Choosing a half marathon training plan

So you’ve decided to run a half marathon.  Maybe it’s your first, maybe it’s your 100th. Perhaps you want to just finish (without crawling up the hills, my husband’s goal for Knoxville) or maybe you want to PR. Regardless of your level and ability, we all have one goal in common… to cross that finish line! And over the next however-many-months, you will want to build mileage, consider cross & strength training, stretching, hydrating, sleep, rest, recovery… and on and on.  Enter TRAINING PLAN!

Choosing the right training plan is important and although many have commonalities, others have specific focuses. I think the most important thing is to find one that fits YOUR LIFE. If you LOVE to run and have time for high mileage plans, find one that will get you into those peak weeks of 30 miles (we’re talking intermediate half training over here, these mileage goals will vary too!) If you’d rather just do three “quality” runs per week to have time for yoga and cross training, do that (then weekly mileage may be closer to 20-25 at peak weeks). Find something that balances your interests, goals and overall life balance.

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Here are five favorite half marathon intermediate training plans…

  • Capital City Intermediate Plan
    • This one has four runs per week with a peak long run of 13 miles prior to race day. It also has an active recovery day (great for yoga!) and two rest days.  It is 17 weeks, but could be modified down if you are already running.
  • Columbus Running Company
    • This one is similar, with four runs per week and a long run of 12 miles prior to race day.  I like that this one has you taper a bit earlier… I like to feel well rested on race day! One cross train day and two rest days. This one is over 18 weeks (I think?!), but again, can be modified if you are already running. CRC also has weekly group runs & virtual coaching – contact them today!
  • Hal Higdon
    • Higdon is a popularly utilized training option found on the internet. He has a wide variety of intermediate plans ranging from five runs per week to his HM3 plan, with three key runs per week.  Most of Higdon’s plans are 12 weeks. You can find some that are based on mileage (my preference) and others that are based on total run time.
  • Sage Rountree
    • We met Sage at a run+yoga workshop at Go Yoga a couple years ago. She pairs our love of running and yoga, combining the two in her training plans. I’ve not done her half plan, but did follow it for a 10K and was pleased with my finish time! Her plan combines five days of running with one day of yoga and one day of rest. It is a 12 week plan.
  • Coach Jenny Hadfield 
    • I’ve not done this plan, but have heard great things about Coach Hadfield and have listened to some of her podcasts. Jenny’s intermediate plan is 14 weeks and includes four runs per week.

Moral of the story – every runner is different.  Find a plan that works for YOU and tweak as needed.  I’ve personally run 17 half marathons as of this post… so I’ve created my own training plan over time that combines my love of running+yoga, as well as my need for a day of rest here and there. Some races I’ve run for “fun” and I add in more rest, while others have been a PR chase and I added in more mileage and/or speed work. I try for a minimum of three quality runs per week (speed or hills, tempo and long run), but like to add in a 4th day of running when I can.  My peak weeks are around 25 miles, but I make time for 1-2 hours of yoga (sometimes at home, sometimes at a fav local studio), and try for an additional hour of runner specific strength training (LOVE places like Orange Theory Fitness and RISE Fitness Community, combining running+strength). 

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More to come on “using” that training plan in another post! I like to track my workouts in a training log & then tweak training as needed.  Remember to be flexible and “listen to your body” as you plug along through the next 12-17 weeks! 

Disclaimer – these intermediate plans are geared towards runners that have been running for a while and are a bit “seasoned.”  Coach Hadfield states on her site, “The Intermediate Half Marathon Program is best suited for those who have been running at least 3-5 times per week for 45-60 minutes for at least one year and have completed a half marathon in the past year.” If you are running a half for the first time, find a plan that is geared more towards beginners.

So…. what plan do you like? What have you used in the past? We want to know! And good luck this season, we hope to see you out on the trail!

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