How Long To Train For A Half Marathon?

Understanding the optimal training length based on your fitness level and experience.

Achieving half marathon success is all about training right, and giving yourself ample time (but not too much) to train for your 13.1 mile (or 21.1 kilometer) race is essential.

When considering how long to train for a half marathon, you have to take into account your current fitness level, your running history, and your half marathon goals.

How long do you need to start training for a half marathon?

Most runners, including rookies, should take around 12 weeks – or 3 months – of training to get half marathon ready.

However, this can change depending on a few factors – total beginners with no running experience will likely want to train for 15-16 weeks or more to build up their weekly mileage and their running form in a sustainable way.

Similarly, experienced runners who are already training regularly might only need 6-8 weeks to hone themselves for the half marathon – although if they’re training for a fast time, they might need a little longer.

As race day approaches, you also need to factor in a tapering period.

In this article, we will cover:

A group of runners running for the title "How Long To Train For a Half Marathon?"

Beginner Runners – How Long To Train For a Half Marathon?

Beginner runners often struggle with knowing how long to train for a half marathon, as it’s a completely new discipline to them and they’ve got little to measure themselves against.

What is the minimum time required to train for a half marathon if I’m starting from scratch?

If it is your first time, you can get half-marathon1Fokkema, T., Damme, A. A. D. N., Fornerod, M. W. J., Vos, R., Bierma‐Zeinstra, S. M. A., & Middelkoop, M. (2020). Training for a (half‐)marathon: Training volume and longest endurance run related to performance and running injuries. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports30(9), 1692–1704. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13725ready in 3-4 months; if you have already been jogging, running/walking, or completed shorter distance events like a 5k or 10k, you can likely get ready in 3 months (12 weeks).

If you’re completely lacking in running experience, You should aim to spend around 15-16 weeks getting ready.

Whether training for a half marathon race or a full marathon, a training plan should also involve a strength training bloc. Compound, load-bearing exercises like squats and lunges, done under the supervision of a personal trainer, are a great way to stay injury-free.

Remember to give yourself enough time to train, always warm up and cool down, and consider working with a running coach.

Running offers a plethora of benefits2Oswald, F., Campbell, J., Williamson, C., Richards, J., & Kelly, P. (2020). A Scoping Review of the Relationship between Running and Mental Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(21), 8059. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17218059, and we are delighted you have chosen to take the plunge!

Half Marathon Training Plans for Beginners

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 1

Couch To Half Marathon Training Plan – 15 Weeks

Our Couch to Half Marathon Training Plan is our classic training plan for new runners looking to nail their Half Marathon!

Specifically designed to get you from the ‘getting started’ phase to the finish line of your half marathon, this training plan gradually increases your mileage over 15 weeks to ensure you build endurance without overdoing it.

The plan is designed with a ‘tiered’ approach, working to get you to the 5k milestone, then the 10k milestone, before reaching the half marathon mark.

Although the plan spans 15 weeks, it is designed to be stretched out to suit your ability level and needs – once you reach a milestone, you can pause there until ready to progress.

Who is it for?: 

New runners looking to finish their half marathon! It’s best suited for those runners who don’t have an ambitious finishing time in mind, as the focus is not on speed but on gradually – and safely – building that mileage up.

How Long?: 

15 weeks, as a minimum. As you reach each milestone, you can pause until you are ready to progress further. 

The plan doesn’t have a speed or pace focus at all – the objective is to get the required mileage in. It includes three mid-week runs, to be performed at a comfortable pace, and one long-slow easy run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 2

Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan – 16 Weeks

Our 16 Weeks Beginner Half Marathon Training Program is a great plan to build up a strong base and do well on your first half marathon.

It’s best suited for relatively new runners or people who lead active lives but lack running experience.

You should ideally be able to run 3 miles / 5 km continuously – regardless of pace – before commencing this plan. That said, it can be used as a run/walk plan too.

Who is it for?: 

Runners with little experience, active people with no running experience. People looking to work hard to guarantee a good half marathon finish.

How Long?: 

16 weeks // 4 Months. This allows for a very gradual, controlled increase in your mileage – which minimizes the risk of injury or overtraining issues.

The plan doesn’t have a speed or pace focus at all – the objective is to get the required mileage in. It includes 3 mid-week runs, to be performed at a comfortable pace, and one longer run run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 3

Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan – 12 Weeks

Our 12 Weeks Half Marathon Training Plan is a great plan for runners who have some short-distance experience or perhaps are a little rusty and need to blow off the cobwebs prior to their half marathon!

