20-Week Half Marathon Training

20-week

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.


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:

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

Time Your Long Runs With Your Race

he 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.


More training plans:

41 comments… add one
  • Cesar January 1, 2016, 10:35 am

    I ran my first half this past October, I want to run 4 half marathons in 2016, how do you trying in between races if they are just 3 to 6 weeks apart? The first one is in April, the second in May, the third in September and the fourth in October. I may run one in August, is that too much?

    Reply
    • Harold February 24, 2016, 8:12 pm

      It sounds like a lot Cesar. If you just ran your first a few months ago, five this year is quite a few. In between races you should give yourself at least a week of super low recovery, then ramp back up. I hope you don’t have any time goals for these halfs your running. If you do, then it’s most likely too much. That said, just follow your body.

      Reply
    • Jm March 11, 2016, 11:21 pm

      Sounds ok to me. I’m 51 and ran my first half marathon last Saturday and ran my second the following Sunday with zero issues, but have been running for two years and had a decent base built up. Keep a goal of just running comfortably and finishing and remember to enjoy the journey – cheers

      Reply
  • Kostis October 8, 2015, 3:34 pm

    I run a Marathon 4 years ago, but I had an injury 2 years ago and a knee surgery. I am back to running 5Ks but I am kinda slow (6min/km). I’ve signed up for a Half Marathon which is in exactly 20 weeks from now. I ‘ll give this schedul a try and see if I can do this. 2 targets… finish it in one piece and hopefully finish it in about 2hours

    Reply
  • Bernie W October 4, 2015, 4:51 pm

    Just finished my first 1/2 marathon race. 1:48:13 Mo Cow Bell. Great 20 week program!!!!! Just started running in Jan 2015 and the shorter training guides did concern me, my original goal was to complete the run around 2 hrs. As I made my way from one week to another on the 20 week guide I realized I could do this! I did on week 17 and 18 push my run out to 13.1 to gauge my time and ran around 1:52 on both runs. The only issues I had were a few black toes as I started pushing distance and that issue was due to one pair of running shoes. Shoes Shoes Shoes!!!!!! I am 55 and last year at this time I topped 300lbs and did not start running until I was in the low 200’s. Now for the full marathon in the spring!

    Reply
    • Brian McLoughlin November 14, 2015, 5:02 am

      Bernie, Congratulations. I am 53 and just started running this year as well. I am going to sign up for a 1/2 marathon that is 19 weeks from now and your post has given me the encouragement.

      Reply
      • melinda February 11, 2016, 10:45 am

        I’m also 53 and running my first 1/2 on Sunday. A little worried since I live in a flat city and running in the TX Hill Country, but hope the adrenaline keeps me going!

        Reply
  • Melinda September 20, 2015, 10:40 pm

    Thanks for the plan. Just finished week one and not too bad, even in the heat! I’m early 50s and running my first half-marathon in Feb. I work out regularly – cycle class, cardio machines, weights – but don’t run a lot. Any good stretching exercises would be helpful, also I saw the mention of McCombs and Paleo diet, but would like to know some foods that should be incorporated into training diet and foods to definitely avoid.

    Reply
  • Salvador E. June 11, 2015, 11:12 am

    I am relatively new to running and this schedule is helping me CRUSH it! I am running my first ever half in October and another in December. Let it be known that in March of this year is when I decided to start running after participating in a 5K walk and thought to myself, “I could probably run one of these things” (even at 330lbs.) I am down 40 pounds in June and the ,mile times are getting quicker everyday. Thanks for sharing this schedule.

    Reply
  • Mike May 26, 2015, 7:53 pm

    My wife and I ran our first half marathon in Oct. of 2013 using this plan. It worked very well for us. My wife was 50 and I was 56 at the time. We are running our second half marathon this Oct. and hope to better our times.

    Reply
  • Paul May 8, 2015, 1:22 pm

    Turned 60 last year and set my goal to complete the Warrior Dash, triathlon and complete my first 10K. Did it and now goal for this year again the Warrior Dash, triathlon and complete my first half marathon in September. I needed a schedule for the half so hopefully I can stay healthy enough to complete the half.

    Reply
  • David May 7, 2015, 12:28 pm

    I used this schedule to run my first half marathon back in March. I did most of my runs on a treadmill…(Chicago winters are rough to run outside) and didn’t actually run outside until the day of the race. I finished in 2:14:06, gearing up for my 2nd half marathon in July (Sub 2 hrs maybe) and the Chicago Marathon in October.

    Reply
  • Nathalie A. May 5, 2015, 5:23 pm

    Thanks! This is just what I need to get myself motivated for an upcoming October 10k & November half marathon.

    I am an extreme beginner, having just shed 142 lbs through diet, and exercise. (I’m now 146 lbs!) Now I want to run. I ran when I was younger, and am so extremely anxious about starting a running program. I’m healthy enough, know my knees and ankles can take it, but I feel afraid for some unknown reason. I joined a running group today. I’m setting goals. This is it.

    Thank you for the beginner schedule. I’ll report back with my success. In the meantime, I’ve got a few 5k’s along the way.

    Reply
  • Hailey April 29, 2015, 2:48 pm

    Hi there! I was wondering if there is an important diet component to consider when beginning to train for a half marathon. I eat pretty healthfully now but will running this often increase my appetite? Should I eat more to accomodate the increased excercise?

    Additionally, do you have any recommendations for running in warm weather? I live in New York and the summer months are approaching! Thanks!

