Running your first half marathon

The Jeff Galloway run-walk plan is most recommended for those who are attempting to run the half marathon for the first time

September 14, 2014 06:33 pm | Updated 06:33 pm IST - Chennai

GETTING INTO THEIR STRIDE Runners practising before a half marathon

GETTING INTO THEIR STRIDE Runners practising before a half marathon

If you ever go to one of our beaches or parks early in the morning, you’ll see how running is taking the city by storm. Once you start running, you tend to get hooked. Many runners soon start thinking about taking part in a running event. Signing up for a race is a great way to motivate you and set a target to work towards. And there seems to be a running event happening every weekend, so there are lots of choices.

A sensible first goal is a 5k or a 10k run. A reasonably fit person can do this with a short period of training. Once you have done one or two of these, and if you are looking for a bigger challenge, a Half Marathon is a great option. 21.1 kilometres is a seriously long distance. It’s definitely not easy, and can be pretty intimidating. Which means conquering that distance is going to be all the more satisfying!

If you plan to run a half marathon, assess your fitness levels first. See a doctor if you are unsure. Make sure you are comfortable with running at least a 5k distance. If not, start with a couch-to-5k or couch-to-10k plan.

For a first half marathon, it’s best not to set a time goal. The aim should be to finish the race comfortably, and recover quickly.

A quick internet search will show dozens of training plans. While each plan has its merits, for a beginning runner, the Jeff Galloway run-walk plan is one of the most recommended.

It is unlikely that you will be able to run the entire half marathon distance non-stop the first time you attempt it. Most runners end up starting too fast, getting tired at some point, and being forced to walk.

Hence, the run-walk method is ideal. It ensures that you get enough walk breaks to rest and recover. It also helps mentally, as you know you are never more than a few minutes away from a break.

Even experienced runners find a run-walk workout far easier to complete and recover from, without significantly impacting your overall pace or time target. In the r/w (run/walk) method, you basically fix a certain time for running followed by a walk break period. And repeat this till the end of the race.

Normally, the run portion varies from 30 seconds to 5 minutes and the walk portion from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Choose a run/walk ratio that’s comfortable. If you don’t consider yourself a fast runner, a 2 min run/1 min walk could be a good starting point. The idea is that you should be able to complete all your training runs without huffing and puffing at the finish. Whatever ratio you choose, try to maintain it throughout the run. And keep the run portion slow. If this feels too tough, reduce the run ratio on your next workout.

So here’s the suggested 4-month training plan, formulated by Jeff Galloway. This plan assumes that you can comfortably run/walk 5k currently. If you are able to complete 10k comfortably, you could start from Week 4.

See Table

On off days, do some light cross training (bike/swim/row, etc.). Nothing which stresses your calf muscles too much. Add some strength training too - this is vital for runners. However, don't do very intense strength workouts, as this will affect your recovery and hence your next running workout. Flexibility is also important and yoga is great for this. Rest, eat and hydrate well throughout, especially on the day before your long runs.

Completing a half marathon is a significant achievement, something few people can boast of. So, go ahead, sign up for one, enjoy your training and complete the race strong.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.