As a non-runner I want to run a half marathon
February 21, 2007 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I just bought my first ever pair of running shoes. I want to run a half marathon. How soon can I do it and how should I train for it?

I guess you need to know some details about me. I'm 25 years old, male, and out of shape but not overweight.
posted by sveskemus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This will only get you to one-ninth of a marathon, but it's a good start.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:41 PM on February 21, 2007

According to Hal Higdon, it'll take you 12 weeks.

This is, however, assuming you can run 3 miles with relative ease. So start with the link Kwantsar gave. And do some searching for past threads on running - there's a lot.
posted by bibbit at 1:44 PM on February 21, 2007

I think most of the guides out there would recommend something like 12 weeks of training - with maybe a 10K race thrown in around week 8. Here is an example plan. This normally assumes that you can run gently and non stop for about 30 mins at the start of the program. If you cant then you would need to start out with some walking/run walking first.
posted by rongorongo at 1:48 PM on February 21, 2007

If you're not a runner, I would aim for the 5K first.
posted by smackfu at 2:00 PM on February 21, 2007

Sounds like you're a good candidate for an injury and a short running career. Why not start slowly and begin by working up to a 5k race. That's a good first goal and you can build from there to longer distances. It takes about 12 weeks to work up to a half marathon when you have a good running base of about 20 miles a week, not when you're starting from scratch.

There are lots of previous threads on running. Check those out, as bibbet suggests, and start slowly.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:03 PM on February 21, 2007

This was very helpful for me. I needed about 8 weeks of pre-training to get up to 3 mile runs, and then there are 16 weeks to a full marathon (about 10 weeks to a half marathon)
posted by anonymoose at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2007

Disclaimer: I've never trained for anything longer than a 10k, have never run farther than 10 miles. But...

At age 25, slightly overweight, never having run any significant difference before, I trained for a 5k in less than three weeks. Not a fast 5k, mind you (10 minute miles), but I finished the training and race without injuring myself (though, due to my inexperience, that was partly luck and partly resilience of a 25 year old body).

The thing is, everybody's bodies have differences. 10-12 weeks sounds right to me for an average person who can dedicate themselves to a program to train for a half-marathon -- a mile a week really isn't too much to add. But you might be able to do it much sooner: I've had friends who've walked out the door to go running for the first time and comfortably done 3-4 miles. I knew a guy who, not having trained on more than the occasional 5 or 6 miles, decided on a lark to run a Marathon with his girlfriend and made it 20 miles (not recommended). You might also have more trouble -- some people are not built well for running.

So my own suggestion would be to gently train for a week or two or three and *then* gauge yourself. If you float into running three miles the first day, I suspect a somewhat competetive half-marathon is within your reach in six weeks. If you find your first mile is hard, or you find yourself hurting (especially in your joints), you'll want to take it slow, possibly even slower than twelve weeks.

In this respect, I guess I'm just mostly echoing the advice of others: train for a smaller distance (5K is great) first. It will give you a great idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your own body and help you learn how to train around them.
posted by weston at 3:18 PM on February 21, 2007

OK - follow bibbit's Higdon program, that looks good. Given your age and weight, it shouldn't take you long to get up to running three miles. As in, pick a 2 mile course and go run it. Then do that again tomorrow. Then run three miles the next day. Spend two weeks running 15-20 miles before starting the Higdon program. Don't walk-run, you don't need it.

One suggestion: find a buddy to run with. While it's nice to run alone sometimes, running with a friend is fun too. Plus, it's a good way to judge how hard you are pushing yourself - if you are running distance and trying to increase fitness, run at just that level where you can sustain a conversation with your friend. You should be able to talk, but you should also be breathing hard.

It's fairly easy to get the body acclimated to running 3-5 miles. You should exercise patience once you have gotten to that stage.

Last thing - stretch after you run. This is a must. If your legs hurt, feet hurt, joints hurt, then run on grass for reduced impact, and stretch like the devil. Ibuprofin tastes delicious. Take time off if injuries worsen despite the above treatments - if possible swim or bike to maintain cardio fitness. I'm not an expert, but I ran cross country and track in high school and also assistant coached track when I was a teacher. Feel free to email me if you like.
posted by taliaferro at 3:30 PM on February 21, 2007

I'd strongly advise against running every day to start out with. Its very hard on a lot of things that you don't use if you don't run often, and hurting really any of those will take you out of it pretty fast.

I'd also advise against taking ibuprofin, because it gives you a false sense of how your body is holding up.

Tim Noakes' Lore of Running has a couple of plans for novice runners, and its a great book to have as reference anyway. IIRC he recommends training/doing a 10k or a half-marathon first, and bases his program off of that. Noakes' program is 26 weeks for a marathon, but he gives many others that range from 12-26 weeks.

