Four-Week Half-Marathon Training Plan

The following plan, designed by trainer and endurance athlete Michelle Basta Speers, can get you ready to race a half-marathon in four weeks.
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This time of year, fundraising events are held worldwide to promote Breast Cancer Awareness and raise money to find a cure. Distances run the gamut from quick one-mile fun-runs to full-length marathons. If you want to do your part and enter one of those longer events, you might be wondering if a month is enough time to train for it.

The good news is that with some dedicated training, regular runners can make it across the finish line of a half-marathon with as little as four weeks of serious prep. To help, we asked Michelle Basta Speers, an endurance athlete and trainer based in Wrightwood, California, to create a regimen that accelerates your progress while minimizing your risk of injury.

Pick your distance

The program outlined here is for a half-marathon (13.1 miles), so you should have some pavement beneath you to use it as-is. “This program builds mileage quickly, and if you start with no running experience you’ll greatly increase your risk of injury,” Speers warns, adding that you should have been running three to five miles a couple days per week for four to six months to benefit most from this plan.

If you’re not a regular runner, no worries; you can adapt the program to suit your needs. If you’re shooting for a 10K (6.2 miles), take the distances listed and divide by half. For shorter races — such as a one-mile or 5K run — increase your distance by about 10 percent per week. For instance, if your longest current run is one mile, increase that the next week by one-tenth.

It’s not a race — yet

Keep your expectations realistic. “Four weeks is a relatively short amount of time to build this kind of mileage, so allow yourself to run slowly and even walk during training,” Speers says. “Going easier rather than pushing hard will be the difference between crossing the finish line and bailing because of shin splints or IT [iliotibial] band issues.”

Heed the signs

To reduce the chance of injuries, be smart: Listen to your body, and if you’re sore or tired, cut back on the programmed cross-training and strength workouts while continuing with the running workouts. And, of course, don’t push through the pain: Use RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) and ibuprofen to reduce inflammation postworkout, and increase your ratio of walking to running during training, recommends Speers.

Lift lighter

Since all your efforts should be aimed at race training for the next four weeks, now is not the time to make strength or muscular gains. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t weight train. Speers suggests that you continue lifting with lighter weight to counterbalance your increased cardio activity.

With that in mind, put on those kicks — it’s time to hit the pavement.

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Ready to Race?

Check out these events and do your part for Breast Cancer Awareness.

Avon 39 (New York)

Over two days (October 14 and 15) runners and walkers will travel 39.3 miles through Manhattan to raise money for various organizations that support breast cancer research and patients. Go to avon39.org/new-york for more information.

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (150+ locations)

The Susan G. Komen Organization funds research, community health, global outreach and public policy initiatives, and more than 150 events of all distances are held globally to help find a cure. Visit ww5.komen.org/FindAnEvent.aspx for information.

Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon + 5K & 10K (Columbia, South Carolina)

The proceeds from this event go to the local Palmetto Health Foundation, which raised more than half a million dollars in 2016 for ultrasound and mammography treatments for breast cancer. For information, go to halfmarathons.net/south-carolina-famously-hot-pink-half-marathon-5k-10k/.

Race-Prep Strength Training

Do a high-rep, warm-up set of the first exercise for each bodypart trained. Then do three sets of 12 to 15 reps per movement, going to muscle fatigue, but not to failure.

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