    Reply
  • Bryce April 28, 2015, 6:02 pm

    I’ve run many 5K’s and a few 10K’s but after attending the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and Half Marathon and watching my daughter do great in the Marathon I’m taking the plunge to do my first Half Marathon in October. This plan looks great. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  • Matthew April 21, 2015, 5:18 pm

    I have my first half marathon in October. I was wondering if I could do the first three weeks not straight. So what this means is, if it says 3/4 miles. Could I do them, a mile in the morning, a mile in the evening and a mile in the night. Instead of doing all 3/4 miles straight; or does that go against the training.

    Reply
    • Jacqueline April 23, 2015, 1:07 pm

      You want to train your body to endure running long distances, so it is best to run them altogether!

      Reply
  • Tom April 21, 2015, 10:14 am

    Six years ago, I severely pulled my hamstring ( my leg was purple from my rear end to ankle), now I have signed up for a half marathon on my 60th. birthday. The Des Moines marathon, on October 18th. Presently I run 3 miles, with no pain, I’ll take your prayers and follow your program.

    Reply
  • John April 7, 2015, 2:46 pm

    The half I will do is on a Sunday, should I do anything different that last week?

    Reply
  • Beth March 27, 2015, 8:37 pm

    I am 45 and ran my first marathon at 31 and about six or seven after that. Ran my first and only marathon at the age of 38, and kind of burnt out after that. Ran one last half when I was 41 and was in so much pain I decided I would never do one again. I am now convinced that the only reason why that last one hurt so much was because I rushed the training. Going to try one more time in early October using this 20 week training schedule (which resembles the one I used for my first half years ago).
    Good luck everyone!

    Reply
    • Matt April 14, 2015, 2:19 pm

      This sounds almost exactly like me. Ran my first half at 35. Have ran 5 so far. Ran my first full marathon a month ago in Asheville, NC at age 38. I don’t want to burn out. I likely will never desire to run another marathon, but I don’t want to quit altogether. I’ve got to keep going. I’ve got several ‘shorter’ runs scheduled for this year. The Statue to Statue 15k, the Peavine Falls 8.2 miler, the Vulcan 10k. I need another half to do, but the pickings are slim. I figure if you’re running at least a mile, you’re doing more than most.

      Continued good luck to everyone.

      Reply
  • shannon March 18, 2015, 7:46 pm

    Just seen this and really like the layout of the scheduled runs. I haven’t ran much in the last two years, So this is something I need. I just signed up for the Tely 10 in NL and once that is done, I am planning on a half marathon in Toronto. This plan gives me confidence that I can actually meet my goals.
    Thank you

    Reply
  • Tim March 3, 2015, 9:57 am

    I’m a 58 year old pack a day smoker planning to run a half in six months. Smoking cessation has already begun, but I need a training schedule to prepare for a half marathon in September. Any suggestions are much appreciated.

    Reply
  • Brooke February 17, 2015, 7:45 pm

    I’ve seen a couple other training schedules that include cross-training on certain days instead of running. I have 28 weeks until my first half-marathon and am a beginning runner. Is the cross training a good thing to incorporate?

    Reply
  • Whitney January 28, 2015, 10:26 pm

    I used to run 6 miles a day. Since then I have unfortunately stopped and put on quite a bit of weight. My doctor has given me to ok to start training again….. But I can barely run a mile without stopping and I burn out really quick now. Any suggestions on how to get back into this easily? I want to sign up for my first 1/2 marathon. I have almost 4 months to train. Is this pheasible for someone like me?? Any tips??

    Reply
    • Daali February 1, 2015, 8:36 am

      I’ve been you at 48. Find a good couch to 5k as a start. Your heart and lungs will be back into the swing of things before you know it; your legs, ankles, ligaments, and tendons will need the time to get strong again. I ran my first half yesterday, 2:16, I was happy to finish!

      Reply
  • Janet January 8, 2015, 11:58 am

    I will definitely going to follow this routine. My very first half marathon will be in July. My main issue is when i run my back get stiff after a long run. But will try this out and go hard on working out more lifting and stretching in between. Anyone else doing the San Francisco Marathon in July 26?

    Reply
  • christy January 1, 2015, 8:23 pm

    Ok, so I ran my first mile EVER 2 weeks ago. Today, I signed up for my first half-marathon in October. I will report back 🙂

    Reply
    • paige January 5, 2015, 8:21 pm

      Same here! Hopefully it will work out 🙂

      Reply
  • Kathieg December 28, 2014, 1:37 pm

    I have five months to train for my second half marathon. My first was in Hawaii nearly 21 years ago and I am returning to the island for the Hibiscus Half Marathon in May. I say if you are gonna run a marathon why not do it in paradise! Good luck to all!

    Reply
  • cpolson December 3, 2014, 4:18 pm

    Are there any speed sessions with this plan? Or do I convert Wed/Thurs training?

    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
  • 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
  • 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
    • Emberlynn December 16, 2014, 12:13 am

      I would recommend sticking to something like the McCombs plan, or even Paleo (which is very similar to McCombs, but has a few more foods in it). I notice that when I am sticking strictly to the McCombs nutrition plan, I have a ton of energy and don’t feel the need for coffee/caffeine. Plus you get lean but also build muscle since you’re getting a lot of natural protein, and there is no need to worry about portion sizes, you just eat when you’re hungry. (I obtained this knowledge from my husband, who has been a personal trainer and racecar driver, and has also recovered from candiasis and other health issues through proper nutrition.)

      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
  • 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
  • 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

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