Half Marathon

Half Marathons and running, in general, have become increasingly popular as it is a very simple way to train with no need for equipment.

Training for a half marathon in six months is realistic for most but, know that every runner is different and there is no one size fits all program for running. At Advantage Sport Medicine and Physiotherapy in Edmonton and St Albert, we are here to lend a helping hand in program creation and injury prevention/treatment. The length of time to train for a half marathon will vary between individuals and will depend on how long someone has been running, their longest run to date, and the consistency of their runs. 


Set Realistic Goals

athletic woman running in street with taped shin and ankleWhen starting a program, it is key to ensure that it is realistic to an individual’s goals and current capacity. In a program for a half marathon, the priority should be running, as this is specific to the goal wanting to be achieved. This is called the principle of specificity, which means the body will adapt to the type of demand that is placed on it. Other types of training such as biking, swimming, or walking can be used infrequently to help with variation in a training program. 


Consider Strength Training

Strength training can be done as well, either after a run or on off days. The benefits of strength training are to create stronger muscles that help with a higher running economy and a decrease in risk of injury. Strength training can also help with recovery as it allows the body to recover faster. However, everyone is different, and an individual should listen to their body and take a step back from strength training if they feel it is too much load.


At Advantage Sport Medicine and Physiotherapy, our team can guide individuals towards exercises that are appropriate for them and work on their insufficiencies. Our physiotherapists, kinesiologists, and strength and conditioning coaches are highly trained in sports training, and some have experience running marathons. 

Start small and work your way up

If an individual has more experience running and has run distances closer to 21 km in a half marathon, then they may take a shorter amount of time to train for the half marathon. When planning runs for the week, the training plan should include at least three runs and have one run that is a longer distance.

This longer distance will help increase endurance which is the body’s ability to tolerate force over a long period of time.

Work on your endurance

Endurance is an important aspect for runners that are interested in training for a half marathon. Longer runs also allow individuals to run at their lactic threshold. The term lactic threshold refers to when a person’s body has produced lactic acid to the point that the body can’t clear the acid at the same rate it is being produced. Lactic acid accumulation slows the muscles’ ability to work, as a defence mechanism to avoid injury. Lactic acid builds up decreases the body’s ability to perform, but the lactic threshold can be increased when worked at these distances and the body adapts. As endurance and lactic threshold increase, additional distance will be able to be added at a comfortable pace. Adding distance to runs should happen gradually at about a 5-10% increase in distance per week. The return to run resource on the running clinic website has simple training programs that can help runners with this progression.


Tempo Run

One run during the week should be a tempo run. This will help set a pace for the half marathon and will include an interval with a larger effort and another interval at a slower effort to recover. The interval should feel sustainable but difficult. Working at this level will help improve technique and running economy. This can also be accomplished in hill running, as this allows leg strength to be built.

Determine your pace

Determining what pace to train at can be measured using heart rate or rate of perceived exertion. If the heart rate is used to measure it should be approximately 75% of the maximal heart rate. If the rate of perceived exertion is used, the number should be in the moderate to hard range of data. At the end of the week, the recovery run should be completed. The recovery run should be at a comfortable pace that allows for talking during the run. This run is important to help recover from the previous week’s training and to get more training volume.

Remember when planning a training program, the key element is consistency.

Consistency in training allows us to progressively continue to improve in our training. The amount, speed, and distance of the runs throughout the week should be realistic to an individual’s current ability and should be achievable. 


Self-care is important


Taking care of oneself outside of the training program is also essential to training and performance. The first component is sleep, which is important for the body’s recovery. Most people need around 8 hours of sleep per night. If an individual is not getting enough sleep, this can affect their willingness to train, their training ability, and increase their risk of injury.


The next component is diet. Diet should be modified to ensure that enough calories are consumed to sustain training and provide energy to accomplish the training session. If the required nutrients, such as carbohydrates, are not sustained the body will be in a deficit and use other fuel sources, which is not ideal for performance.

Drink your water

Water is also a vital component of recovery to recover what was lost through sweat while exercising. Everyone should drink about eight cups of water a day, and more if you are exercising or doing an activity. 


The half marathon is a great distance that is not too challenging for beginners but still is a huge accomplishment. At our physiotherapy clinics in St Albert and Edmonton, we are more than happy to guide individuals in their training program and athlete recovery. Remember to train consistently at a level that is appropriate for you specifically and you should see great results.