Half Marathon Training : Novice 2

About the Novice 2 Program

Half Marathon Novice 2 fills the gap between the former Novice (now Novice 1) half marathon program and the Intermediate programs. Novice 1 targets beginners. These are new runners who have only begun to train. The Intermediate program serves more experienced runners, those who have raced several half marathons and/or full marathons. Take a look at all three programs before you buy and see which group you might fit into best.

This Novice 2 half marathon program is very similar to the Novice 2 program for the full marathon. The pattern is the same. Fridays and Mondays are rest days surrounding the harder weekend workouts: long runs on Saturdays, cross training on Sundays. The midweek workouts on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays also mimic the pattern of my novice marathon programs. One difference between Novice 1 and Novice 2 is that the latter prescribes some running at race pace midweek. Every day, Hal will send you emails telling you what to run that day and offering tips on training.

Never before has training for a half marathon been easier.

Interactive program available on

At a glance

Author: Hal Higdon

Length: 12 Weeks

Typical Week: 2 Day Off, 4 Run, 1 X-Train

Longest Workout: 12 miles

What do I get?

  • Stay motivated for the half marathon with daily tips from Hal in your inbox
  • Monitor your progress within TrainingPeaks’ online tools, apps, and wearable integrations
  • Access charts and graphs to understand training load
  • Tap into TrainingPeaks experience

Hal on his Novice 2 Program

Welcome to my Novice 2 Program for Half-Marathon runners. The difference between Novice 1 and Novice 2 is that Novice 1 is for new runners, newbies, those just entering the sport. Novice 2 is aimed at more experienced runners, who may have run half marathons and even full marathons, but who appreciate a gentle approach to training. Much more information is contained in my new book, Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training, available from Human Kinetics.

Here is Half Marathon Novice 2. Below are directions on how the program works. (For more detailed directions on how to train using Novice 2, sign up for the interactive version available through TrainingPeaks, where I send you daily emails telling you what to run.

Long runs: The key to the program is the long run, which builds from 4 miles in Week 1 to 12 miles in the climactic Week 11. (After that, you taper a week to arrive at the half marathon well rested.) You can skip an occasional workout, or juggle the schedule depending on other commitments, but do not cheat on the long runs. Although the schedule suggests long runs on Saturdays, you can switch to Sundays or even other days of the week to suit your schedule.

Run slow: For experienced runners, I recommend that they do their long runs anywhere from 30 to 90 or more seconds per mile slower than their half marathon pace. Run at a comfortable pace, one that allows you to converse with your training partners, at least during the beginning of the run. Toward the end, you may need to abandon conversation and concentrate on finishing with good form. Or, if you paced yourself properly, pick up the pace and finish strong. The important point is that you cover the prescribed distance; how fast you cover it doesn’t matter.

Walking breaks: Walking is a perfectly acceptable strategy in trying to finish a half marathon. It works during training runs too. While some coaches recommend walking at prescribed points, I suggest that runners walk when they come to an aid station. This serves a double function: 1) you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running, and 2) since many other runners slow or walk through aid stations, you’ll be less likely to collide with someone. It’s a good idea to follow this strategy in training as well.

Cross-training: Sundays in this training program are devoted to cross-training, an hour each time although you do not need to do exactly 60 minutes. What is cross-training? It is any other form of aerobic exercise that allows you to use slightly different muscles the day after your long run. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or even walking, aerobic exercises. One tip: You don’t have to cross-train the same each weekend. And you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and easy jogging or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a health club. Cross-training for an hour on Sunday will help you recover after your Saturday long runs.

Midweek training: Training during the week also should be done at a comparatively easy pace. As the weekend mileage builds, the Tuesday and Thursday mileage stays the same: 3 miles. Run these miles at a comfortable, pace. Don’t get trapped by numbers. Listen to your body signals as much as the signals coming from your GPS watch. Wednesdays feature a mini-build-up from 3 to 5 miles with some of those workouts done at race pace. If you strength train, Tuesdays and Thursdays would be the best days to combine lifting with running. Usually it’s a good idea to run before you lift rather than the reverse.

Pace: What do I mean by “pace” in the chart below. I mean race pace. Race pace is the pace you plan to run in the race you’re training for. If you’re training for a 2:00 half marathon, your average pace per mile is 9:09. So you would run that same pace when asked to run race pace. If you were training for a 5-K or 10-K, “race pace” would be the pace you planned to run in those races.

Races: I suggest running a 5-K in Week 6 and a 10-K in Week 9. Consider races as an “option.” Doing at least some racing in a training program can be a valuable experience, because you can to determine your level of fitness and predict how fast you might run in your goal race (using various prediction charts on the Internet). But too much racing can wear you out and distract from your training, so embrace this option cautiously. Finally, there is nothing magic about 5-K or 10-K as distances or Week 6 or Week 9 for when to race. Seek races in your area convenient to your schedule.

Rest: Scientists say that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. You can’t run hard unless you are well rested. If you’re constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential. This is why I include two days of rest each week for Novice 2 runners. If you need to take more rest days–because of a cold or a late night at the office or a sick child–do so. The secret to success in any training program is consistency.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 Rest 3 m run 3 m run 3 m run Rest 4 m run 60 min cross
2 Rest 3 m run 3 m pace 3 m run Rest 5 m run 60 min cross
3 Rest 3 m run 4 m run 3 m run Rest 6 m run 60 min cross
4 Rest 3 m run 4 m pace 3 m run Rest 7 m run 60 min cross
5 Rest 3 m run 4 m run 3 m run Rest 8 m run 60 min cross
6 Rest 3 m run 4 m pace 3 m run Rest 5-K Race 60 min cross
7 Rest 3 m run 5 m run 3 m run Rest 9 m run 60 min cross
8 Rest 3 m run 5 m pace 3 m run Rest 10 m run 60 min cross
9 Rest 3 m run 5 m run 3 m run Rest 10-K Race 60 min cross
10 Rest 3 m run 5 m pace 3 m run Rest 11 m run 60 min cross
11 Rest 3 m run 5 m run 3 m run Rest 12 m run 60 min cross
12 Rest 3 m run 2 m pace 2 m run Rest Rest Half Marathon