Training strategies for a half marathon

By Lora Erickson, B.S, CES, CPT,

Many runners will tell you that the half marathon distance is the perfect race distance.It’s long enough for a challenge, but short enough to recover from quicker than a marathon.However half marathons take more preparation time than a 5K or 10K, so it is important to keep some things in mind when you are training for one.

Take time to get in shape. It is not wise to enter a race out of shape, and let’s face it, you can really hurt yourself.Running a race unprepared is rarely enjoyable and might prove to be a downright horrible experience souring your feelings towards ever doing one again.To avoid this take the time to get in shape so it can be a great experience that you will want to repeat again.

Training correctly for a half marathon usually takes a number of months; so you can properly build your mileage gradually over time to prevent injury.You’ll find that the average program takes 3 to 5 months to complete even when starting it in pretty good shape.That is running about 15 miles a week consistently.Follow the standard rule increasing 10% of your mileage each week and taking an easy week every three weeks.Allow enough weeks to run one or two long runs consisting of 14 or 15 miles each.This way you will go into the race confident that you can complete the distance.Make sure to incorporate speed work, cross training and strengthening exercises into your routine to keep you strong and injury free.

Train for the race route terrain. Nearly all races have the race route available in advance for you to review and adapt your training. Are there some considerable hills? If so, you will want to add hill repeats into your training plan. Will you be running on loose gravel, a trail, sand, grass or mostly pavement? Most likely there will be a variety of terrain; so practice on various surfaces. This may also effect what shoes you race and train with. You may need to consider altitude differences and add in some high altitude training sessions.

Create a race plan or strategy.Too often runners go into races with no plan in place; no race strategy.Even if you are not out to win it, you should still have a plan.The plan should include, pace variables, and a re-hydration/glucose strategy.Plan out how much water and electrolyte fluid you need to consume at each water stop.Study the map and learn where the water stops will be and what type of carbohydrate sources may be offered.Then practice with the same brand at the same intervals to see how your body tolerates it.Nothing is worse than having to stop and go to the restroom in the middle of a race.Having a plan can also help prevent you for “running out of gas” or “hitting the wall.”

Run your own race.In college, my coaches would often tell me to run my own race, which means to go the pace that I have trained for and not get caught up in the “race,” starting out too fast.It’s important to know your pace and stick to it, follow a plan.By varying your terrain and taking the time to train properly you will find that your half marathon experience will prove to be much more enjoyable.

Lora Erickson is a competitive runner and triathlete with over 24 years of experience. As one of Colorado’s top distance runners, she was heavily recruited by various colleges throughout the US. She graduated from Utah State University where she was honored as an all-conference runner. She is the owner of Blonde Runner Health LLC in Bountiful, Utah where she currently resides with her husband and four children and has been coaching since 1996. She has a true passion for health promotion and welcomes questions and comments. Contact her directly at or visit for more information on coaching and other services available.

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Coach Lora Erickson is an Ironman All-World athlete and certified running and triathlon coach recently competing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Africa in 2018. Lora was born and raised in Colorado and was to run for the University and Utah & Utah State University where she obtained a degree in Community Health Education with duel minors in Chemistry and Nutrition. Coach Lora has a true passion for health promotion and loves to share her experiences. Learn more: About Coach Lora Erickson