12-Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners

Group of people running a half-marathon on the road

Training for a Half Marathon in 12 Weeks

Training for your first half marathon takes motivation, commitment, and patience. Without proper preparation and a good half marathon training plan, you risk early burnout and possible injury. As a beginner, you can train for a half marathon in as little as 12 weeks using the following preparation tips, a sample schedule, and PowerStep® PULSE® running insoles.

Woman placing orange running insole into black shoe

How Long Should You Train for a Half Marathon?

Most beginner level half marathon training plans take 12 to 16 weeks to complete. This is how long it normally takes to train for a half marathon race. This gives you enough time to build endurance and adapt your body and mind to long distance running. Of course, some runners might need more time if they have busy schedules, which you can read more about below.

13.1 miles in one day is a long distance for first time runners, which is why you should have prior training before starting this program. Ideally, you should already be running about 10 miles or more a week. Otherwise, consider trying our Couch to 5k training plan for first time runners.

Before You Begin

Before taking on any strenuous workout, talk to your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough for that activity. This is especially important for those over the age of 40 who want to begin running sports.

Group of people running a half marathon outside

Once cleared, go outside for a short run so you can assess your current fitness level. Run for about 30 seconds, then break for a walk and see how you feel. Do not run until you are too exhausted to keep going, as this might give you the wrong idea and may cause injury. Adjust your run-walk intervals to find the most comfortable combination.

What You Need to Train for a Half Marathon

The right gear and healthy running habits help new runners avoid foot pain and prevent injuries, maintain their motivation, and stay confident while working towards their goal. Here are some things you keep in mind as you begin training for your first half marathon:

  • Wear Running Shoes – Invest in a good pair of running shoes that properly fit your feet and have enough cushioning to help absorb the impact of your feet hitting the ground. Your running shoes should fit your arch height. For help getting fitted for the right shoe, use our store finder for a running store near you.
  • Have Quality Running Insoles – Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner, PULSE insoles are the best running insoles for help relieving pain and preventing injury. They have shock absorbing cushioning, arch support, and a stabilizing heel cradle to help reduce fatigue, improve motion control, and enhance your stride.
  • Wear the Right Clothes – The clothing you wear while running should be weather appropriate, whether that’s joggers in the winter or shorts in the summer. Consider also wearing the same clothes you wear on your longest run of the week on race day.
  • Drink Enough Water - Hydration is a runner’s best friend be it water or the occasional sports drink. Drink plenty of water during and after your run as it’s important for muscle health, performance, injury prevention, and endurance especially when running long distances.
  • Eat Right - A healthy runner’s diet consists largely of carbs while avoiding processed sugars. This is followed by protein and healthy fats. Because food is fuel for the body and mind, aim for nutritious foods that provide energy.
  • Stretch Properly – Whether you’re warming up, cooling down, or taking an active rest day, it’s important to have a good stretch routine when training for a half marathon. Stretches for your feet, legs, lower, and upper body can reduce your risk of injury and improve performance.

Black bag full of a water bottle, jacket, orange shoe insoles and pain relief cream

Listen to Your Body

One of the most essential tips to learn before running a half marathon is to listen to your body. Like any workout, some muscle soreness is expected. This can easily be helped with a topical pain reliever. However, nagging aches and pains that get worse or cause you to change how you walk or run can cause injury. Knee injuries, shin splints, and ankle pain are common beginner injuries you can prevent. If you feel pain during training, stop and wait to continue until after you’ve healed.

12 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule

The 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners consists of five active days and two rest days. Active days include running at intervals, a long run that recreates race conditions, and cross-training. Normal runs help you condition your body and find your pacing while long runs prepare your mind for long distance running.

Of course, you can alter which days you run and rest according to a schedule that fits your lifestyle. Along with making time to warm up and stretch your feet and legs before every run, here is an example half marathon training schedule by PowerStep:

12 week beginner training schedule for a half marathon

Easy & Normal Runs

Most of your training days are spent running at different intervals, whether it’s an easy run at a comfortable pace, or a moderately paced normal run that includes walking breaks, speed work, and uphill training. In cold weather, you can always run on a treadmill. This also helps you discover your exact pacing.

Person running on a treadmill indoors

Long Runs

Schedule your long runs for the same day of the week as race day. Long runs are for distance more than speed since they help you build mileage and endurance overtime. Keep a conversational pace and use your breathing as a guide. You can run faster at race speed for the last quarter of your long run distance. 

Cross Training & Strength Training

30 minutes of cross training or strength training help strengthen supporting muscle groups, improving your endurance and minimizing risk of injury. Consider sports like swimming, yoga, and cycling, or try building strength through bodyweight exercises and weightlifting. These can also be treated as forms of active recovery.

Man performing weighted exercises on mat on gym floor

Rest Days & Recovery

Rest days are crucial to a good half marathon training plan. Taking a couple days off running every week gives your joints and muscles the rest they need to recoup and build strength. This is critical for preventing injuries, as a tired body often makes more mistakes. Still taking time to stretch and warm up on your rest days, however, helps keep you flexible and active.

Walking Breaks

When your body says walk, take a walk. Trying to maintain a pace that is too fast or a distance that is too exhausting can get you hurt and may even hinder your new love for running. Consider slowing down or using run/walk intervals. Walking is beneficial to runners, since it helps you watch your pacing, promotes recovery during activity, and can help reset your form. 

Woman taking a walking break while running on a bridge outside

What If You Need More Time?

There are many half marathon training plans available online and through mobile apps. If you feel 12 weeks is not enough time for you to be at your best by race day, feel free to extend your training a few more weeks and repeat the schedule as necessary. You might try a longer plan, too, or attempt a run/walk interval plan like the Couch to 5K program.

Be sure to schedule your first half-marathon well before you even begin your training, as this will give you plenty of time to prepare. Never push yourself too hard or rush into a training program you aren’t ready for. Remember, the goal for beginners is to complete, not compete, so get out there and have fun with your training.

PowerStep PULSE: The Best Running Insoles for A Half-Marathon

Man placing orange running shoe insole into gray shoe

Designed by runners for runners, make PULSE your favorite running shoe insole as you train for your first 13.1 mile distance run. With premium foam that absorbs shock and bounces back for a more efficient stride, the PULSE series is your trusted insole for a better run every run. Featuring the trusted PowerStep arch shape, PULSE gives you the support you need to prevent injury and keep moving. 

Browse our site for your perfect running insole including options for every runner whether you have overpronation, ball of foot pain, low profile shoes, or arch pain.