-training or take it easy and get some rest on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Race Week

Weeks 13 to 16 are all about working at a steady pace. You’ll notice that even Sunday Endurance runs start at 90 minutes on week 13. Then, they drop 20 minutes each week until race day.

This tapering technique also goes for Thursday Speed Work. On week 13, you should be doing 60 minutes of the following:

  1. 25-minute warm-up
  2. Five reps of 2-minute easy runs
  3. 1-minute hard runs
  4. Finally, give yourself 20 – 25 minutes to cool down

Starting from the Tuesday before the race, you should be putting in no more than 30 minutes of light, steady jogging, or even brisk walks. Repeat the same routine on Thursday. Then, on the final Saturday before the race, you should only do a 20-minute low-intensity run.

Remember, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays should all be rest days on that final week. Focus on eating right and providing your body with the fuel it needs to make it through an entire half marathon. Also, always hydrate properly to avoid cramps and muscle fatigue.

Final Thoughts On How to Prepare for a Half Marathon in 16 Weeks

The whole point of learning how to prepare for a half marathon in 16 weeks is to handle running non-stop for as long as possible. That only happens when you work at your own pace.

So, make sure you pay attention to what your body is telling you. Don’t forget good nutrition is just as important as all those hours of training. Finally, hydrate and rest up.

Put all that together, and you get the perfect recipe for a happy, healthy runner.