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Half Marathon Training 20 Week Plan: The Ultimate Beginners Guide For This Big Run

half marathon 20 week training plan

Although some people cringe at the thought of participating in a marathon, it has some great benefits. Experts have listed these as increased fat-burning, reduced disease risk, better endurance, and performance. When it’s the first time to give marathons a try, most people aim at completing half a marathon. Preparing for half a marathon requires ample time, dedication, and discipline. In a nutshell, the key to success for completing half a marathon is planned training. Join us as we evaluate a half marathon 20 week training plan.


How Long Is A Half Marathon?

It is 13 miles/21 km (1). Participating in a half marathon is one of the best challenges to take on, and for various reasons. First, it is an excellent stepping stone to a full marathon, twice the half marathon mileage.

Secondly, it is an excellent way to get fit, build muscle mass, strength, and endurance. However, do not be fooled by the fact that you are only covering thirteen miles. You may not be able to even finish this mileage, this all comes to your preparation.

Fitness gurus reveal that you must have trained at least three months before participating in the half marathon. Then, again, you must incorporate the right exercises and follow a good workout plan religiously.

How Long Should You Train For A Half Marathon?

Well, this varies depending on so many factors. These include:

  • Your Participation In Marathons

Expect to spend a long time training if it is your first time training for a marathon. This is because you need to familiarize yourself with so many things about marathons and also get physically and mentally ready. This may be time-consuming.

half marathon training 20 week

  • Your Fitness Level

The other aspect that affects your training timeline is your fitness level. If you are in the advanced or intermediate fitness levels, you may take less duration than a beginner. But, again, this is because you probably exercise more and are more physically and mentally ready. 

However, this may not apply to you if you, for some reason stopped training, perhaps because you sustained an injury. While exercise is crucial, your well-being is more important than preparing for the half marathon. So, take it easy until you can start training.

Read More: 20-Week Marathon Training Plan For All Levels

  • The Intensity Of The Training Program

Another aspect that affects the duration of your training plan is the intensity of the training program. For example, some programs may require you to do more reps using lower weights (1). Other types of programs may require you to use heavier weights to perform a few reps and for many days of the week (1).

See also
Training Plan For Half Marathon: The Ultimate Guide To Pre-Race Preparation

half marathon training 20 week

  • The Design Of The Training Program

Training programs for a half marathon also differ depending on the coach you choose. For example, some coaches may suggest you follow a training program that lasts 12 weeks, others 16 weeks, and even some 20 weeks. That said, the least should be for 12 weeks (3 months) (1).

Different coaches have different strategies. For example, they may not necessarily give you a training program with a shorter timeline just because you are a seasoned marathoner. Similarly, they may not provide you with a more extended program because you are a beginner. 

It most likely comes down to what the coach feels is best for you, depending on the efforts they see you put in. However, despite their preferences they are compelled to consider other factors that come into play, like your health status (1).

Is 20 Weeks Enough Time To Train For A Half Marathon?

Training for a half marathon requires adequate preparation to avoid such incidents as injuring yourself, running out of air, or passing out. Knowing this, fitness experts recommend that any hopeful marathoner who runs either a half or full marathon follow a long-term training program (1).

Twenty weeks can be enough to prepare for your half marathon if you follow an effective training program. Fitness gurus reveal that the best training program should help you build upon your mileage, endurance, and strength (5).

Notice that they did not mention speed, and there is a good reason for that. Instead, the top priorities are endurance, strength, and mileage.

Even so, there is a recommendation that despite conquering your mileage target, you also should take note of your minutes per mile pace (1). This will give you a rough idea of how long it will take you to complete the half marathon.

That being said, 20 weeks offers you plenty of time to get ready for your half marathon. In addition to preparing yourself physically, be sure also to prepare yourself mentally. Being mentally prepared will help you anticipate the bad patches in your marathon but have the strength and motivation to overcome them.

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half marathon training 20 week

20 Week Half Marathon Training Schedule For Beginners

Unlike seasoned marathoners, beginners will have an entirely different training schedule. The idea is to slowly acclimate your body and prepare both physically and mentally. Let us take you through a quick rundown of the half marathon 20 week training plan for beginners without further ado.

See also
How Many Miles Should I Run A Week? A Healthy Limit For Optimal Results

The Exercise Program

Contrary to what most beginners think, you only do not train for such a marathon using a running routine. Instead, fitness gurus recommend cross-training for your half marathon training (1). Cross-training involves undertaking activities other than running to help improve your overall performance.

According to Medical News Today, cross-training will also help improve your aerobic conditioning and your body’s resistance to injury (4). Therefore, a good 20 week half marathon training plan will include a variety of cross-training activities.

Some of the activities you can consider for cross-training are swimming, rowing, weight lifting, cross-country skiing, Pilates, yoga, and boxing. Talk to a fitness instructor about an activity you may be interested in or one you may be leaning more towards.

Although they will consider your preferences, they will also have to go with the activity that best prepares you for the half marathon. Generally, beginners will be asked to perform the cross-training activity for at least 30 minutes and three to four days a week.

Note that throughout the 20 weeks, your coach may switch the activities you perform. For example, in the first two weeks, you may perform Pilates, and in the next two, you switch to weight lifting. Experts recommend this technique because it helps fight a plateau and keeps your muscles guessing, which you want (3).

half marathon training 20 week

The Mileage

The secret to successful preparation for half marathon training is building on mileage every week. It helps your body to get used to running for more extended periods. Beginners, of course, do not straight up cover the 13 miles in the first week. 

Instead, fitness gurus recommend they gradually build on their mileage until the maximum, which is 13 miles (3). This means that they may start by logging down four to six miles in the first week. Of course, this is not standard, meaning your coach may play around with this mileage.

