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Run a Half Marathon in 4 Weeks with This Plan

When your 13.1 race is a month away—but you haven’t exactly been “training”—this plan is perfect.

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Heather Colasuonno was in the best shape of her life while training for the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon when she was sidelined by an Achilles tendon strain. The 30-year-old wife and mother from Ajax, Ontario, couldn’t run for more than a month and returned to the roads just six weeks before race day. Nevertheless, Colasuonno made the best of the training window she had left and ended up coming within seconds of matching her fastest half-marathon ever.

Runners like Colasuonno are living proof that it is possible to “crash train” for a half marathon. Whether it’s an injury, an illness, work stress, or scheduling that threw you off track, four to eight weeks is enough time to prepare for a successful 13.1-miler, provided you’re healthy and able to train without further interruptions.

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THE HALF MARATHON TRAINING PLAN

Tips For Crash Training a Half Marathon

The key to crash training is building fitness quickly without taking big risks. The best tools for fast fitness are frequency and intensity. Doing some kind of cardio almost every day—whether that means running, walking, or cross-training—will help you make the most of the time you have. And a couple of those workouts each week should include high-intensity effort, which is proven to stimulate quicker physiological adaptations.

RELATED: If You Have a Solid Base, All You Need is This 8-Week Marathon Training Plan

4 Week Half Marathon Training

This plan is perfect if your goal is to walk or walk/run a half marathon that is four weeks away and you’re currently fit enough to comfortably walk/run 5 miles.

The plan includes “optional” days, when you have a choice to rest, walk, run or cross-train with non-impact cardio, such as cycling or elliptical training. You’ll get fitter faster if you choose the rest option only when you feel your body needs it.

Each run uses a five-point intensity scale based on ratings of perceived effort (RPE). Heart-rate monitors can be helpful, but going by feel works just as well. Use these guidelines to understand your plan’s intensity scale.

  • RPE 1: Very Easy—a pleasant effort you feel you could keep up almost indefinitely.
  • RPE 2: Comfortable—you’re not holding yourself back but you can still easily carry on a conversation.
  • RPE 3: Comfortably Hard—the highest intensity at which you can speak comfortably.
  • RPE 4: Hard—after a few minutes at this intensity, your breathing is labored.
  • RPE 5: Very Hard—an effort that you can sustain for a couple of minutes at most

In Interval Walk/Run workouts, walk the RPE 1 portions if necessary to keep your perceived effort at an appropriate level. In Long Run/Walk workouts, mix walking and running as you see fit or as necessary to keep your RPE between 1 and 2.

1 Month Crash Plan for a Half Marathon

DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE VERSION OF THE HALF MARATHON TRAINING PLAN

Week 1

  • Monday: Rest day
  • Tuesday: Interval run/walk: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 3 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Wednesday: Optional walk, run or cross train  30 min @ RPE 1–2 or Rest
  • Thursday: Walk:  60 min @ RPE 1–2
  • Friday: Interval run/walk:  5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 4 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Saturday: Optional walk, run or cross train: 30 min @ RPE 1–2 or Rest
  • Sunday: Long run/walk: 5 miles @ RPE 1–2

Week 2

  • Monday: Rest day
  • Tuesday: Interval run/walk: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Wednesday: Optional walk, run or cross train: 35 min @ RPE 1–2 or Rest
  • Thursday: Walk: 65 min @ RPE 1–2
  • Friday: Interval run/walk 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 6 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Saturday: Optional walk, run or cross train 35 min @ RPE 1–2 or Rest
  • Sunday: Long run/walk: 7 miles @ RPE 1–2

Week 3

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday:  Interval run/walk 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 7 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Wednesday: Optional walk, run or cross train 40 min @ RPE 1–2 or Rest
  • Thursday: WALK 70 min @ RPE 1–2
  • Friday: Interval run/walk 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 8 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Saturday: Optional walk, run or cross train 40 min @ RPE 1–2 or Rest
  • Sunday: LONG RUN/WALK 9 miles @ RPE 1–2

Week 4

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: Interval run/walk 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 4 x (1 min @ RPE 4/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Wednesday: Optional walk, run or cross train 45 min @ RPE 1–2 or Rest
  • Thursday: Walk 60 min @ RPE 1–2
  • Friday: Interval run/walk 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 3 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Race Day Half Marathon

 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Rest INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 3 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 OPTIONAL: WALK, RUN or CROSS-TRAIN (30 min @ RPE 1–2) or Rest WALK: 60 min @ RPE 1–2 INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 6 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 OPTIONAL: WALK, RUN or CROSS-TRAIN (35 min @ RPE 1–2) or Rest LONG RUN/WALK: 5 miles @ RPE 1–2
Rest INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 OPTIONAL: WALK, RUN or CROSS-TRAIN (35 min @ RPE 1–2) or Rest WALK: 65 min @ RPE 1–2 INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 6 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 OPTIONAL: WALK, RUN or CROSS-TRAIN (35 min @ RPE 1–2) or Rest LONG RUN/WALK: 7 miles @ RPE 1–2
Rest INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 7 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 OPTIONAL: WALK, RUN or CROSS-TRAIN (40 min @ RPE 1–2) or Rest WALK: 70 min @ RPE 1–2 INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 8 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 OPTIONAL: WALK, RUN or CROSS-TRAIN (40 min @ RPE 1–20 or Rest LONG RUN/WALK: 9 miles @ RPE 1–2
Rest INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 4 x (1 min @ RPE 4/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 OPTIONAL: WALK, RUN or CROSS-TRAIN (45 min @ RPE 1–2) or Rest WALK: 60 min @ RPE 1–2 INTERVAL RUN/WALK: 5 min @ RPE 1 + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 3 x (1 min @ RPE 5/2 min @ RPE 1) + 5 min @ RPE 2 + 5 min @ RPE 1 Rest RACE DAY!