Training

This Half Marathon Training Plan Can Work for Every Runner’s Schedule

Whether you prefer to run three days a week or up to six, you'll be ready to toe the line in 12 weeks.

Life can be chaotic. Juggling work, friends, kids, chores, and any other number of unforeseen surprises makes sticking to a strict half marathon training plan tough. We all have occasions when we miss a run, thanks to a business trip or a sick four-year-old. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a training plan that ebbs and flows with your life, rather than forcing your life to fit into it?

If flexibility sounds appealing, this half marathon training plan is for you. Think of it as the “Choose Your Own Adventure” of training plans: You can create a personalized path to success by taking into account your lifestyle and running experience. Whether you have as few as three or as many as six days per week to devote to training, this plan will get you to the finish line.

Although this flexible plan requires no prior half marathon experience, there are a few prerequisites. You should have a foundation of at least six months of consistent running (three or more times a week), and you should be able to comfortably complete a 6-mile run. Experience with some faster-paced running is helpful but not vital.

The “Weekly Pattern Guide” will help you adapt your training, depending on how many days you can commit. The beginner or time-strapped runner can stick with three days a week or add a fourth easy day when workable. A more seasoned runner can choose to run four to six days per week and use the higher end of ranges given for miles or repeats. You can cut back during weeks when life gets in the way or when your body is calling out for some extra rest.

RELATED: 3 Training Ingredients for Your Fastest Half Marathon

Half Marathon Training Workout Key

Before you get started putting together your perfect plan, get to know the terms we’ll be working with in the workout key below.

Easy (E): The goal is to comfortably cover the distance at a  conversational effort. There is no need to push this workout.

Fartlek (F): Start these workouts with a 10-minute warm-up. Once warm, launch into your first interval at a medium-to-hard effort (H), where breathing is heavy. Between intervals, jog for the amount  indicated as easy (E) for recovery. Repeat as listed, choosing the amount of intervals that coincides with your level. Use the remaining distance as a cool-down to roughly total the mileage that is assigned.

Long Run (LR): These endurance-building miles are run at a relaxed pace, where conversation can easily flow and breathing is in control. Find terrain similar to what you expect to encounter on race day. The more seasoned runner can add in the strong finishes and race-pace miles as specified.

Race Pace (RP): This is the pace you expect to run on race day. If you are unsure, or your goal is just to finish, simply eliminate this as an option.

Strong Finish (SF): As you near the end of your long run, finish by picking up the pace slightly for the distance indicated. SF pace should not be too fast. Usually a notch or two up from your current long run pace will do. This usually equates to 15 to 30 seconds per mile faster.

Tempo (T): Tempo pace is that sweet spot where you are working but feel you could hold pace for quite a while. Your breathing will be more labored and your focus more acute.

Cross-training (XT): Each week includes the option to incorporate some low or non-impact exercise into the mix. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes. You can opt for an active recovery workout, like easy spinning or swimming, or use this time to work on areas that running neglects, like core and upper-body strength.

Off: You can’t train hard if you aren’t rested. If you are a six-day runner, make sure at least one day a week includes no strenuous activity.

The Flexible Weekly Pattern Guide

This is where you’ll start building out a pattern for your week, depending on the number of days you can work out. One pro tip: Avoid scheduling your focus run and long run back-to-back to give your body a break.

3 days of running:

Day 1: Focus Run 1
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Easy or XT
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Long Run
Day 7: Off

4 days of running:

Day 1: Focus Run 1
Day 2: Off
Day 3: Focus Run 2
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Easy or XT
Day 6: Long Run
Day 7: Off

5 days of running:

Day 1: Focus Run 1
Day 2: Easy or XT
Day 3: Focus Run 2
Day 4: Off
Day 5: Easy Or XT
Day 6: Long Run
Day 7: Off

6 days of running:

Day 1: Focus Run 1
Day 2: Easy or XT
Day 3: Focus Run 2
Day 4: Easy or XT
Day 5: Off
Day 6: Long Run
Day 7: Easy or XT

Mixed race woman drinking water during half marathon training
Photo: Getty Images

The Half Marathon Training Plan

Now that you know what your training schedule will be based on how many days you have available to run, you can start folding in specific training marks for each week. Just pull up your calendar and start making note of what you’ll need to get done in the next 12 weeks.

Week 1

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 1 mile RP + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 4 miles F + 4-6 x (1 min H + 2 min E)
Long Run: 6-8 miles LR w/0.5 mile SF
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 3-4 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 2-3 miles E

Week 2

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 2 mile RP + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 5 miles F + 6-8 x (1 min H + 2 min E)
Long Run: 7-9 miles LR w/0.5 mile SF
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 4-5 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 2-3 miles E

Week 3

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 1 mile T + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 5 miles F + 4-6 x (2 min H + 2 min E)
Long Run: 9-11 miles LR w/3 mile RP in the middle
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 4-6 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 2-3 miles E

Week 4

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 5 miles E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 4 miles E
Long Run: 6-8 miles LR w/0.5 mile SF
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 3-4 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 2-3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 2-4 miles E

Week 5

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 1.5-2 mile T + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 5 miles F + 6-8 x (2 min H + 2 min E)
Long Run: 10-12 miles LR
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 4-5 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 2-4 miles E

Week 6

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 2-2.5 mile RP + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 6 miles F + 4-6 x (1 min H + 1 min E)
Long Run: 8-10 miles LR w/5 mile RP in the middle
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 4-5 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3-4 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 3 miles E

Week 7

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 6 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 4-5 E
Long Run: 12-14 miles LR
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 4 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 3-4 miles E

Week 8

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 2.5-3 mile T + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 6-7 miles F + 6-8 x (1 min H + 1 min E)
Long Run: 13-15 miles LR w/1 mile SF
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 5-6 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3-4 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 3-4 miles E

Week 9

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 3-4 mile RP + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 6 miles F + 8-10 x (2 min H + 1-2 min E)
Long Run: 10-12 miles LR
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 5-6 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 4 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 3 miles E

Week 10

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 2 mile T + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 5-6 mile E
Long Run: 8-10 miles LR w/0.5 mile SF
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 4-5 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 3 miles E

Week 11

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 2 mile RP + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 4 miles F + 2 x (2 min H + 2 min E) + 2 x (1 min H + 1 min E)
Long Run: 6-8 miles LR
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 3-4 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): 3 miles E
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 3 miles E

Week 12

Focus Run 1 (Stamina): 1 mile E + 1 mile RP + 1 mile E
Focus Run 2 (Speed): 3-4 miles F + 2-4 x (1 min H + 2 min E)
Long Run: Race 13.1 miles
Easy Run 1 (Endurance): 3 miles E
Easy Run 2 (Recovery): Rest
Easy Run 3 (Recovery): 2 miles E

RELATED: How to Recover When Your Training Plan Goes Off the Rails

Of course, the end of your half marathon training should result in the race day you’ve been planning for. Throughout the process you’ll discover which parts of this flexible plan work for you and what will need to be tweaked next time around.