It is a compressed version of our 16 week half marathon plan, and also includes the option of switching out a training run for a tempo run.

Tempo runs are great for runners with a specific finishing time in mind; they help you to train towards that time.

Who is it for?: 

Runners with some experience looking to rock a solid half marathon! 

How Long?: 

12 weeks // 3 months. This is an abridged version of the 16-week plan; if you’re confident that you can handle the faster mileage increases, this is the plan for you.

It includes 3 mid-week runs, to be performed at a comfortable pace, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

Intermediate Runners – How Long To Train For a Half Marathon?

If you’ve been running regularly for the past six months or more and have perhaps already run a half marathon, then this affects how you train for your half marathon – you’ll likely need between 8 and 12 weeks before you’re ready.

If you’re aiming for a fast time (i.e. to break a PB), your training time will be a little longer to account for the additional speed work you’ll be performing.

Intermediate and ‘Improver’ Half Marathon Training Plans

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 4

Improver Half Marathon Training Plan – 10 Weeks

Our 10 Weeks Half Marathon Training Plan is best suited for runners with some experience looking to improve their half marathon performance.

It builds up your mileage over 10 weeks, and includes one tempo run per week.

Tempo runs are great for runners with a specific finishing time in mind; they help you to train towards that time.

Who is it for?: 

Runners looking to run a great 1st half marathon, or set a new PR!

How Long?: 

10 weeks.

It includes 2 mid-week runs, to be performed at a comfortable pace, one tempo run, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 5

Improver Half Marathon Training Plan – 8 Weeks

Our 8 Week Half Marathon Training Plan is for experienced runners looking to ramp up their training for a half marathon!

It builds up your mileage over 8 weeks and includes one tempo run per week.

Tempo runs are great for runners with a specific finishing time in mind; they help you to train towards that time.

Who is it for?:

Runners who have run a half marathon in the past and want to ‘dust off’ their half marathon chops. 

How Long?: 

8 weeks.

It includes 2 mid-week runs, to be performed at a comfortable pace, one tempo run, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

Advanced and Elite Runners – How Long To Train For a Half Marathon?

Most advanced and elite runners will typically take 4-8 weeks to get half-marathon ready.

Chances are, they are already running half marathon distances (13.1 miles, 21.1 kilometers) in some of their longer training runs, so their actual training will be about building a mileage base, working on speed, and then a brief 1-2 week taper.

The following are our training plans based around a finishing time, for intermediate and advanced half marathon runners!

They should provide a good guide for thinking about how long to train for a half marathon!

Time-Based Half Marathon Training Schedules

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 6

Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Training Plan

This Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Training Plan has been reverse-engineered around the goal of finishing before the 2:00 mark.

The training plan includes recommended pace targets and strategies for each training run.

Over 12 weeks, this plan builds up the mileage and includes two speed-based training runs per week. All details of speed and how to perform these workouts are included in the training plan.

Who is it for?

Established runners looking to beat the 2-hour mark!

How Long?: 12 weeks.

It includes 2 mid-week runs, 2 speed-based runs, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 7

1 Hour 45 Min Half Marathon Training Plan

This 1:45 Half Marathon Training Plan has been reverse-engineered around the goal of finishing before the 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The training plan includes recommended pace targets and strategies for each training run.

Over 12 weeks, this plan builds up the mileage and includes two speed-based training runs per week. All details of speed and how to perform these workouts are included in the training plan.

Who is it for?: 

Established runners looking to beat the 1:45 hour mark!

How Long?: 12 weeks.

It includes 2 mid-week runs, 2 speed-based runs, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

How Long To Train For A Half Marathon? 8

1 Hour 30 Min Half Marathon Training Plan

This 1:30 Half Marathon Training Plan has been reverse-engineered around the goal of finishing before the 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The training plan includes recommended pace targets and strategies for each training run.

Over 12 weeks of training, this plan builds up the mileage and includes two speed-based training sessions per week. All details of speed and how to perform these workouts are included in the training plan.

Who is it for?: 

Advanced runners looking to beat a half marathon time of 1:30!

How Long?:

12 weeks.

It includes 2 mid-week runs, 2 speed-based runs, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

It includes 2 mid-week runs, 2 speed-based runs, and one long-slow run each weekend to build your max mileage. The plan includes one cross-training day per week and two rest days. 

When you are running long distances, remember it isn’t just about your physical fitness but also about how you fuel. Long periods of time on the trails require adequate hydration with sufficient electrolytes and adequate fuelling with carbs.

Don’t leave it until race day to try your first gels!

Once you reach the finish line of your half marathon, check out our half marathon recovery guide!

References

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Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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