How Can I Train for a Half Marathon Only a Month Away?

Water's Edge Half Marathon Starting Line
Water's Edge Half Marathon Starting Line. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Question: How can I train for a half marathon that is only a month away? I haven't been training and the Avon 39 Walk for Breast Cancer half marathon is only a month away. How can I train in the little time I have left?

Answer: Work on extending your longest mileage training walks in the short time you have left. You also need to ensure your chosen race gear will work well by using it on your long walks.

Can You Make it to the Finish?

A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers. In my experience, if you are a fairly healthy person who has walked 6 miles (10K) at a time in the past month, you will be able to finish a half marathon. You may be walking with blisters the last four miles. If you aren't already walking for six miles (10K) at a time each week, I recommend switching to a shorter distance event (such as a 10K or 5K). A fairly healthy person should be able to finish a 5K or 10K distance with only a month of training (or even no training to speak of).

The Avon 39 Walk for Breast Cancer is a forgiving walk -- you can catch a shuttle to the finish from several checkpoints. For a charity event, I don't recommend going past the point of pain. Take a ride if you are overheating or in pain from muscle strain or blisters.

Can You Make the Finish Cut-Off Time Limit?

The most important consideration is whether you will reach the finish by the cutoff time.

It is unethical, rude, and dangerous to enter an event where you know you won't be able to make it to the finish before their stated closing time. Walk event hosts close down water stops and open the course to traffic on a set schedule. If you are lagging, you upset the entire system and endanger yourself.

How to Predict Your Half Marathon Finish Time

Take a Long Distance Training Walk Once Per Week

In the time you have left, you need to walk a long walk one day a week and walk for 30 to 60 minutes all other days of the week. Your first long walk should be 1 to 2 miles further than your usual workout walk. If you are completely untrained, aim for walking for 90 minutes to two hours for your first long walk, which should be a distance of 5 to 7 miles.

Each week, increase the distance of that long walk by another mile. If you experience no blisters or muscle strain, you may be able to do a hurry-up schedule and bump up the distance by 2 miles each week. But that brings more risk of developing blisters, which will take a few days to heal and can set you back.

Effects of Long Training Walks

Long distance walks test your mental endurance as well as showing how soft your skin is and where you are likely to experience blisters and chafing. How you hold your body and the repetitive motion can leave you with aches and stiffness afterward.


With your short training time, it is more important to work on distance rather than speed. After a warm up mile, spend the next 45 minutes at 80% of your race pace. Then reduce your speed to an easier pace to finish the needed distance training for that day.


Your feet aren't used to the long mileage and you don't have time to slowly toughen them up. You will need to find the right recipe, quickly, to prevent foot blisters. First, switch to socks made of wicking fabric rather than cotton. Use a lubricant and/or corn starch on your feet to reduce friction and keep you feet dry.
Seven Strategies to Prevent Blisters

Half Marathon Shoes

A month before your race is the right time to begin to use your new pair of race shoes in your training. You will want to wear them on a few shorter walks and then on a couple of your long training days. You want shoes that are broken in but still fresh, with between 80 and 150 walking miles.

Walking Gear

A key rule for long distance walks is "nothing new on race day." Wear your race socks, shoes, shorts/tights, top, hat, etc. on your long training walks. If you are going to be wearing a costume for the race, it is even more important to make sure you can walk in it.

Walking Snacks and Sports Drink

Find out from the race web site what sports drink and snacks they are providing on the course and use those on your long training walks. If you discover that they give you problems, you may want to carry your own. Note how often there will be water stops and decide whether you need to carry water with you.
What and When to Drink on the Marathon
Marathon Energy Snacks

Walking Companions

If you're going to walk together on race day, it's wise to train together for a couple of your long training days. Discuss what you need from each other in the way of support and how you will negotiate restroom stops, etc. You may discover your paces are not compatible and it's best for you to split up during the race and meet at the finish area afterward.

Train Right Next Time

To keep yourself on course, schedule your training walks

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