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

Four people running up a hill
(Image credit: xavierarnau / Getty Images)

A half marathon is an excellent goal for runners of all levels. It’s a challenging distance that requires tailored training and a whole lot of grit to complete, without being as tough as running a marathon, which has a tendency to take over your entire life for months.

You still need a good chunk of time to prepare, however, and while how long it should take to train for a half marathon will depend on your fitness and running experience, it’s always good to have more time available.

For more advice on how long it takes to train for a half marathon we spoke to James Thie, coach at Coopah, official training partner of the London Landmarks Half Marathon.

About Our Expert
About Our Expert
James Thie

James Thie is a running coach and senior lecturer at the Cardiff School of Sport at Cardiff Metropolitan University. He is also a coach with the Coopah app, which is the official training partner of the London Landmarks Half Marathon. During his own professional running career Thie competed at the Commonwealth Games and World Indoor Championships, finishing fourth in the 1,500m at the 2004 World Indoor Championships. 

How long does it take to train for a half marathon from scratch?

“There are a couple of answers,” says Thie. “There’s the ideal scenario, which is loads of time, the luxury of 16 or 20 weeks, but that never happens. So, for most runners, we go with about 12 weeks. That’s when it gets on people’s radars.

“That’s for being able to complete the distance, being safe enough and smart enough not to push beyond the limitations of your body in those 12 weeks. I’m not saying it’s going to feel brilliant doing it in just 12 weeks. It makes it more challenging because if you’re starting from scratch you have to build up. But you’re going to have enough running and preparation behind you to get it done. 

“I think 12 weeks is the minimum, but if you’ve got more, that’s a luxury. At Coopah, we have eight-week plans—the majority of people go for 12 weeks—and we go up to 24 weeks. If someone wants to start then [24 weeks before the race] I’d say that’s probably ideal because then if you miss a week you have more time. Whereas if you don’t have that time, you need the stars to slightly align for you.”

How long does it take to train for a half marathon if you’re already running 5K or 10K?

“If you’re already parkrunning, that’s a nice base,” says Thie. “You could definitely do it in eight weeks. But, again, if you’ve got the luxury of more time, if you’ve got 12 weeks from a parkrun base, you could probably really do yourself justice if you had a goal in mind.”

How does a half marathon training plan help?

“The benefits of a training plan are structure and, hopefully, variety to make it enjoyable,” says Thie. “Maybe you’ll be doing some sessions you haven’t done before. Sometimes a plan can give you confirmation that, actually, what you’ve done previously has been quite good. A plan breaks it up and looks at a logical way of getting the distance done, regardless of what event it is, and hopefully being the best version of yourself. 

“The last thing you want to do is just guess and make things up. We’re all pushing boundaries slightly, and there are always risks and unknowns. But hopefully at Coopah we take out some of the guesswork, as well as the pressure and uncertainty, with our training plans. We’re super-confident that our plans give you a good chance of being the best version of yourself—it’s far better than winging it.”

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.