About the Novice 1 Program
The Novice 1 program is designed for beginning runners who want to prepare for their first 13.1-mile race. If you have run several half or full marathons before, you might want to take a look at the Novice 2 half marathon program, which is designed for more experienced runner. First-timer? This is the program for you. In choosing the half marathon, you are choosing the most popular race distance in America. According to Running USA, 2 million runners did a half marathon last year. That is four times the number of the half million who ran full marathons. If your long-range goal is 26.2 miles, a 13.1 mile race offers a good starting point. Or if 13.1 is more than enough race mileage with no desires to go 26.2 (at least for now), you have discovered one of our most gentle training programs. If you can handle the 3-to-4-mile runs prescribed in Week 1, this program will get you ready to run 13.1 week at the end of 12 weeks.
At a glanceAuthor: Hal Higdon Length: 12 Weeks Typical Week: 2 Day Off, 4 Run, 2 X-Train, 1 Strength Longest Workout: 10 miles
Run With Hal appFor runners who want personalized year-round training, using the Higdon method.
- Start training for free — or upgrade to Hal+ to fully customize your plan
- Track your progress with personal stats and charts
- Record your runs with GPS (Hal+ only)
- Hal adapts to your goals, performance, and schedule (Hal+ only)
- Train for multiple races at once (Hal+ only)
Interactive Novice 1 programFor runners who want the same time-tested Hal Higdon training plans.
- Stay motivated for the marathon with daily tips from Hal in your inbox
- View and manage your calendar
- Monitor your progress within TrainingPeaks’ online tools and apps
- Access charts and graphs to understand training load
- Tap into TrainingPeaks experience
Hal on his Novice 1 Program
Before starting to train for a half marathon, you need to possess a basic fitness level. But assuming no major problems, most healthy people can train themselves to complete a 13.1-mile race. This guide will tell you how. Much more information is contained in my book, Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training, published by Human Kinetics.
The following schedule assumes you have the ability to run 3 miles, three to four times a week. If that seems difficult, consider a shorter distance for your first race.
The terms used in the training schedule are somewhat obvious, but let me explain what I mean anyway.
Pace: Don’t worry about how fast you run your regular workouts. Run at a comfortable pace, a conversational pace. 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.)
Distance: The training schedule dictates workouts at distances, from 3 to 10 miles. Don’t worry about running precisely those distances, but you should come close. Pick a course through the neighborhood, or in some scenic area. In deciding where to train, talk to other runners. GPS watches make measuring courses easy.
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 if you rest before, and rest after.
Long Runs: The key to half marathon training is the long run, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. Over a period of 12 weeks, your longest run will increase from 3 to 10 miles. Then, after a brief taper, you jump to 13.1. The schedule below suggests doing your long runs on Sundays, but you can do them Saturdays, or any other convenient day.
Cross-Train: On the schedule below, this is identified simply as “cross.” What form of cross-training? Aerobic exercises work best. It could be swimming, cycling, walking (see below), cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or even some combination that could include strength training. Cross train on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays. Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week.
Walking: Walking is an excellent exercise that a lot of runners overlook in their training. I don’t specify walking breaks, but feel free to walk during your running workouts any time you feel tired. Be aware that I also offer a separate half marathon training program for those who plan to walk all the way.
Strength Training: If you never have lifted weights before, now might not be the best time to start. Wait until after completing this program. If you are an experienced lifter, continue, although you may want to cut back somewhat as the mileage builds near the end. Tuesdays and Thursdays after your run would be good days on which to lift.
Racing: Consider doing a couple of races to familiarize yourself with the sport. I have suggested a 5-K race at the end of Week 6 and a 10-K race at the end of Week 9. If you can’t find races at those distances on the weeks suggested, feel free to modify the schedule.
Juggling: Don’t be afraid to juggle the workouts from day to day and week to week. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter.
Running 13.1 miles is not easy. If it were easy, there would be little challenge to an event such as the half marathon. Whether you plan your half as a singular accomplishment or as a stepping stone to the even more challenging full marathon, crossing the finish line will give you a feeling of great accomplishment. Good luck with your training.