Read More: Training Plan For Half Marathon: The Ultimate Guide To Pre-Race Preparation

Training Days

WebMD recommends alternating training days for increased consistency and better performance (2). Alternating training days means running shorter and longer distances and at slower and faster speeds (2).

It also means changing the terrain to build stamina and strength over time (2). However, you have to be very careful about how and when you incorporate these changes. It has to be at the right time to reduce injury risk.

See also
20-Week Marathon Training Plan For All Levels

half marathon training 20 week


Although you may have a go-go mentality, experts reveal that you need to take some time off and rest. Resting one or two days a week will not compromise your training efforts. Rather, it will help your muscles grow and recover, which minimizes injury risk.

However, note that rest days for some people can either mean no training whatsoever or active recovery. Active recovery means that you are still running but at a slower pace to help your muscles loosen up (4).

On the flip side, some people may also want to do something different besides running. If this is the case, let your coach know. For example, they may recommend performing a low, moderate activity such as brisk walking.


As mentioned earlier, speed may not be the priority when training for a half marathon. However, down the line, you may be required to work on your speed. This will help you get a glimpse of how long it will take you to finish your big run.

However, note that speed is irrelevant if you do not nail the correct form. So, first, it would help to practice running in the proper technique as much as you are working on your speed (3). Secondly, you need to try interval training.

Interval training will make you faster by allowing you to spend more time at higher intensities. This will make your body reach and adjust to going more quickly, convenient if you aim to run the half marathon fast.

half marathon training 20 week

Final Weeks Before The Marathon

The final weeks leading up to the half marathon have to be entirely different from the rest in your half marathon training 20 week plan. Experts recommend tapering your training down to cut down on the amount of exercise (4).

You may think that you are required to go for it more than ever during the last lap. However, that is not the case. Instead, you are urged to take it easy to allow your mind and body to relax and recover from the intense training throughout the 18 weeks.

There is no way one’s fitness will improve within two weeks leading up to your half marathon (4). With that in mind, focus on recovery and keeping your body as healthy as possible (4).

See also
Does Running Build Muscle? The Truth About Anaerobic Exercise And Bodybuilding

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half marathon training 20 week

Tips To Help See You Through Your Half Marathon Training 20 Week Plan

Besides having the right training program for a half marathon, other factors can help shape you for this big run. 

  • Consult The Experts

We kick off this tips section with some simple yet highly significant advice, consulting with the experts. Whether you are an amateur or pro, it would help if you talked to the respective professionals about your interest in participating in a half marathon (5).

You will want to talk to your doctor first because they have to assess if you are in the best health and shape. The second professional you need to see is your trainer. They will have to evaluate your fitness abilities to help craft a practical training program.

  • Follow The Training Program Religiously

Fatigue and muscle soreness is expected with any exercise program. Unfortunately, most people tend to give up when fatigue kicks in. It would help if you did not give up but keep your eye on the prize (finishing the half marathon) for motivation.

However, experts advise you to stop following a training program if it results in extreme fatigue and fatigue-related complications. These complications include slowed responses, chronic tiredness, extreme irritability, headaches, and dizziness (5).

Again, do not try to alter anything in the program without seeking confirmation from your trainer. Follow the program religiously for the required duration, and soon you will be able to cross the finish line of your half marathon.

  • Do Not Explode When Starting The Training Program

As you train, you may develop a habit of doing too much too soon. It means going off too fast when you get the sign to go. Old habits die hard. So, on the half marathon day, you may start in this way.

This behavior is costly down the line (1). When you explode at the start, you are filled with adrenaline and maybe pumped to even sprint. You will brutally pay for this down the line as your energy levels decline. Decreased energy levels may hinder you from completing the marathon or slow you down to a tiring pace.

half marathon training 20 week

  • Eat Right

Running requires a lot of energy, which means you have to eat right to give your body enough fuel for your half marathon training. Unfortunately, most beginners do not know what foods or the right amounts they have to consume.

See also
Steady-State Cardio Vs. HIIT: Which One Is Better And Why?

Medical News Today reveals that a runner has to consume a balanced diet with adequate carbs to help keep them fueled (6). Again, you must remember to eat before and after a workout and increase your calories to recover and perform better when you increase mileage (6).

These are some of the main things that most beginner runners forget about their diet plan. Although there are several runner’s diet plans online, you are advised to work with a nutritionist to specifically develop one that caters to your needs. 

They will help you develop a plan that meets your dietary needs and supports your running performance. They will also help you address any dietary issue you may have or face throughout your half marathon 20 week training plan (6).

You are reminded that it should contain a balance of the three macronutrients: healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins (6). More so, you also have to consume enough micronutrients by eating more fruits and vegetables (6).

Additionally, before increasing your calories, you are advised to evaluate several factors. These are your (6):

  • Specific training needs
  • Running conditions
  • Daily activity
  • Body composition
  • Resting metabolic rate
  • Mileage

Generally, you will need more calories if you cover more mileage, have an intense training program, and are more active throughout the day (6).

The Bottom Line

Are you looking for a guide on a 20 week half marathon training for beginners? If so, you are in luck because this half marathon training 20 week plan details everything you need to know as a beginner. 

It guides you on the best mileage, speed work, training activities, rest activities/days, and eating patterns. Even so, we urge you not to make any exercise or dietary changes without speaking to your doctor and trainer. Finally, we wish you all the best in your half marathon!



This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Half marathon (2009,
  2. How to Train for a Marathon (2021,
  3. Project marathon: how to train (2009,
  4. Running a marathon: how to survive the historic endurance race (2015,
  5. Training for the Big Run (2006,
  6. What is a runner’s diet plan? (2021,
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