Half Marathon Training : Advanced

About the Advanced Program

This Advanced Half Marathon Training Program is for experienced runners: individuals who compete regularly in 5K, 10K, half-marathon and even marathon races and who want to improve their performances. Each day, Hal will send you an email message telling you what to run and offering a tip about training.

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Interactive program available on

At a glance


Author: Hal Higdon

Length: 12 Weeks

Typical Week: 6 Run, 1 Day Off, 2 Strength

Longest Workout: 2 hours

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
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Hal on his Advanced Program

HALF MARATHON ADVANCED IS FOR VERY EXPERIENCED RUNNERS: individuals who compete regularly in 5K, 10K, half-marathon and even marathon races and who want to improve their performances. You should be capable of running 30 to 60 minutes a day, five to seven days a week and have a basic understanding of how to do speedwork. If that sounds like too much training, and this is your first half marathon, you might be more comfortable training using either one of the novice programs or the intermediate programs.

Easy Runs: The runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and sometimes Fridays or Saturdays are designed to be done at a comfortable pace. Don’t worry about how fast you run these workouts. Run easy! If you’re training with a friend, the two of you should be able to hold a conversation. If you can’t do that, you’re running too fast. (For those wearing heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum pulse rate.)

Stretch & Strength: Mondays and Wednesdays are also days on which I advise you to spend extra time stretching–and do some strength training too. These are actually “easy” days, so don’t overdo it. It’s wise to stretch every day, particularly after you finish your run, but spend more time stretching on Mondays and Wednesdays. And don’t forget to stretch while warming up for your hard runs. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough: Advanced runners need to spend more time stretching than novice or intermediate runners! That’s because you probably run faster and train harder, which can stiffen the body. And don’t forget at least some strength training, which could consist of push-ups, pull-ups, use of free weights or working out with various machines at a health club. Runners generally benefit if they combine light weights with a high number of repetitions, rather than pumping very heavy iron.

Distance: The training schedule dictates workouts at distances, from 3 miles to two hours, the latter which (depending on your ability) may actually take you further than your half marathon race distance. Don’t worry about running precise distances, but you should come close. Pick a course through the neighborhood, or in some scenic area where you think you might enjoy running. Then measure the course by your GPS watch. As an advanced runner, you probably already know the distances of many of your courses. When the prescribed workout (as on Sundays) is in hours rather than miles, forget distance entirely.

Rest: Rest is as important a part of your training as the runs. You will be able to run the long runs on the weekend better–and limit your risk of injury–if you program some easy training before and after. Be realistic about your fatigue level–particularly in the closing weeks of the program–and don’t be afraid to take a day off.

Hills: Some hill training will help strengthen your quads and build speed. Look for a hill between 200 and 400 meters long. Jog or walk an equal distance between each repeat. I prescribed only three hill sessions, all in the first half of the program, but if you want to do more hill training, be my guest. You can substitute hill repeats for any of the interval workouts, or even in place of a Tempo Run or two if you want.

Speedwork: If you want to race at a fast pace, you need to train at a fast pace several days a week. The training schedule begins with 400-meter repeats, but also includes 800- and 1600-meter repeats in later weeks. Walk or jog between each repeat. You can do the 400 and 800 repeats on a track, although you may want to do the 1600 (mile) repeats on the road. For more information on speed training, see my book, Run Fast.

Warm-up: Warming up is important, not only before the race itself, but before your speed workouts above and pace workouts below. Most novice runners do not warm up, except in the race itself. This is okay, because they’re more interested in finishing rather than finishing fast. You have a different goal, otherwise you wouldn’t be using the Advanced program, so warm up before you run fast. My usual warm-up is to jog a mile or two, sit down and stretch for 5-10 minutes, then run some easy strides (100 meters at near race pace). And I usually cool down afterwards by doing half the warm-up distance.

Tempo Runs: This is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. A Tempo Run of 40 to 60 minutes would begin with 10-20 minutes easy running, then accelerate gradually for 20-30 minutes near the middle, then 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace buildup should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed coming about two-thirds into the workout. Hold that peak only for a minute or two. I consider Tempo Runs to be the “Thinking Runner’s Workout.” A Tempo Run can be as hard or easy as you want to make it, and it has nothing to do with how long (in time) you run or how far. In fact, the times prescribed for Tempo Runs serve mainly as rough guidelines. Feel free to improvise. Improvisation is the heart of doing a Tempo Run correctly.

