Tackling the half marathon race for the first time is exciting! But every beginning runner eyeing the distance likely wonders, “How long will it take me to train for a half marathon and when should I start?”
You will need to 12-14 weeks to train for a half marathon which is equal to 3-3.5 months of training. This amount of time will allow you to train for your race the right way so that you can reach the starting line smiling, injury-free and ready to do your best.
But why does half marathon training take so long, anyway? Can’t you prepare more quickly? Is there anything in particular you can expect to see in half marathon training plans?
For answers to these, and other related questions, keep reading!
When should I start training for my half marathon?
Ideally, you’ve chosen and signed up for a half marathon that is several months away. That will give you enough time to create a solid foundation of running mileage before pivoting to your specific half marathon training plan.
Running is a sport of patience. Your body needs time to build strength and endurance in order to handle the new demands that training for a half marathon will place upon it.
In other words, if you have a half marathon on your schedule that is still several months away, you should start preparing for it now.
Build a Foundation of Running Mileage
Take any extra time prior to the start of your half marathon-specific training plan to work on slowly building up your mileage (time on feet) and/or weekly running frequency. This phase of pre-race training is called base building, or base training.
Base building is something that benefits all runners – from beginners to the pros! Establishing a solid running base prior to beginning your half marathon training schedule will make you a stronger runner over time.
With a solid running foundation, or base, you’re sure to have a more successful experience, not only in training for your half marathon, but on race day itself!
How many weeks does it take to train for a half marathon?
It will take approximately 12-14 weeks to properly train for a half marathon. The vast majority of beginner half marathon training plans allot this amount of time, whereas plans intended for more advanced runners may be fewer weeks with the thought being that these runners already have a solid base of mileage.
How many months does it take to train for a half marathon?
Not everyone likes to think of their schedule in terms of weeks. If you fall into that camp, the time needed to properly train for a half marathon is approximately 3-3.5 months.
What to Look for in a Half Marathon Training Plan
While 12-14 weeks may seem like a long time, good half marathon training plans will:
build runners’ mileage up slowly;
carve out 1-3 rest days each week;
include cutback or down weeks every 2-4 weeks, where mileage is reduced to allow your body a chance to recover and absorb the training;
taper the mileage down prior to race day.
Why are half marathon training plans so long, anyway?
First, a good half marathon training schedule should progress slowly. To allow for your body to slowly adapt and acclimate to the training demands placed upon it, without getting injured, you need lots of time.
Large leaps in training volume (aka miles run) from week to week are not only mentally discouraging, but put you at a much higher risk of injury that could prevent you from reaching the starting line of your race!
Another reason half marathon training plans are so long is because life happens! You will want a bit of a cushion in your training program for when life inevitably throws a curveball in your schedule. Family emergencies, illnesses, crazy-busy weeks at home or work…they can all threaten to derail your consistency and disrupt your race preparation. It is much easier to tweak your training plan as needed when there is more time leading up to race day.
Lastly, a longer plan allows you to build more mileage volume. And the higher the volume you have (within reason) the better outcome you’ll have on race day.
How long does it take for a beginner to train for a half marathon?
As in most things in life and running, how long it will take a beginner to train for a half marathon won’t be the same for each athlete, but most beginners should allow 12 – 14 weeks to train for a half marathon.
A runner who is relatively new to running, but has already raced a handful of shorter race distances (which will be most people going for their first half marathon) can prepare well in about 3 months.
However, if you are a true beginner who has never really run before or currently isn’t running at all (a couch to half marathon if you will), you should plan on training for AT LEAST 14 weeks, if not more, leading up to race day.
The best rule of thumb for ALL beginners training for a half marathon race is to give yourself as much time as possible to prepare.
As mentioned earlier, there is no detriment to having a base of running miles well in advance of the start of your the half marathon training cycle.
Anything you can do to start preparing your body well in advance of your half marathon training cycle will be beneficial.
For additional information on training for a half marathon as a beginner, check out our article, Half Marathon Training for Beginners: A Comprehensive Guide, which covers specific issues and questions you may have in more detail.
How Half Marathon Training Weeks Build
You can expect your half marathon training plan to gradually increase your overall weekly mileage over the course of 12-14 weeks leading up to race day. You will reach your peak weekly mileage one to two weeks before your race.
All half marathon training programs feature a weekly long run to prepare your body and mind to complete the full 13.1 mile race distance. Your weekly long run, which will probably start around 4-6 miles long, will typically peak somewhere between 10-12 miles toward the end of your training cycle. (More advanced runners will top out at a 14-mile long run or farther.) We have an entire article devoted to knowing more about the half marathon long run!
Immediately following your longest long run of the training schedule (which often happens within your peak mileage week), most half marathon plans will lead into a taper phase.
The taper phase reduces your overall mileage and training intensity, to allow your body to rest up and be fresh at the starting line!
After the taper, the next step is race day itself, and of course, crossing the finish line of your very first half marathon – a huge achievement!
Can I train for a half marathon in 10 weeks?
A quick internet search yields many half marathon training plans, supposedly for beginner runners, that promise preparation for a half marathon in only 10 weeks (or less!).
We strongly caution beginner runners against these kinds of accelerated programs. The reality is that these shortened programs are actually intended for very experienced runners, who already have a significant foundation of running mileage and prior experiences racing the half marathon distance.
Accelerated plans like these often make significant mileage jumps from week to week. Huge leaps in training – as opposed to a gradual build-up – are a surefire recipe for disaster for beginners, and will likely result in burnout and/or injury. Remember the main goal is to make it to the starting line with a smile!
If completing a half marathon race is important to you, you owe it to yourself to train properly by finding a true beginner half training program that slowly progresses you to race day preparedness over a longer period of time.
14-Week Beginner Half Marathon Training Plan
Coach Jane has designed a free 14 week beginner half marathon training plan, just for RSM readers and Youtube channel viewers. This plan is perfect for true beginner runners tackling their very first half marathon race.
Note that in order to start this plan, you should already be running 10 miles per week, and have completed a long run of 4 miles.
Here are the highlights of Jane’s training plan:
- 4 days a week of running, plus 2 days of rest, (option to add your own strength or cross training workouts)
- Training runs are comprised of easy running only – no speed workouts
- First week long run distance: 5 miles
- Peak week long run distance: 12 miles
- Highest mileage week: 30 miles
- 2 taper weeks leading up to race day
- 3 built-in cutback weeks of reduced weekly mileage, every fourth week of the plan
Sign up for a free plan below on Google Sheets, or you can purchase it to use on Final Surge for a low price – this option includes strength training workouts, allows for better accountability and offers increased ease of use: find out how it works here.