I love hearing that you’ve picked up running or signed up for a 5K because you saw that I, Caroline freakin’ Peterson, could run a half marathon. I think training on my own and not being the fastest runner out there makes the whole thing a bit more relatable. It’s really wonderful to hear and I’m happy to help any way I can.
I had a girlfriend (who ran her first 5K in September and then knocked that time out of the park in another 5K this January) ask me, “How long do you need to train for a half marathon?”
The answer is relatively straight-forward, but has a few caveats.
This goes without saying: I’m not an expert by any means, this is just my honest advice and experience. Your mileage may vary.
In general, you’ll want to be able to run 1-2 miles without stopping first. Not there yet? Neither was I. Keep at it. I promise you’ll get there. I followed the Couch to 5K even AFTER I completed a triathlon and it really helped my endurance.
To get a good feel for a race, have a couple 5Ks under your belt. Even better, a 10K. I know what you’re thinking. Duh, Caroline. That’s just double the distance. But, the 10K race feels different for me. You’re alone with your thoughts for longer, you get a good sense of your pace and what weaving in and out of people feels like. It’s a good foundation. If you haven’t run a 10K and want to still train for a half-marathon, no biggie. I use active.com to find local races.
Make it fun. We did the Jingle Bell Jog 5K this year and had a jolly ol’ time. See what I did there? It wasn’t for time. It was simply for an experience and keeping up with our conditioning runs.
You’ll want 4-5 months to train for your first half-marathon. I follow the Jeff Galloway approach to running and he recommends 19 weeks. I’ve found this a great conservative approach for first-time half runners and also limits injury. Plus it gives you a chance for life to get in the way, like being
Take a look at Jeff Galloway’s training style. He recommends the run-walk structure for training and it has massively helped with my endurance and times. For me, finishing a half-marathon while still being able to walk the next day was important. Some people just run it strictly so they can say they ran the whole time (which is a huge accomplishment). That’s not me, right now at least. I want to finish.
Plus, walk breaks are nothing to knock:
“Walk breaks speed you up: an average of 7 minutes faster in a 13.1 mile race when non-stop runners shift to the correct Run Walk Run ratio – and more than 13 minutes faster in the marathon.”
I do 2 30-minute conditioning runs and 1 long-run each week. We run at night because well…Florida. On long runs we’ve been known to get up at 5:30 am to avoid the sun on the weekends. It’s tough living in a tropical paradise.
Keep at it, even if you fall off track. As you know, I’ve come down with the plague and was even given my first inhaler! It sucks. My training took a hit and my pace slowed. I was bummed, still am if I’m being totally honest, but I have to keep at it. Tired of falling off track and then not getting back to it? Do what you can, when you can.
Think this is something you can do? I know you can. It never even crossed my mind that I’d be a half-marathon finisher. And guess what? I freakin’ am. If you have any questions or need some advice, I’m here.