How Long Does It Take To Train For A Half Marathon? 

Figure out your ideal half marathon training plan duration by following our guidelines to choosing a plan

After your first, fifth, or 50th 5K, you might set your sights even higher and take interest in testing your endurance with a longer race distance. 

Perhaps you’ll gradually increase your distance by running a few 10K races, but what if you decide to jump to a half marathon right away? Or maybe you have already run a few and want to improve your half marathon time?

If you have decided this is your next big goal, you may be wondering, how long does it take to train for a half marathon?

Generally speaking, it takes 12 weeks to train for a half marathon. Of course, this will depend on various factors such as your experience and fitness level.

In this guide, we will discuss the details of half-marathon training cycles and the factors you need to consider when choosing the right half-marathon training plan for you.

A group of people with numbers on their shirts running a road race.

How Long Does It Take To Train For a Half Marathon?

Ultimately, there isn’t a single answer to the question: “How long does it take to train for a half marathon?“

Several factors, namely your current fitness level and your race goals, will determine how long you should devote to your half-marathon training plan.

Although we will discuss the specifics of how each of these factors affects the ideal amount of time it takes to train for a half marathon, a general guideline for the majority of runners is about 12 weeks of consistent training.

Beginners running their first race will need to allow for more time, whereas runners who are already fit and experienced can prepare for a half marathon in a matter of a few weeks.

Keep in mind that with almost every half marathon training schedule, the last week—if not the last two weeks (ideally)—are dedicated to tapering before the race. 

The half marathon taper is not as dramatic or important as the full marathon taper, but it is still an essential part of ensuring that your body is ready1Smyth, B., & Lawlor, A. (2021). Longer Disciplined Tapers Improve Marathon Performance for Recreational Runners. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2021.735220 to fire on all cylinders and feels fresh and recovered from training2Haugen, T., Sandbakk, Ø., Seiler, S., & Tønnessen, E. (2022). The Training Characteristics of World-Class Distance Runners: an Integration of Scientific Literature and Results-Proven Practice. Sports Medicine – Open8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-022-00438-7 on race day. 

For this reason, half-marathon training plans might seem slightly longer than expected to give you enough time to increase the long run by about one mile per week, progressing from your current longest run distance to the 13.1-mile half marathon distance.

For example, if your current longest run is 6 miles, a 6-week half marathon training plan will likely be too aggressive and ambitious because you need that buffer of a couple of weeks to taper down and have a little bit of a relative recovery halfway through the build cycle.

A person running in a field at sunrise.

What Are The Main Factors that Affect How Long It Takes to Train for a Half Marathon?

The three factors that have the most significant impact one way or the other on how long it takes to train for a half marathon are your starting fitness level, your race goals, and how many days per week or hours per week you have available to train.

Let’s look at each of these variables individually:

#1: Current Fitness and Running Experience Level

It should come as no surprise that the variable that will play the biggest role in determining how long it takes to train for a half marathon is your current fitness level and experience level as a runner.

If this is your first time, a couch-to-half-marathon training plan will be necessary. 

These types of training plans gradually build your fitness and endurance as you work your way up to the half-marathon distance. 

I recommend you have about six months of running under your belt before you run your first half marathon. Then, you should be able to take on a couch-to-half marathon training plan or half marathon training plan for beginners in about 16 to 20 weeks of training.

Of course, the more weeks you allow yourself between your first run/walk and your half marathon race, the easier it will be for your body to properly adapt to all of your training and get accustomed to running.

That way, you will lower your risk of injury, and be more prepared you will be on race day.

A person running on a field.

What Is The Minimum Training Time Required For A Beginner To Complete A Half Marathon?

Although 16 to 20 weeks at the bare minimum is recommended for novice runners, training for a half marathon in 12 to 16 weeks is usually sufficient for beginners who are currently able to run a couple of miles.

What About An Intermediate Runner?

Intermediate runners stepping up from a 5K typically need 10-12 weeks to train for a half marathon, depending on their goals for the race, previous running experience, weekly mileage, and number of available training days per week. 