Pace: A lot of runners look at my training schedules and ask, “What do you mean by ‘pace?'” I mean “race pace,” the pace at which you expect to run the half marathon. Some workouts are designed as pace runs to get you used to running the pace you will run in the race. In Week 10, for example, I ask you to do “5 m pace.” Hopefully that is self-explanatory. You might want to do a short warm-up before starting each of these pace runs.

Long Runs: As an experienced runner, you probably already do a long run of around 60-90 minutes on the weekends anyway. The schedule suggests a slight increase in time as you get closer to race date: from 90 minutes to 1:45 to two hours. Don’t get hung up on running these workouts too fast; forget also about how many miles you cover. And, yes, you may actually find yourself running further than 13.1 miles when you run two hours. Run at a comfortable, conversational pace, except on those days where a 3/1 run is prescribed. A 3/1 run is one in which you run the first three-fourths of the distance at a comfortable pace, then accelerate to near race pace over the last one quarter of the workout. (You should finish refreshed, not fatigued.) The schedule below suggests doing your long runs on Sundays, and while you can do them Saturdays or any other convenient day, you will generally find it easier to run the long runs the day after the pace runs instead of vice versa.

Cross-Train: Normally I don’t prescribe cross-training for advanced runners. That’s because you’re usually more focused on pure running than novice or intermediate runners. But if you find that cross-training helps you prevent injuries, or if you enjoy it, feel free to substitute cross-training on one or more of the easy days. Notice I used the word substitute. Usually it’s not a good idea to add cross-training, particularly hard cross-training, to an existing workout under the mistaken belief that it will make you stronger. It may actually cause you to overtrain, which can have a negative effect on performance, because you never get a chance to rest. What form of cross-training works best? It could be swimming, cycling, walking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or even some combination that could include strength training.

Juggling: Don’t be afraid to juggle the workouts from day to day and week to week. If you have an important business meeting on Thursday, do that workout on Wednesday instead. If your family is going to be on vacation one week when you will have more or less time to train, adjust the schedule accordingly. If this means running hard on successive days, so be it. Program in an extra day of rest to compensate. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter.

Racing: Most experienced runners enjoy racing, so I’ve included three races during the training period: one every third week, building from 5-K to 10-K to 15-K. There is nothing magic about those particular distances, and there is no necessity to race. Plug in whatever races look interesting from your local area wherever they fit in your schedule. (See “Juggling,” above.) You can use races to test your fitness and predict your finishing time in the half marathon and what pace to run that race.

