Half Marathon Training : Novice 1

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.

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At a glance

Author: Hal Higdon Length: 12 Weeks Typical Week: 2 Day Off, 4 Run, 2 X-Train, 1 Strength Longest Workout: 10 miles

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For runners who want personalized year-round training, using the Higdon method.

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Interactive Novice 1 program

For runners who want the same time-tested Hal Higdon training plans.

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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.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
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
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
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

Reviews

Excellent starter!

5.0 rating
December 2, 2019

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!!!

Linda

Not a runner and this program got me to my frist half ever!

5.0 rating
November 4, 2019

Years ago I read the book Born to Run and got inspired to actually get running. I’ve always worked out and lifted a lot of weights, but never actually did any type of long distance running that wasn’t particular to the sports I played, football and baseball. A friend recommended the Hal Higdon program and so I decided to try it. I was randomly trying to run different distances, different days, and really didn’t have an organized approach to this. Really knew I needed a plan, but had no experience in long distance training. So I followed the Novice 1 program and never looked back. I was amazed at almost 40 years old, how my body adapted so quickly to running the distances. I ended up running the race in a little over 2 hours and 7 minutes, eclipsing my goal of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Candidly I could have gone sub 2 hours, but just did not have the experience of the runs. When I finished it was an effortless feeling and I didn’t feel like I was depleted. I felt like I could have kept on going. All in all, this is the easiest way for a non runner to actually run quickly! The pogram works, thank you Hal!

Merim

Never too old!!!

5.0 rating
October 16, 2019

I had used Hal Higdon’s 1/2 marathon training programs twice years ago. Am gearing up for my next and went directly to this site. Very easy to understand and I was ready before so I’ll be ready again!!!

Amanda Temple

4th Half Coming Up !!

5.0 rating
October 2, 2019

Have used Hal’s novice programs for every one of my Half Marathon training cycles. Have also used the 5k and every one of them worked extremely well.. Stick to a sensible diet while training and Hal will get you to the finish line !!!!

Mickey Frazier

48-never a runner, almost at the half and feeling mostly ready!

5.0 rating
September 21, 2019

My title says it all, but I basically heard someone tell me I shouldn’t/couldn’t so i am! Never been a runner but am active, never was interested in runnning, but am loving it. I have followed the program to a T except that I started with 28 weeks to train, so been improvising until I lined up. I’m literal and it worked for me:)

Gabrielle Melchionda

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