Half Marathon Training Programs

Some training guidelines to help you run your best race

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The B.A.A. has created the following training programs for your use in preparing for the 2013 B.A.A. Half Marathon.

Because every runner is different, please adjust your personal training plan based on your level of comfort. Choose the program below that best suits your current level and needs:

Beginner Program - click here Intermediate Program - click here Advanced Program - click here

As always, be willing to adjust and adapt to your individual circumstances: work, school and home life, illness and injury. The goal is to get to the starting line fit and ready to race your best. As with any athletic endeavor, you should consult with a physician prior to entering into a physical fitness program.


There are three training programs for the B.A.A. Half Marathon. The Beginner training program is intended for those runners who are attempting to complete the race in 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes. The Intermediate training program is intended for those who train regularly, and are looking to run a time between 1 hour, and 40 minutes to 2 hours. The Advanced training program is for the runner who has a solid base of running fitness and can handle a peak weekly mileage 55 miles and has raced successfully at 10K to marathons. You can incorporate races into your training program. They are a good opportunity to practice running in a competitive environment, simulate racing conditions, and run at your half marathon pace. As with any training program, what is outlined is merely a guide on how to build and structure your weekly running routine.


Rest Day
All training programs must have planned recovery. How often this takes place is highly variable between athletes. Beginners should take two or three days off from training each week. Advanced athletes can usually take a day off every other week. No matter what, everyone should have planned easy days with little or no training.

Interval Workouts
Runners should incorporate 3-6 miles of fast paced running with efforts generally ranging from 800 meters to 5,000 meters. A common training flaw is that runners do their interval workouts too fast and do not fully recover for their other workouts during the week. The pace of the intervals should usually fall between your current 5K to Half Marathon goal race pace.

Distance Runs
This is your typical daily run, which we suggest be two to five days per week depending on your training program. The length and pace of your distance runs will vary from person to person and how you feel at the time. The distance runs in the schedule are the most flexible in terms of your training. If you're feeling tired, then cut back on the distance and pace of the run. The pace in general should be one that you could hold a conversation with another runner.

Long Runs
Many runners are familiar with the weekly long run, which is an important piece of any training program. The long run can be the most beneficial, but also can cause the most damage if done too hard, too long, and too frequently. Most of the long run pace is done 30 seconds to a minute or more slower than projected half marathon pace.

Cross Training
This is a good opportunity to get some exercise without the pounding of running. Options include biking, swimming, walking, or going to the gym.

Half Marathon Tempo Running
A good chance to simulate the pace you plan on running at the race. Usually start with 3 to 5 miles of gentle running and then ease into 3 to 5 miles of half marathon tempo running. Do not run these training sessions any faster than the prescribed pace. Below are some variations of these types of workouts.


Beginner:  60 minute run with middle 30 minutes at goal half marathon pace.
Intermediate:  8 mile run with middle 4 miles 10 seconds faster per mile than half marathon pace.
Advanced:  10 mile run with middle 5 miles between 15K race pace and half marathon pace (HMP).


Beginner:  60 minute run and in middle of run do 2 x 15 minute uptempo pickups with 5:00 easy pace in between.
Intermediate:  8 mile run, after 20 minutes, 2x10 minutes at goal half marathon pace.
Advanced:  3 x 2 miles with 2:00 jog rest. Start at HMP and run each of the next two at 5-10 seconds per mile faster. 13:40, 13:20, 13:00. 2 mile warm up and cool down.


Beginner:  60 minute run starting out easy, picking up pace to finish last 20 minutes at goal half marathon effort.
Intermediate:  6 mile run, run the last 3 miles 10 seconds per mile quicker than goal half marathon pace.
Advanced:  10 mile run starting out very easy (HMP+2:00min) and each mile drops down to eventually to HMP and finishes at 10K pace. 1 mile easy cool down. Example: 8:30, 8:00, 7:30, 7:15, 7:00, 6:50, 6:50, 6:40, 6:30, 8:00


The Last Few Weeks of Training
Tapering for the race is an important final element to a successful training program. Unfortunately, you can ruin weeks and months of training by not reducing your training enough or by reducing your training too much. The goal of the taper is to get you to the starting line in the best fitness and the most rested state possible. Total mileage comes down in the last two to three weeks, mostly in the distance runs and long runs. It is important to continue to do interval and tempo workouts during the taper, albeit at a slightly reduced volume.

Race Week

  • Don’t change too many things – eat normally; get plenty of rest; do not try a food, diet, or carbo-loading method before the race if you have never done it before – it is a recipe for disaster.
  • Do NOT do “a little extra because I felt good." You should feel good, you are resting to race. Don’t leave your race on the roads on Thursday – be patient and save “that little extra” for Sunday.
  • If you are nursing a slight injury or are not 100%, begin to adjust race day performance goals.
  • Plan to bring a bag to the start with some extra clothes, a towel, a water bottle, gear for unpredictable weather, and some money (but leave the wallet, keys, etc. somewhere secure – only bring what you need to the start. If you bag is accidentally misplaced, you don’t want to be without your ID and the keys to your car/home).

