Train for my first half marathon in a month? In just 34 days, I went from running a 5K at a 9:45/mile pace to running a half marathon without walking or stopping. I came in 398th out of 795 finishers with a time of 2 hours and 28 minutes. Completing this challenge was made more difficult thanks to 20 mph winds and a downpour that flooded several of the Sunset Beach Island roads on race day.
During my 34 days of training, I unexpectedly missed an entire week due to picking up Norovirus on a work trip to New Orleans. After adding up the miles in the training recap below, I calculated that I only ran 35 miles total during my 34 days of training in preparation for the half marathon.
If you’re thinking about running your first half marathon, you should do it! At age 43, I proved that it is possible to train for your first half marathon in a month if you are able to run a 5K. I wish I would have done it sooner.
To help those of you who may be considering running your first half marathon, I wanted to recap exactly how I trained for a half marathon in a month. [Exact training schedule below]
After announcing on Facebook my goal of running a half marathon with 34 days of training, I did have a few running friends let me know that this was a really aggressive goal. They did give me some good advice for accomplishing this ‘crazy’ new goal although there was concern I did not give myself enough time to properly train.
As I started my training, I Googled “is it possible to train for a half marathon in one month?” and found a guy who ran a full marathon WITHOUT training. Boom, I knew I could do it!
How I Trained for a Half Marathon in a Month
My ultimate goal was to prove that it is possible. And if I can do it, you can do it too. I’m not a runner by any means.
As I reviewed my training for this blog post, I was pretty shocked to see that I only ran 35 miles during the 34 days of training.
As you will see in my training program below, much of my training was done on the Octane Fitness LateralX Elliptical Machine.
My gym has four of them and they are low impact on my feet and knees. At level 8, the effort required feels comparable to running outdoors. I spent most of my time with the lateral setting at 5, but I adjust the lateral width between 2 thru 8 to work more muscles and to get beyond the monotony of 40+ minutes of cardio.
I focused most of my training on time, not miles. I knew that I needed to get up to where I can run or do cardio for over an hour and 45 minutes. I figured on race day, that I could power through the last 30 – 40 minutes to reach my goal.
MY 34-DAY HALF MARATHON PLAN
This is exactly how a trained for a half marathon in 34 days. This may not work for everyone. If your primary goal is running the whole 13.1 miles, then I think the key is getting up to a 9-mile run prior a couple of weeks prior to the race.
April 15th: 50 minutes on the LateralX [slow pace on level 4]
April 16th: 3 mile run outdoor [10 min pace – rest between miles for 1 minute]
April 17th: Lifting: Pulling Exercises [Back & Biceps]
April 18th: 60 minute LateralX
April 19th: Lifting: Pushing Exercises [Chest, Shoulder, Tris]
April 20th: Day Off
April 21st: 40 Minutes LaterlX [Level 6]
April 22nd: 60 Minute Run on Treadmill [no incline – 5.75 miles]
April 23rd: Lifting: upper body [Chest, Back, Shoulders]
April 24th: 30 Minutes LateralX [Fast Pace – Level 3]
April 25th: Day Off
April 26th: 105 Minutes Regular Elliptical Machine [Medium Pace]
April 27th: Lifting: Upper Body [Chest, Back, Shoulders, Biceps, Tris]
April 28th: Day Off
April 29th: 90 Minute run on Treadmill [no incline – 8 miles]
April 30th – May 2nd: Trip to NOLA, Daily Walking average 7 miles/day
May 3rd – May 4th: NOROVIRUS [Sick in bed with bad Stomach Bug]
May 5th: Easy 30 minute Elliptical [not feeling great]
May 6th: 40 Minute Run on Treadmill
May 7th: 30 minute LateralX [Medium Pace]
May 8th: Day Off
May 9th: 1 hour 50 minute run [no incline 9 miles]
May 10th: 1.35 mile run outdoors [slow pace]
May 11th: Day off
May 12th: Dress rehearsal run 4.45 miles [see details below]
May 13th: Day Off
May 14th: 35 Minute Lateralx [Alternating Fast & Slow]
May 15th: Day off
May 16th: 3 mile run at a 9:30 mile pace
May 17th: 1 mile run
May 18th: Day Off
May 19th: RACE DAY: Half Marathon!!
