3 weeks to train for a half marathon? Is it enough?!

Hi all. 

I'm looking for a bit of advice. A friend of mine has pulled out of the Cambridge Half Marathon on the 8th of March. I've been offered the place to take over and having missed out on a place originally am very keen to do it...

Problem is there is only about 3 weeks to go. 

I'm young, pretty fit and used to run a couple of times a week around 4/5 miles in about 30 minutes. I play plenty of sport every week and injury free.. But I haven't been running properly since roughly the beginning of December so a couple of months off.. Time doesn't bother me, I'll be happy just completing the distance. But I've never run more than 6 miles.

Do you think it's do able? Any tips for training?

Any comments will be helpful! Thanks 


  • if you had to walk 13 miles now to get food or water, you could and would do it.

    average walking pace is approx 3mph (20mins/mile) so you could do the race in just over 4 hours with no training, assuming you don't have some underling medical condition. The world record is 58:23, which is a pace of 4:23min/mile.

    So the answer to your question is yes, 3 weeks to train for a half is enough, and my guess is that you'll be somewhere between these extremes.

    As for tips for training, just get out and try to run frequently, up to 5 times per week, resisting the urge to race all of these runs. in fact, make them all a comfortable, conversational pace. Do a 6mile run this weekend, but KEEP IT SLOW. You should finish feeling fresh, not knackered. Then do 8miles the next week, same easy pace, then maybe 10 miles the following week, same easy pace.

    Your legs will possibly feel a little heavy after the longer runs, and might feel a bit fatigued during the next 3 weeks if you do this, but you shouldn't be exhausted. If you are, you're doing too much, or more likely, running too fast. Slow down, and if you think you're going too slow, slow down a bit more. the mileage is more important than the speed, as you say the time doesn't bother you, but you want to complete it.

    And remember on race day not to head off too fast, otherwise you'll blow up a few miles down the road, and the rest of the race will be miserable. Have fun, and if you like the experience, enter another one, but make it a few months down the road and leave yourself some time to prepare for it, then notice the difference it makes on race day.

  • If it's just about finishing then fine.  If you are after a specific time then probably forget it.

    Just take it slow n steady, practise if you can 3 times a week maybe 4 but don't overdo it, and take walk breaks around the drink stations, they are a great excuse to have a break, whatever speed you think your running at... it's probably to fast, SLOW is they key, when you increase your distances you build up your stamina with long slow runs, so don't think you need to go like a rocket, if you start off slower you will end up walking less and so probably have a quicker overall time.

    I think a lot of people on here say it takes 2 or 3 weeks for training to actually really start to improve your body, so you aren't going to be able to do much in the way of geting fitter... in that short a period, but just get used to being on your feet, do some runs with planned walks in them maybe?

    Think jog rather then run, you sound reasonably fit to begin with. What the heck just go and have a fun day out. image

  • I did it back in 1983 although I think it may have been about 6 weeks (got drunk 30 years ago today at a valentines 'ball' boasted and ended up struggling around in 1:56)  so go for it. 

  • Don't even think about doing any interval training.  If you're young, already reasonably fit, just do plenty of miles at a pace that will bore you to tears!  As long as you're injury free, you can keep going...  but take the last 5  days off (maybe have a 15 minute jog a couple of times in that period). to allow your body to restore itself.

    If you feel injured at any time.... back out.

    Make sure you understand rules about taking over someone elses place.

    Good luck!

  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    To answer your original question - can you "train" for a HM in 3 weeks - then the answer is NO.

    The answer can you manage to complete 13.1 miles in three weeks time - then the answer is POSSIBLY.

    Just rememeber it takes two weeks for the effects of training to benefit your running.  Therefore you have one week to train for the HM (as any running in the two weeks before the event wont help).  Dont try and do anything more in training than you did before you stopped in December.  Two months off means it will take you a couple of weeks for your body to recover to your previous level (which was less than 50% of the distance of the HM).  In the week prior to the HM you need to take it easy to make sure your body has had time to recover from the training you've already done - so it would be counter-productiove to push too hard.

    Therefore the sensible answer would be to leave it until next year, it just depends if you want to be sensible.



  • I hate to say this because I usually don't encourage folks to do things that are this nuts - but yes.

    Mainly because I know a few men who have done exactly this.  My husband was one of them - he had run a couple of marathons several years back but had done nothing except the odd 3 mile run on  gym treadmill since and then did a half marathon on a whim.  He couldn't train for it because of an injury - but did the race anyway - ran till the 7 mile mark and then walked/ran the rest.  Totally insane - I know. I tried to talk him out of it and he hurt like a sod afterwards and did say that in retrospect it was a stupid thing to do.

  • Yes you can, sure in an ideal world it's poor preparation but then we don't live in an ideal world.

    As people have said above if it isn't about time then go for it on the proviso that you realise you'll ache like a big lump of achiness afterwards but no matter what you'll have run further than you ever have before and set a PB for a half marathon. A good days work by anyone's standard.

    A couple of years ago I had six weeks off work with a kidney complaint three of which were spent in hospital all six bed ridden. Five days after getting back on my feet I ran my home town half marathon because I needed to prove something to myself ( I was made redundant mid illness - anger is a fantastic motivational tool) I did it and the time was ok, my calves next day weren't but nothing could wipe the smile off of my face....... except stairs. I'd argue you are in better nick 3 weeks out than I was.

    The point is we can all train meticulously or wing it last minute but as long as you accept that a HM is hard work but not going to kill you and just enjoy it for the experience than why not?

