Zero to Half-Marathon in 4 Months

This article was first featured in Men’s Fitness Magazine.

Paul MacKinnon, aka the balanced runner, gives us some simple tips on how to get from the couch to a half marathon in a few simple montha. Yep, you got time…

You’ve set yourself a tough goal, better yet you’ve given yourself very little time to complete it, but the feeling once you achieve it will definitely be worthwhile. So let’s go through a few important things.


Running is a skill, the better your technique the more you’ll get out of it. The difference between having an efficient technique or not could be the difference between enjoying this challenge and end ending up with an injury.

  • Run relaxed – try and relax your upper body and let the arms be the counter movers of the legs they’re supposed to be
  • Run tall – hunching or hyperextending through the torso will impact your run and ability to breathe
  • Run to a beat – if you’re in beat then you’re running with good timing

What I’ve found with my athletes is that improving technique allows them to train harder or longer and recover a lot faster. They’re functioning better, using the correct muscles and therefore placing less strain on the body. It also gives them something to think about while running!If technique is a concern, seek help.PlanAn individualised program will be hugely beneficial and will assist in getting you over the line. Let’s loosely break down the 16 weeks you’ve given yourself.

0-4 WEEKS:

  • Get used to running regularly and allow your muscles and connective tissue time to adapt.
  • Run shorter distances often (3-5km) 3-4 times per week.

5-14 WEEKS:

  • Increase your long run slowly, week by week.
  • You don’t need to run the full distance in your prep, so on your long run build up toa 16-18km.


  • Tuesday – 3-5km easy
  • Thursday – 8km
  • Friday – 3-5km easy
  • Sunday – Long run 15 km

15-16 WEEKS:

  • Decrease the distance of long run.
  • Based on the times you’ve been running make a plan for race day (given we had nobackground to start with).

Supplementary Exercise

Your body will appreciate some strength and flexibility training. I’d suggest adding a yoga class to your week. Vinyasa will help with flexibility and strength or a good Yin class will be beneficial by targeting deeper connective tissue to promote greater flexibility and joint health.


  • Running alone for your first half-marathon is difficult. Find a run group nearby to join, particularly for the long Sunday runs.
  • Get as many mates involved by using a run as your catch up rather than a coffee or dinner.
  • Run different routes/locations. Nothing better than a run with a view or experiencing a new trail to keep you having fun.
  • Be creative, make it fun by including your interests into running; colourful clothes, friends or run to a destination and get a lift home.


Not only limited to run days. Stay hydrated for the positive/restorative effect on the muscles and connective tissue. With the additional stress you’re putting on your body you need to make sure you’re giving it the best chance of recovering and adapting before the next run.

Run Melbourne presented by lululemon.

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