How Long It Takes to Train for a Half-Marathon

People running a half-marathon in a park

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When you set your sights on running a half-marathon race, be sure you have enough time to train for it. The 13.1-mile (21.1-kilometer) race is an endurance challenge that could take anywhere from six to 14 weeks of dedicated training to prepare for.

The time required for you to train adequately for a half-marathon depends on your current fitness level, running experience, and goals for the race. When it comes to long-distance running, you can't cram a lot of training into a short period and expect to be ready.

People who are newer to distance running may take longer to get race-ready, while advanced runners could be good to go in less time. Taking a safe, gradual approach will help you avoid running injuries and avoid getting burned out. 

Beginner Runners

If you've been running or run/walking for a few months and you've already tried a shorter race distance, such as a 5K, you're probably ready to start training for a half-marathon.

Expect to spend 12 to 14 weeks training if you've never run a half-marathon and you're currently running under 10 miles each week. You should plan on running at least three times a week in the beginning and at least four times a week as your training progresses.

During this time, you can expect to build up your endurance and strength to where long runs begin feeling easier and adding on miles is the natural next step.

While sticking to your training plan is key, it's not as important as stepping back if you experience an injury or personal crisis. Powering through could worsen your injury and result in a long-term issue. If you feel any pain—aside from any general post-run soreness you may experience—it's probably best to pause your training and consult with a doctor.

Training Plans

Start by running three to four times a week at a conversational pace. This means you can speak in full sentences without struggling to breathe. Each week, continue at this pace while gradually increasing your distance. You should aim to run 10 to 15 miles per week when you first get started and progress to around 25 to 30 miles.

Aim to run three to four times a week with a long run on one of those days. You'll also want to incorporate one to two days of cross-training to help build your fitness and boost your injury resistance. Swimming, Pilates, elliptical training, cycling, and walking are all great complements to half-marathon training. Be sure to have a dedicated rest day and take more as needed.

Regarding the weekly time commitment, the highest mileage weeks of your training will be three, four, and five weeks before your race. During the final two weeks before the half-marathon, you'll start dialing your mileage down during your tapering phase. This gives both your body and mind an opportunity to recover from training and prepare for your upcoming race.

You'll want to invest in good running gear—namely a high-quality pair of running shoes. You should also acquire sweat-wicking clothing and perhaps a hydration belt (or fanny pack) to store energy gels, small snacks, water, and possibly your keys and phone.

Beginner Training Schedules

Below are some sample half-marathon training schedules for beginners:

  • Run/Walk Half-Marathon Training Schedule: Follow this 12-week half-marathon training schedule and you’ll be able to run/walk to the finish line of your half marathon. You should have a base mileage of about 8 to 10 miles per week to begin this training program.
  • Beginner Half-Marathon Training Schedule: This 12-week schedule is for a beginner half-marathoner whose goal is to run the half-marathon. You should have a base mileage of 8 to 10 miles per week to start this training schedule.
  • Advanced Beginner Half-Marathon Training Schedule: If the beginner schedule seems too easy for you, you may want to try this advanced beginner program. It's geared toward runners who can run up to 4 miles and are currently running 4 to 5 days a week.

Intermediate and Advanced Runners

If you have a little more running experience and feel like you're past the beginner stage, you could be ready for a half-marathon in 6 to 10 weeks. Experienced runners who have already run a half-marathon may be able to get race-ready in a shorter period of time but may need more training weeks if they're hoping to beat a personal record (PR).

Training Plans

Most advanced runners should be able to start by running 25 to 30 miles per week and increase until they are running around 40 miles total. Plan to run at least four to five days a week, with one or two days of cross-training, such as cycling or swimming. You can expect to increase both your distance and your pace uniformly.

Even if you are an intermediate or advanced runner, don't forget the basics. Make sure your running shoes are in good condition and you have the necessary gear and clothing to be successful. Your most intense weeks of training should be the three to five weeks before your race. Spend the two weeks leading up to the big day tapering down, allowing yourself time to unwind.

Advanced Training Schedules

The following are some half-marathon training plan options for experienced runners. If you already have the base mileage established, you can skip the first week of these programs and treat week two as your week one.

  • 3 Days a Week Half-Marathon Schedule: If you don't have a lot of time to train, this 16-week half marathon training plan may be for you. It's based on three targeted runs per week, including a tempo run, an interval run, and a long run.
  • Intermediate Half-Marathon Training Schedule: This 12-week half-marathon training program is geared toward intermediate runners who are already running about 30 to 60 minutes four to five times a week.
  • Advanced Half-Marathon Training Schedule: This 12-week half-marathon training program is geared toward experienced runners who can already run up to 8 miles comfortably.

A Word From Verywell

Training for a half-marathon can be equally as exciting as it is exhausting. If you have any specific health concerns or considerations, it may be best to consult your physician before beginning. Remember to listen to your body and rest as needed. Life happens, and there may be many things that throw your training off course—but there is always another race.

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