20-Week Half Marathon Training Schedule

For some runners, the prospect of preparing to run a half marathon in three months is a bit daunting, so we’ve prepared this five-month training plan to offer a more gradual buildup to race day — both physical and mental — than our 12-week beginner and 16-week intermediate training plans offer.

(MORE: 12-Week Training Plan | 16-Week Training Plan)

This plan starts slowly with four days of running each week over the first six weeks, later transitioning to five days of running each week as the calendar proceeds further into the training:

  Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week
1
off 3 miles off 3 miles off 4 miles 3 miles
Week
2
off 3 miles off 3 miles off 4 miles 3 miles
Week
3
off 4 miles off 4 miles off 5 miles 3 miles
Week
4
off 4 miles off 4 miles off 5 miles 3 miles
Week
5
off 5 miles off 5 miles off 6 miles 2-3 miles
Week
6
off 5 miles off 5 miles off 6 miles 2-3 miles
Week
7
off 3 miles 5 miles 3 miles off 7 miles 2-3 miles
Week
8
off 3 miles 5 miles 3 miles off 7 miles 2-3 miles
Week
9
off 4 miles 5 miles 4 miles off 8 miles 2-3 miles
Week
10
off 4 miles 5 miles 4 miles off 8 miles 2-3 miles
Week
11
off 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 9 miles 2 miles
Week
12
off 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 9 miles 2 miles
Week
13
off 5 miles 6 miles 5 miles off 10 miles 2 miles
Week
14
off 5 miles 6 miles 5 miles off 10 miles 2 miles
Week
15
off 5 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 11 miles 2 miles
Week
16
off 5 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 11 miles 2 miles
Week
17
off 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 12 miles off
Week
18
off 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles off 12 miles off
Week
19
off 4 miles 5 miles 4 miles off 6 miles off
Week
20
off 4-5 miles off 4-5 miles off 13.1
miles!
off

For Beginning & Experienced Runners

Because this training plan spreads out the weekly and long runs over five months, it can be used by runners who are attempting their first half marathon as well as by someone who’s run several halfs already and wants a structured approach to their training. The plan is designed to gradually ease the runner into the process with light, easy runs in the opening weeks, followed by longer, more demanding runs in the middle and later weeks, to help build your fitness level.

Slow Mileage Escalation

The 20-week plan is designed to escalate the mileage you’ll run each week more slowly than the other two plans, by bumping up the mileage one week and repeating it the next, and then bumping it up again the following week, and so on. This will help you develop both the physical stamina and the mental confidence that you’ll be able to complete 13.1 miles by showing you, very slowly, that you really can do it — the mileage doesn’t increase dramatically from week to week, we just add one mile onto the weekly long runs each week.

Remember also to get plenty of rest on the days you don’t run, or consider cross-training such as strength exercises, to give your legs ample time to rest and replenish, especially after your long runs.

(MORE: 5 Things Savvy Runners Know About How to Have a Great Race)

Time Your Long Runs With Your Race

The schedule above places the weekly long run on Saturday, followed by a usually much shorter quick run (or walk) on Sunday. Feel free to swap these if the race you’ve signed up for falls on a Sunday; I’ve always found that it’s best to do your long runs on the day you’ll actually run your race, to allow your body to get used to the rhythm of the short run/long run each week.

Consult the Experts

Remember that there are a number of ways to structure a half marathon training plan. Running coaches Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway, who is well-known for his Run-Walk-Run approach to training, offer a number of training plans on their own websites that are excellent guides to getting ready for any race.

7 comments… add one

  • Matt October 17, 2014, 12:56 am

    I followed this plan all the way through. Apart from 2 weeks off in the summer to go away.
    I couldn’t run half a mile when I started. Now I do a half marathon on Sunday, hoping to do it around the 2 hour mark.
    Thanks for putting this up.

    Reply
    • Rick October 26, 2014, 11:59 pm

      Great schedule! How did you do, Matt? Perhaps some stats and time?

      Reply
  • Naomi November 9, 2014, 4:13 am

    This is great, I have 20 weeks till my first half marathon and will be trying out this schedule. I’m 23 and a regular gym goer but do not have much experience of running and didn’t know where to start, so thank you very much for sharing this. Wish me luck! I shall report back in 20 weeks….

    Reply
  • Br. Peter November 9, 2014, 4:34 pm

    Used the Jeff Galloway methods before. Haven’t done a half in about two years. This looks like a great way to get back into it. Be back in 20 weeks to let you know how it went.

    Reply
  • Lucretia November 11, 2014, 10:09 am

    Hi,

    I will be running my first half-marathon in April- do you recommend any foods that I should focus on eating to better prepare my body for the distance run?

    Reply
  • James November 11, 2014, 5:39 pm

    I used this schedule for my first half (Trenton Half, 11/8/14). I had a few extra weeks when I first started training so I repeated weeks 12, 14, and 16. Other than that I stuck to the schedule with tenacity. Result: 1:43:19. (Male, 35 yrs., beginner)

    Reply
  • Fabi November 16, 2014, 1:42 pm

    I have my first 1/2 marathon coming up on 12/14/14. I’ have been using your 12week training plan. I’m up at 10 miles on my long run day. The only problem and mistake I have and keep doing is that I start off fast and then burn out by the end of my run. How can I bring my pace down to a moderate pace with out burning out not slowing to down. I start 8.30/mile and then drop down to 8.45/mile. My goal is to finish under 1hr50min.

    Reply

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