|1||Rest||3 mi run||2 mi run or cross||3 mi run||Rest||30 min cross||4 mi run|
|2||Rest||3 mi run||2 mi run or cross||3 mi run||Rest||30 min cross||4 mi run|
|3||Rest||3.5 mi run||2 mi run or cross||3.5 mi run||Rest||40 min cross||5 mi run|
|4||Rest||3.5 mi run||2 mi run or cross||3.5 mi run||Rest||40 min cross||5 mi run|
|5||Rest||4 mi run||2 mi run or cross||4 mi run||Rest||40 min cross||6 mi run|
|6||Rest||4 mi run||2 mi run or cross||4 mi run||Rest or easy run||Rest||5-K Race|
|7||Rest||4.5 mi run||3 mi run or cross||4.5 mi run||Rest||50 min cross||7 mi run|
|8||Rest||4.5 mi run||3 mi run or cross||4.5 mi run||Rest||50 min cross||8 mi run|
|9||Rest||5 mi run||3 mi run or cross||5 mi run||Rest or easy run||Rest||10-K Race|
|10||Rest||5 mi run||3 mi run or cross||5 mi run||Rest||60 min cross||9 mi run|
|11||Rest||5 mi run||3 mi run or cross||5 mi run||Rest||60 min cross||10 mi run|
|12||Rest||4 mi run||3 mi run or cross||2 mi run||Rest||Rest||Half Marathon|
|1||Rest||4.8 km run||3.2 km run or cross||4.8 km run||Rest||30 min cross||6.4 km run|
|2||Rest||4.8 km run||3.2 km run or cross||4.8 km run||Rest||30 min cross||6.4 km run|
|3||Rest||5.9 km run||3.2 km run or cross||5.9 km run||Rest||40 min cross||8.1 km run|
|4||Rest||5.9 km run||3.2 km run or cross||5.9 km run||Rest||40 min cross||8.1 km run|
|5||Rest||6.4 km run||3.2 km run or cross||6.4 km run||Rest||40 min cross||9.7 km run|
|6||Rest||6.4 km run||3.2 km run or cross||6.4 km run||Rest or easy run||Rest||5-K Race|
|7||Rest||7.3 km run||4.8 km run or cross||7.3 km run||Rest||50 min cross||11.3 km run|
|8||Rest||7.3 km run||4.8 km run or cross||7.3 km run||Rest||50 min cross||12.9 km run|
|9||Rest||8.1 km run||4.8 km run or cross||8.1 km run||Rest or easy run||Rest||10-K Race|
|10||Rest||8.1 km run||4.8 km run or cross||8.1 km run||Rest||60 min cross||14.5 km run|
|11||Rest||8.1 km run||4.8 km run or cross||8.1 km run||Rest||60 min cross||16.1 km run|
|12||Rest||6.4 km run||4.8 km run or cross||3.2 km run||Rest||Rest||Half Marathon|
Additional Half Marathon Training Programs
Never too young!
I started training for my half when I was 13 and turned 14 a week before I ran my race! It was such an amazing experience and I couldn’t have done it if my brother hadn’t recommended this program to me! I’m so grateful and will soon be getting ready to run my next half this summer!
Worked for me
I used the novice method two years ago when running my first race (half marathon) and was able to follow the run schedule nearly to a tee. I thrive in disciplined and focused approaches to tasks so the structure worked really well for me and luckily (and perhaps because of) this structure, i wasn’t injured. I hit my goal of 2:30 exactly which i was pleased about for being a slow runner ant first race. Credit to this program for sure.
It is Great but Needs Improvement
I am 14 years old, and this is my first half marathon. The novice 1 plan from Hal Higdon was recommended to me. It is fantastic but could definitely improve. In the beginning it is great, but I personally feel that there should be less rest and cross training days. There should also be better tapering towards the end; the longest run should not be exactly a week before the race. Maybe it should be two weeks before. Otherwise, this is a great training plan. I highly recommend it. I advise that you make a few edits to adjust it to your schedule and skill level.
I'm now a runner
My boyfriend recommended Hal Higdon’s plan when I decided to do my first half marathon. I was never a runner, other than to train for the hockey season, so I was nervous about injuries and losing motivation etc. I followed the plan to the tee (almost) with the aim to complete the race around the 2 hour mark. My time was 1.53 and I am absolutely thrilled. Looking forward to planning my next half with the help of Hal’s programs.
My husband and I both used Hal’s novice 1 program for our first half marathon. I was VERY concerned. I have Ehlers Danlos and can literally tear something rolling over in bed. I have also had a cardiac dissection and stents. I wanted to get my heart and body as strong as possible. I did tear some things in my knee during this program, but luckily nothing else. My husband had a great finish – ran the whole way. I had to do some run/walking for the last 2 miles due to extreme pain, but still finished with a respectable time. We moved up to the intermediate 1 program for our second half marathon. I had to cut back to novice 2 during week 7 due to injuries, but I think 99.9% f healthy adults would be fine with this strategy. It definitely works and seems to be a very safe way to get started running long distances. Now, I feel a sense of anger at everybody with two legs who don’t run. If you can walk, you can run, and if you can run, you can run a half marathon!!!