  • Is there a time limit on the race ?
  • "I'll just be happy covering the distance" ... You have 3hr30 to do this. Find some footwear that won't cause blisters, and crack on at 4mph - a brisk walk. Run a bit of to feel. Simples.

    Personally, I wouldn't do it as I would prefer to be trained to run hard. To get around in 3hr30 should be very achievable
  • Thanks for all the advice guys.

    I went for my first run last night and did 8 miles in 1 hour 45, just a gentle run but body feels good. Will rest until Sunday and do a few short runs and hopefully a 10 mile before the race. Fingers crossed it goes ok!

  • Don't cross your fingers! Do up your running shoes!

    Look at a half marathon traning plan and if you can complete the final three weeks (including one week tapering, or easing up) then you'll be ok. But you need to up the milage rather than doing 10 miles just before and hoping for the best.

    Every sunday needs to be a long run day. And you have to run pretty much every other day to enjoy the race.

    Saying that, well done for taking it on.

  • being a relative newb i can't really offer any technical advise beyond what has already been said.

    but life is meant to be exciting. you're not going to kill yourself and the chances of you seriously injuring yourself are minimal at most, so i say go for it. you'll probably feel like crap for a couple of days afterwards but your sense of accomplishment will more than make up for it.

    life would be pretty boring if we never took a chance on something a bit daft and always played the safe option.

  • I like the gung ho attitude Sofaboy. But you might actually kill yourself if you attempt a half unprepared.

    Not getting all Daily Mail here but every year there is at least one reported fatality at a major race. Wether it's just their time, or bad luck, but as an old fart I'd always recommend not running through any kind of worrying pain. And always getting in as many miles as possible pre race so your body is prepared for the shock of the distance.
  • if you can have been running in the past at 6 min miling and have kept fit doing other sports then i have no doubt that you can run the half marathon without training and i could bet that you would beat my PB  as well..halves are different to marathons.most fit peopel can get around a half .........it will hurt the second half and you will slow down.maybe talke a few walk breaks...........

    i would do what has been recommended just get some slower runs in for the next 2 weeks and that should help redcue the aches and pains for the week after the half

  • it's probably more likely that you'd get killed in a car accident on the way the the race than dying actually running it.

    it's a cliche but you've got one life, live it. of course the quick retort would be "you've got one life, look after it." but who wants to live their life as the human equivalent of a sofa wrapped in plastic to keep it nice?

  • Sofaboy wrote (see)

    who wants to live their life as the human equivalent of a sofa wrapped in plastic to keep it nice?

    You'd be surprised what turns some people on.

  • I am an average Joe, and havnt trained for a half marathon in 3 weeks,
    However, I did train for a half marathon in 1 week. So thought it might be fairly useful to share my training.
    This is going from nothing other than a bit of football and a bit of tennis each week.

    Sunday - 3 miles, followed by various cardio at the gym , all at a slow pace
    Monday - 5 miles , at a slow pace
    Tuesday - 6 miles , at a slow pace
    Wednesday - 4 miles , faster pace, followed immediately by 1 hour of football
    Thursday - 10 miles , slow pace, getting faster if I could
    Friday - rest, stretches, steam room
    Saturday - 1 mile slow jog, rest , stretches, steam room
    Sunday - half marathon in 2hours and 2 minutes

    I had no time at all to recover on my training each day, and after the Wednesday my legs were incredibly stiff, which did not bode well for Thursday. Thursday was a massive will power battle and legs were so so stiff, but it was possible to push through by a lot of will power and they did loosen up after 4 miles
    Not a great time, didn't achieve the target of under 2hours, but I did it in an incredibly small amount of time training. So it can be done !
    Legs blew up in the race on 11 miles and the last 2 miles were like I was going backwards, so maybe 2 weeks would be a better plan.
  • booktrunkbooktrunk ✭✭✭
    Ps... the post was nearly 5 years old before your reply :)

  • I once did a half marathon with just a 4 mile run the week before. I had had an injury and was told not to run so did lots of swimming instead. The week before the half my physio told me that I could return to running but needed to build up the miles slowly. I ummed and arred before the race and decided on the eve of race day that I would do it, albeit at a slow pace. Managed to run it ok in the end in just over 2 hours. Think the fact that I kept up at least some fitness helped.

    So to answer your question yes its possible to train for a half marathon in 3 weeks, though it would depend on the starting point fitness wise. If you already do at least some fitness activities then would be ok, but if you are a couch potato then maybe not!
  • I'm training for a half marathon and am giving myself several months to get there. But it is pretty neat to see how everyone else got there!
  • @adamshaw Definitely pretty neat to read through all this, but I think that just goes to show that everybody is different, therefore different training, different food, different speeds, etc. Though several months training before a half marathon sounds like a good plan to me, wish you all the best (if you still need it)!
    Lee Grantham
    Instagram - @jungle.vip
  • Like some have posted before, it's perfectly possible (but you should be in some sort of good physical shape).

    I did my first half marathon today, easily but at a slow pace (11min/mile, and finish time 2:22), and after only 2.5 weeks of training.

    Before this I was doing little sport, except some occasional 6 hour hikes (about 1 per every 2 months) and also some 30min jogs quite rarely actually.

    I went for 2.5 weeks of a fairly standard training, with around 4 runs per week (most around 45min), with 3 long runs (1h, 1h30 and 1h45), spaced by about 5 days between them, then 3 days of rest before the race (with only a short 30min run two days before).

    Race today was awesome. Slow but I finished.
    In two months, I will go for my second one and aim for a better timing.
  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    Good effort pcbessa - following a good training plan over the next two months will certainly take time off of your PB. I took 11 minutes off between my first and second and then took 13 minutes off between my second and third.
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