It’s common to experience some anxiety over your first 13.1. To help you proceed calmly and successfully, we tapped experts in the Runner's World Challenge to provide a training plan that gradually builds your endurance and confidence over 10 weeks. We also asked experienced coaches with years of guiding newbies to the finish line to answer your training concerns. Chill. You're in good hands.
Q: When am I ready for a half?
A: If you've been running three miles three or four times a week for six months, you're ready to start training for a half. This "base" means your legs are strong enough to begin increasing mileage.
Not sure if half-marathon training is for you? Try this two-week jumpstart plan and find out!
Q: How do I follow the half-marathon training plan?
A: As closely as possible. However, you can rearrange weekly runs to suit your schedule. Just allow for proper recovery time the day after long runs and tempo runs—rest or do light cross-training, says James Staten, a San Francisco-area Team in Training coach. (Search: How does cross-training make me a stronger runner?)
Q: I like walk breaks. Is that okay, and how should I do them?
A: Sure. Start by taking walk breaks from the beginning of every run, rather than waiting until you're tired. Experiment with different run/walk ratios—like running two minutes, walking one minute. Increase your run time as you get stronger.
Q: How fast should I run?
A: With our training plan, you'll do easy runs, long runs, and tempo runs. If you've run a race in the past six months, you can find out how slow or fast to do each by plugging your time into a calculator at runnersworld.com/trainingcalculator. If you haven't raced, run a mile as fast as you can. Plug your time into the calculator. Click on "Training Paces" to determine how fast to run all workouts in our plan.
Q: What if I need more than one day of rest after a long run?
A: Take it! Do some strength training and stretching on that second day off, says Lori McGee-Koch, head running coach for Chicago Endurance Sports. But a few simple adjustments to your long run may banish that fatigue. "Slow down by 30 seconds per mile, take in more protein afterward, or drink more before and during long runs," says McGee-Koch.
Q: How can I distinguish between pain I can ignore and pain I should worry about?
A: "If it's an ache that subsides within 10 minutes of a run and disappears after a day or two, you're probably okay," says Staten. But if it's a sharp pain that forces you to change your form, call it a day. If it persists for a couple days, see a doc.
Q: Is a 10:00 mile pace on the treadmill the same effort as 10:00 pace outdoors?
A: No. "There's no wind resistance indoors," says McGee-Koch. "And treadmills are smoother and demand less effort than outdoor surfaces, so it makes running easier." Set the 'mill to a 1.0 to 1.5 percent incline to equalize the effort.
Video: Reaching the finish