Here is your half marathon training program. It is only a guide. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your own particular schedule. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your work and family schedule. Also, consider signing up for the interactive persion of this program available from TrainingPeaks for more detailed information on what to run each day and tips for your training.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 3 mi run 6 x hill 3 mi run 40 min tempo Rest 3 mi run 90 min run (3/1)
2 3 mi run 7 x 400 5-K pace 3 mi run 45 min tempo Rest 3 mi pace 90 min run
3 3 mi run 7 x hill 3 mi run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 5-K Race
4 3 mi run 8 x 400 5-K pace 3 mi run 40 min tempo Rest 3 mi run 90 min run (3/1)
5 3 mi run 8 x hill 3 mi run 45 min tempo Rest 3 mi pace 90 min run
6 3 mi run 8 x 400 5-K pace 3 mi run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 10-K Race
7 3 mi run 4 x 800 10-K pace 3 mi run 45 min tempo Rest 4 mi pace 1:45 run (3/1)
8 3 mi run 3 x 1600 race pace 3 mi run 50 min tempo Rest 5 mi pace 1:45 run
9 3 mi run 5 x 800 10-K pace 3 mi run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 15-K Race
10 3 mi run 4 x 1600 race pace 3 mi run 55 min tempo Rest 5 mi pace 2:00 run (3/1)
11 3 mi run 6 x 800 10-K pace 3 mi run 60 min tempo Rest 3 mi pace 2:00 run
12 3 mi run 6 x 400 5-K pace 2 mi run 30 min tempo Rest Rest Half Marathon
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 4.8 km run 6 x hill 4.8 km run 40 min tempo Rest 4.8 km run 90 min run (3/1)
2 4.8 km run 7 x 400 5-K pace 4.8 km run 45 min tempo Rest 4.8 km pace 90 min run
3 4.8 km run 7 x hill 4.8 km run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 5-K Race
4 4.8 km run 8 x 400 5-K pace 4.8 km run 40 min tempo Rest 4.8 km run 90 min run (3/1)
5 4.8 km run 8 x hill 4.8 km run 45 min tempo Rest 4.8 km pace 90 min run
6 4.8 km run 8 x 400 5-K pace 4.8 km run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 10-K Race
7 4.8 km run 4 x 800 10-K pace 4.8 km run 45 min tempo Rest 6.4 km pace 1:45 run (3/1)
8 4.8 km run 3 x 1600 race pace 4.8 km run 50 min tempo Rest 8.1 km pace 1:45 run
9 4.8 km run 5 x 800 10-K pace 4.8 km run 30 min tempo Rest or easy run Rest 15-K Race
10 4.8 km run 4 x 1600 race pace 4.8 km run 55 min tempo Rest 8.1 km pace 2:00 run (3/1)
11 4.8 km run 6 x 800 10-K pace 4.8 km run 60 min tempo Rest 4.8 km pace 2:00 run
12 4.8 km run 6 x 400 5-K pace 3.2 km run 30 min tempo Rest Rest Half Marathon

Reviews

First Timer

October 25, 2018

I used to run with no aim or training for years. After several personal issues I stopped overall and gained 50 lbs in a few years. After doing some cardio and eat better, I started running again. Shortly after I started to use Higdon’s half marathon training. At the age of 53, I lost 50 lbs, ran a 10 miler and just completed my first half marathon (2 hrs). I’m going to continue to use the trainings to run 2-3 half marathons next year. Thank you so much Hal Higdon.

Ed

Qualified for NYC Marathon with Hal's advanced plan

October 7, 2018

Came back from a lengthy nasty injury (all rusty at the point), Preparing for a half marathon trying to get qualified for NYC Marathon (which BTW is more difficult to do than BQ). Followed Hal’s Advanced plan and I got my wish granted this morning. 5 years ago I also follow Hal’s Advanced Marathon plan and got qualified for Boston on my 1st attempt. (2nd marathon)

Eric L

Nice training program

August 22, 2018

Used this on my 2nd half marathon (I’ve done other races + marathon), shaved over 10 minutes off my time just 3 months before it when I used the intermediate plan. I ran a little further than the 2 hour prescribed as I’m not SUPER fast and wanted to get to 14-15 miles a few weeks which I figured some others would do. I think the additional days of short easy runs really help any lactic acid build up and keep you going as opposed to less frequent runs and adding in cross training.

JD

Response from Hal Higdon

JD, thank you for the review. Stride on!

this plan worked

August 15, 2018

I used this plan to train for a half marathon. I set my race pace as 6 min/mile and ran the race at exactly that pace with splits all within a second or two of 6 minutes. I really can’t give a better endorsement than that.

Ryan

Response from Hal Higdon

Glad to hear the plan worked for you, Ryan. Thanks for the review!

Hal Higdon Goes Way Beyond Just Training Plans

August 7, 2018

I’m 68-years ‘young’ – started running at 40.. first 2 marathons at ages 45, 46. Trained with Hal’s Marathon Intermediate Training Plans.. I’ve had success with Personal Coaching as well as various online or training plans from other coaches books. I’m now in my 7th week of Hal’s Advanced Half Marathon Training and it’s going quite well! His philosophy is spot-on: Easy, moderate, harder ( speed work, Tempo days; cross-training and strength training. I’m injury-free and feeling good! In fact, Hal throws in a few shorter- distance races in this plan which keeps me ‘on my toes.’ His breadth of knowledge and his experience as an Elite Runner- and the fact that he knows how to ‘talk to us runners’ without hype and making things complicated- is why I’m crazy about Hal Higdon.

Barb Broad

Response from Hal Higdon

Thank you, Barb. Good luck with your ongoing training!

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