When committing to a half-marathon, there are many things for which a runner must plan. Proper footwear, diet and nutrition, and general race day preparations are all instrumental in running thirteen-point-one miles successfully. But, perhaps the most accurate indicator of race day performance is the training schedule itself.
To the novice runner, the need for this may seem confusing; but by having a well-laid plan of attack, one can slowly and safely ease into higher mileage while improving pace, avoiding burn-out, and preventing injuries from running too much too soon, as most newbies mistakenly do. So which half-marathon schedule is the best? The answer is entirely up to the individual.
Novices can benefit greatly from researching half-marathon training schedules that have already been constructed by some of the most well respected runners today. A simple web search of Jeff Galloway or Hal Higdon will lead the curious wannabe half-marathoner to the respective websites where they will find several schedules from which to choose. Depending on individual factors such as current weekly mileage and average pace, the runner may decide to implement one training plan over another. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to training, the upside is that schedules are always customizable.
For example, you may choose to follow Galloway's run-walk-run method, but feel you are able to run longer distances than he suggests for a particular plan. It's okay to modify your calendar as long as you approach the schedule with an honest analysis of your current skill level. However, just because you feel okay running five miles one day, doesn't mean you should be doing so if you only ever run two.
It's widely accepted in the running community to follow the "ten percent rule" which cautions people against running over 10% of the previous week's mileage. This means if you ran 20 miles in Week 1, you should run no more than two additional miles in Week 2. Following this rule, most training schedules call for one "long run" per week which generally increases by one mile until race day. For example, a schedule might show three miles on its first Sunday, four miles the second Sunday, five miles the third Sunday, and so on. Most half-marathon training schedules are 12 weeks in length, although this too can be modified. If race day is five months away, there is certainly no harm in creating a 20 week program.
Whichever program you choose, it's wise to research several options before committing to the first one you find. In addition to the Internet, there exists a wealth of information ranging from books on half-marathons to private running coaches who can assess an individual's skill level and create a plan. Cities with a large community of runners and fitness enthusiasts will commonly be home to free meet-ups or "fun runs" where novices can meet other runners and train together for an upcoming local race. There are several different routes to take when constructing a training schedule whether you're nervously dipping a toe into the pool that is this exciting new world of running or jumping off the deep end. Just be sure that whichever path you take, you exercise caution, listen to your body, heed the experts' advice, and most of all, have fun.