Noakes advocates a 58-week training program (although the end goal of this is an ultramarathon). During the first 20 weeks of his plan, though, the only goal is to get to the stage of running ~ 30 minutes at a time 5 days a week. His plans intersperse walking with running, which is something he borrows from Galloway.

Its worth checking out from the library, at least, and should be about $20 to buy now.
posted by devilsbrigade at 3:52 PM on February 21, 2007

Common advice is to increase your maximum distance by no more than 10% a week to avoid injury.

Other common advice (see any available half marathon training plans on the internet) says that if you can run 10-11 miles in training, you can run a half marathon (the theory being that the adrenalin of being in a race will get you through the last couple of miles).

I'd recommend trying some 5km and 10km races while you're leading up to the half marathon race - gives you some achievable goals in the interim.

I'd also recommend walking 13 miles (preferably on the half marathon course in question) just to prove to yourself that you can go the distance - it will give you a psychological boost in the race itself that you know that you can finish, even if you're reduced to walking at the end.

And if you're new to running, don't get disheartened. There's something weird that happens after 30-45 minutes of hell whereby you get in the "zone" and feel like you can run forever. The trick is to get to that point before you give up and think "I can't do this running thing". It's a great feeling!
posted by finding.perdita at 4:07 PM on February 21, 2007

Last year at this time, I started from scratch and ran a half marathon the first weekend of June. I just started on Hal Higdon's plan and adjusted it as necessary. The plan actually over-prepares you for the race, so you'll be fine if you shave a couple miles off each week of the training.

This plan was endorsed and regulated by my doctor, by the way. Oh, and I'm a 27 year old healthy female who couldn't run even a mile when I started.
posted by elquien at 4:20 PM on February 21, 2007

I did the Higdon plan, and it was perfectly fine, though I could run 3 miles before I started.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:02 PM on February 21, 2007

Everyone here has good links and advice. I say take it slow. The longer the distance the more wear and tear on your body and the greater the chance for injury. I was training for the Austin 1/2 marathon last weekend and pushed a little too hard the last two weeks and wouldn't you know it - I hurt myself before the race. Not only that, but my last two long runs were so painful that I had zero motivation to run the event even if I was injury-free.

You have tons of time to build up distance. There are races everyday. Take it slow. Don't hurt yourself or burn yourself out.

Chase the Zone - not the distance.
posted by jopreacher at 5:03 PM on February 21, 2007

Oh and I used The Competitive Runner's Handbook to get up to 3 miles.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:06 PM on February 21, 2007

I've been a runner for about 7 years now (except for during the latter parts of two pregnancies). When I started running, I was about 25 also. I could not run further than 100 steps without walking. I started with 100 steps running, then 100 walking. After about 2 months, I could run a full mile. By 3 months, I could run 3. By 6 months, I ran a 15K race. I ran my first half-marathon after 9 months.

I could have probably condensed this a bit. If you can run 3 miles with little effort or discomfort - 10 to 12 weeks seems reasonable. If you are at the 100 steps point - I'd give it more time.

Also remember - there is no shame in walking part of your half marathon, if your goal is merely to finish!

GOOD LUCK! I wish you a lifetime of great running.
posted by beachhead2 at 5:12 PM on February 21, 2007

Everyone gave good advice/links. I've been through multiple injuries and have had to restart training, miss out on great races, etc. Take it slow. Remember that in beyond increasing your athletic ability and overall health, you need to give your body time to adjust. Especially with long distance running, the muscular/skeletal stress is often something that can be overlooked. Even Lance Armstrong, a world class-athlete, suffered from a stress fracture after rushing into his first marathon.

If you're just starting out, a great way to stay motivated and meet other runners is to join a running group in your area. Usually running shoe stores can give you information about local running clubs. If you're in LA, Nike is currently running a huge program to turn the city into a formidable running community. 20 locations, 7 days a week. Trail runs, track runs, road runs. etc. Check it out here: Nike Top 20

Active is a great place to look for events in your area.
Runner's Network has a list of some running clubs throughout the US.

Lastly, good luck!
posted by s01110011 at 10:29 PM on February 21, 2007

I've done three half marathons. I'm still under physiotherapy for an injury I got during my first... but I would love to run again (hence the physio). So my advice?

Take it really easy. I didn't stick to the 10% rule, and it bit me (in the hip, standard runners injury of ITB/Burstitis). Stretch - calves, hamstrings, ITB (ITB stretches).
posted by handee at 1:14 AM on February 22, 2007

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