What to Wear

  • This is an individual choice, but if it is cool, plan to have layers that you can peel off and “throw-away”: an old long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat, etc. Don’t pin your number to the “throw-away” items!
  • If it is raining, quick-dry fabrics are a better bet than cotton and be sure to have dry clothing to change into after you finish.
  • Wear footwear you have regularly trained in. Now is not the time for trying a new pair of shoes.
  • If it is hot/humid (at 8:30 a.m., the sun is not likely to be a huge issue, but it can be warm and muggy), shorts and a light t-shirt/tank top will do.
  • If the weather is extreme – adjust your goal/pace. If you don’t, you will be in for a miserable run.

Race Day

  • Have your gear bag packed and the clothing that you plan to wear laid out the night before so you can be ready to go in the morning.
  • When you get up, eat a light breakfast and drink some fluids – stick to foods/drinks that are tried and true and that you know won’t upset your stomach.
  • Today is NOT the day to try out those new racing flats, outfit, etc. Use clothing and sneakers that you have worn before and know will be comfortable.
  • Plan to be at the race at least an hour before the start of the race – you need to leave yourself plenty of time to pick up your race number, do a little walking/jogging/stretching in order to warm up, drop off your gear at the baggage check, make a last-minute pit stop and get to the line.
  • There is nothing like last-minute panic to have a detrimental effect on your race.
  • Relax and plan to have fun!


The First 3 Miles

  • Have a race plan going into the race: have a sense of the time that you are looking to run and break that down into mile splits.
  • You should feel pretty good to start (don’t get caught up in the excitement), so don’t try and push the pace too soon. Be very cautious on the initial downhill – you want something left in the tank to climb the hills to get back to the finish.
  • You should use the first couple of miles along the Arborway to get a sense of your pace and settle into a rhythm.
  • By the time you reach Jamaica Pond, you should be feeling reasonably comfortable.

Miles 4 – 7

  • There are some long downhill sections on the Riverway – again, be careful not to push the pace.
  • Use the stretch between the 4 and 6 mile marks to settle into your goal race pace.
  • The turn-around point is at the 4.75-mile mark.
  • If you are running around 6 minute pace, you are likely to see the lead men’s pack heading back just after you pass the 4-mile mark.
  • As you make the turn at 4.75 miles, you will see the race participants heading out to the turn-around for the next mile before the course turns off of the Riverway onto Pond Ave.
  • Once you turn onto Pond Ave., you have about a half mile before the 10K.
  • Use your 10K time to see where you are in relation to your goal pace.
  • As you return along the flat stretch adjacent to Jamaica Pond and the Jamaica Way, this is a good time to assess how you are feeling. If you are feeling good, you may want to pick up your pace slightly; if you are not feeling great, you may have to back off a bit.

Miles 8 – 9

  • As you make your way past the Arnold Arboretum, stay relaxed, maintain a steady pace, and begin to mentally prepare for the climb into the zoo.
  • This is the part of the race that may start to become hard – especially if this is your first time racing over 10K.
  • Maintaining your mental focus may be a challenge here – as you did on the way out, try to settle into a steady rhythm – cruise control!
  • As you approach the 8-mile mark, you will rejoin the course heading back from the 2-mile mark to the 1-mile mark.
  • Crossing the Forest Hills Overpass, you get a good glimpse of the Boston skyline to your left.

Miles 10 – 12

  • You will enter Franklin Park and have a quarter-mile climb.
  • Take a right, just past the Shattuck Hospital onto Circuit Drive. This part of the course is relatively flat with a turn-around just past the 10-mile mark. You will see other runners heading toward you as they approach the 11-mile split.
  • As you reach the 11-mile mark, bear right onto Circuit Drive. There is a half-mile hill as you climb toward the zoo.
  • Your splits will slow down on the hill.
  • Good hill running technique: relax, shorten your stride, lean slightly into the hill, don’t try and sprint. A good goal is to try and maintain your place – don’t worry about the mile split.
  • You enter the zoo at the 11.8-mile mark; you will be on a footpath. Look for the zebra and the lions!

The Final Mile

  • You are almost home!
  • As you exit the zoo, you have about a half-mile to go – too soon for that final sprint, but you can start to really pick it up. You have less than 5 minutes to race!
  • You will hear the cheers at the finish line as you circle past White Stadium.
  • You will enter the Stadium at the 13-mile mark - .1 to go! Time to bring it home and then you can relish your accomplishment – and enjoy the post-race festivities!
B.A.A. Moment 8

1996 - Centennial Boston Marathon

The historic centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 was monumental for many reasons. It was the not only the first time that the ChampionChip timing and scoring device was used in a major US Marathon, but it was the largest running event ever held at the time. 

The starting field of 38,708 stood for more than seven years as the largest in the history of the sport. Included among the finishers were 16 Boston champions.