If you have been running 10Ks and want to jump from the 10K to the half marathon, an 8-week half marathon training plan is usually sufficient.

And Advanced?

Lastly, advanced runners who just want to tune up to finish a half marathon might be able to get away with a four-week half marathon training plan.

However, if you want to improve your performance and set a finishing time PR, an 8-week half-marathon training plan is a good compromise to give your body enough time to make physiological adaptations.

A person running on a empty road.

#2: Race Goals

Whether you are an experienced half marathon runner or training for your first half marathon, your goals for the race will impact the ideal number of weeks you will need to train.

Particularly in cases with experienced runners, there can be quite a big range in the number of weeks that you will need to dedicate to training for the race depending on the answers to the following questions:

  • Are you trying to set a PR?
  • Has it been a long time since you’ve run longer distances?
  • Have you been focusing mainly on the 5Ks or 10Ks?
  • Do you just want to cross the finish line, or are you going for a competitive time? 

For example, consider the differences in half marathon training plan lengths between a runner who is looking to set a big PR and one who just wants to finish the half marathon.

Two people running and training for a half marathon.

Let’s imagine that the two runners are of the same fitness level. They both recently ran a 1:45 half marathon about three months ago and have kept up their fitness level over the past three months.

The runners do one speed workout per week and maintain a long run of about 10 miles.

Runner A wants to run 1:38 or faster at his next half marathon and Runner B just wants to jump in a half marathon with a friend but isn’t concerned about time.

As can likely be surmised, the necessary approach to success in each of these cases differs.

With Runner A, an advanced half-marathon training plan to run sub 1:40–and about 7 minutes faster than his last race—will be necessary. To improve his fitness enough, another full training cycle of at least 8-12 weeks may be necessary.

Even though his endurance has been maintained, and he won’t have to worry as much about building up his volume with easy longer training runs, he will need to focus a lot on speed workouts and tempo runs to make such an improvement in his half marathon performance.

Therefore, an 8 to 12-week advanced half marathon training program would be ideal.

A group of people running over a bridge.

On the other hand, Runner B is not concerned about his time, so the only thing that he really needs to be mindful of is sharpening up before the race.

Since he consistently runs at least one 10-mile long run per week, he probably already has the fitness to complete the half marathon. 

A 4-week half-marathon training plan that would allow him to get in one or two longer runs of 12 miles or so, and then a quick taper would suffice. He could probably even get away with a 3-week half-marathon training plan.

#3: Number of Days Per Week You Can Or Want to Train

In general, the more you run per week, the more quickly you can get in shape for a half marathon, so the half marathon training plan can be shorter regarding the number of weeks required.

However, it’s not as simple as deciding to take on the most aggressive plan, running five or six days per week just so you can train for a half marathon in less time.

You need to consider your current fitness level and ability, the logistics of your life, how much time you actually have per week to train, and your injury risk.

Do ensure you carve out enough time to train sufficiently so you can comfortably include all of your training sessions, including speed work sessions, cross-training, strength training, easy runs, long runs, and, of course, rest days.

You need to have enough long runs worked in to practice your race strategy, such as fueling with energy gels and hydrating with sports drinks, if necessary, throughout your race.

You also need to work in time to warm up, cool down, stretch, sleep, eat well, and focus on good hydration.

Ready to lace up those running shoes and train? Check out our half-marathon training plans here and decide which is the best choice for you.

Also, working one-on-one with a running coach is a great way to get personalized help and training tips to help you reach your personal goal.

Racers running a half marathon.


  • 1
    Smyth, B., & Lawlor, A. (2021). Longer Disciplined Tapers Improve Marathon Performance for Recreational Runners. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2021.735220
  • 2
    Haugen, T., Sandbakk, Ø., Seiler, S., & Tønnessen, E. (2022). The Training Characteristics of World-Class Distance Runners: an Integration of Scientific Literature and Results-Proven Practice. Sports Medicine – Open8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40798-022-00438-7
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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