Additional notes on training for a half marathon in a month
I did not run very many miles: This was on purpose. I had not run in months until the 5k because I had pain in my toes caused by Morton’s Neuroma. It had gotten better after going to the foot doctor, but I did not want to re-aggravate the issue. I just needed to build up my one weekly long run.
I do believe that getting in two LateralX sessions each week focused on increasing time and level of difficulty prepared me for the long weekend runs. I was really focused on time. I just needed to get my body up to where I could run at a fairly slow pace for 2 hours and 20 minutes straight.
Overcoming getting sick: You can see that after my 8 mile run on April 29th, I ended up taking a week off due to the trip to New Orleans and getting Norovirus. While sick I was for 48 hours, I treated it like it was an endurance event. My body was dehydrated and being pushed physically as it fought the virus with a low-grade fever. I made sure to stay as hydrated as possible and doing everything possible to intake vitamins from fruits and EmergenC.
Getting sick forced me to completely change my plan. The original plan was to run my longest run 14 days prior to the race on May 5th. I had to let my body recoup, so I ended up running it 10 days before the race. I was completely drained after that run due to it being the farthest run of my life 3 days after a stomach bug.
Completing the 9-mile run was huge a confidence booster. While I was sick, the thought that there was no way I would be able to finish 13.1 miles started to take over. I needed that 9 miles run to convince me 13.1 was possible.
AUDIO BOOK: Running your first half marathon with minimal training is 80% mental. Listening to Finding Ultra by Rich Roll on my long weekend runs was another key to me overcoming this challenge.
The Dress Rehearsal Run: 7 Days prior to the actual race, I woke up at the same time I would have to wake up for the race. I wore the same clothes I’d wear on race day. I bought a new arm strap for my phone and I used it for the first time. I started my 4.45 mile run at the same time the race was scheduled to start. And I ran 4.45 miles at the 11-minute mile pace that I wanted to start the half marathon at.
Sharing on Facebook. I shared this goal from Day 1 along with the journey to make it happen on Facebook. I posted updates with friends and in a private group for a course, I’m in called Build Your Life Resume by Jesse Itzler. Without the accountability and the support/advice I received in the comments, this would not have happened.
This post is the perfect example of the power of Facebook. A couple days before the race, I shared the stormy race day weather forecast. I had 2 people recommend Body Glide for my feet. This made a HUGE difference. My feet were soaked.
In the post above, you’ll also see that the country’s top broadcast meteorologist, Brad Panovich jumped into the comments to let me know that although the forecast I was looking at showed morning thunderstorms, he did not think thunder & lightning would start until possibly the afternoon. Brad was correct. it was nice to get Brad’s second opinion because I was not that stressed about the rain, but I was a little stressed that the race could be canceled or postponed.
How long should you train for a half marathon?
This is up to you.
I personally enjoy tough challenges that others may believe is possible. If a goal or due date is further in the future, there is a risk that I will procrastinate. And prior to finishing this 5k, I never wanted to run a half marathon.
I knew for me to do accomplish this goal, 4 – 5 weeks out was the perfect timeframe. The professionals in the running world, definitely recommend longer training periods:
Runner’s World Recommends 15 weeks of training for your first half marathon. This seems a little long to me.
Jeff Galloway has been helping people run their first half marathon since 1976 with his Run Walk Run approach. He has helped hundreds of thousands of people run half marathons and his program recommends 17 weeks of training.
If you can run a 5k under 10 minutes/mile, I know you can train to run your first half marathon faster than 3 – 4 months. You just have to pick your race and schedule your training in reverse. You need to get up to running at least 9 miles, within 2 weeks of the race to feel confident you can run the whole way.