How Long Does It Take to Train for a Marathon and Half Marathon?

If you are planning on running a marathon or half marathon, you will need to train for it. But how long does it take to be ready? How long does it take to train for a marathon and half marathon?

It takes about 12 to 20 weeks to train for a full marathon. It takes about 6 to 10 weeks to train for a half marathon. It is a good idea to participate in several half marathon races before attempting a full marathon race.

Read on to learn more about how long to train for a half marathon and full marathon, as well as important training tips.

How Long Does It Take to Train for a Marathon or Half Marathon?

It takes about 12 to 20 weeks (3 to 5 months) to train for a marathon. A half marathon should take about half of that time, about 6 to 10 weeks (1.5 to 2.5 months).

The amount of time it takes you to train depends on how experienced you are. So there are marathon trainees who opt to train for a period of 12 weeks. But there are also those who opt to complete a 20-week training.

Let’s say, you are already capable of running 3 miles with ease. In this case, you may take only 12 weeks to train for a marathon. In the event that you are not capable of running 3 miles, you may choose a beginner program such as the Couch to 5k training plan and work your way up from there.

Athlete Josh Clark introduced the Couch to 5k Training Plan in 1996 to help new runners finish marathons. This training plan is for those who do not have any marathon experience at all. Those who complete the plan are expected to finish marathons successfully.

If you are brand new to running, it can take you longer to train for a marathon or half marathon. I recommend you start slow and ideally follow a beginner program. I also recommend you train the full recommended amount of time. So for a full marathon, take a full 20 weeks or more to train. For a half marathon, take a full 10 weeks or more to train.

Do not rush, go slowly, and take your time so that you do not injure yourself. Your body takes time to adjust to being able to run a half marathon or marathon.

Factors That Determine How Long It Takes to Train for a Marathon or Half Marathon

To determine how long your marathon training should take, the following factors must be taken into consideration:

  1. Marathon experience
  2. Fitness level
  3. Age
  4. Injury history
  5. Lifestyle
  6. Your goal as a marathoner

Let’s discuss each one of them.

1. Marathon Experience

Your marathon experience plays a big role in determining your training mileage. If you are a beginner, it doesn’t mean that you should train harder than more experienced runners. In fact, you have to train in a gradual manner. You have to start your training with fewer miles.

If you are an experienced marathoner, you can’t train the way beginners train. If you do, there is a likelihood that the beginner will eventually become a better marathoner than you. Instead, you have to train the way professional athletes train. You belong to the advanced level. You’re expected to know the dos and don’ts of being a marathoner.

2. Fitness Level

How often do you run? How often do you work out? If you already run daily, chances are that you can take an intermediate training plan. In fact, if you are 100 percent physically fit, you might even be capable of taking the training plan for experienced marathoners.

However, if you don’t exercise often or you don’t exercise at all, you belong to the beginner’s training plan. You have to start gradually to prevent yourself from getting injured.

3. Age

Age is not synonymous with experience. Even if running has been part of your exercise routine for years, don’t discount the fact that you might not be fit for an advanced training plan anymore. Perhaps, during your younger years, you were a perfect fit for an extensive program.

Have you noticed that most professional athletes retire early? This is because even if retired athletes can still play the sport, they are now more prone to injuries than before. Also, the older they get, the faster they get tired.

So, if you are 40 years old– or older — and still want to participate in a marathon, choose to take fewer miles during practice. It’s fine to push yourself to the limit but make sure you know your limits. Don’t push yourself beyond your limit lest you injure yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Train gradually. 

4. Injury History

If you’ve suffered from any of the following injuries in the past, you might want to think twice about joining a marathon:

  • Stress fractures
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Shin splints
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS)
  • Runner’s knee
how long does it take to train for a marathon

However, if you are 100 percent determined to participate in a marathon, you may nonetheless do so. But don’t participate as if you are part of the Olympic team. The last thing you would want to happen is to suffer from another injury.

In terms of training, the training plan for beginners is appropriate for you. Always remember that you are participating in a marathon to stay fit, healthy, and injury-free.

5. Lifestyle

When deciding which training plan suits you best, don’t forget to consider your lifestyle. If you have a full-time job, attend graduate school, and have a family, it’s quite difficult to squeeze in time for marathon training.

Here’s another scenario. Your daily morning routine involves working out for an hour. Afterward, you attend to your business, which requires strenuous physical activity. In the evening, you meet up with your friends on a regular basis to hang out and drink a few bottles of beer.

This is basically how you live your daily life. You then realize that since you could do all that every day, then finishing a marathon would definitely be a ‘piece of cake’ for you. Wrong.

With all your everyday activities, it would be impossible to squeeze in time for marathon training. If you are genuinely determined to participate in a marathon, you have to sacrifice some daily activities to make time for your training. And by sacrifice, it does mean eliminating vices such as drinking and smoking.

6. Your Goal as a Marathoner

Identify your goal. Why are you joining a marathon? Do you have a personal record that you want to beat? Do you aim to bag first place? Or are you satisfied with merely finishing the marathon regardless of how long it will take you to finish?

Knowing your goal plays a big role in determining how extensive your training should be. When you set a goal and vow to stick to it, it will instill discipline in you. You will find time for your training and exert an effort to improve each and every training session. As the saying goes, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Deciding Which Training Plan Suits Best

Once you are done contemplating the factors affecting marathon training, you may decide which training plan suits you best. Is training for 12 weeks enough for you? Or are you willing to finish the advanced training for 20 weeks?

While it may be alright to decide about this on your own, it’s still best to find a coach who can guide you all throughout your journey as a marathoner.

We’ve answered the question, “How long does it take to train for a half marathon” and “How long to train for a marathon?” Next, let’s look at some pointers on how to get started as a marathon trainee.

How to Get Started as a Marathon Trainee?

If you’re serious about becoming a marathon trainee, remember these three pointers:

  1. Awareness of your limits
  2. Starting early
  3. Making small accomplishments as a runner
how long does it take to train for a half marathon

1. Awareness of Your Limits

Just because you can jog around your neighborhood on a daily basis for an hour or so doesn’t mean you can complete a full marathon training with no sweat. Also, marathon training is not a “milder” version of a real marathon. When you undergo marathon training, you are basically simulating the real marathon.

It’s not that I am underestimating your capabilities to participate in marathons. What I’m saying is that before you start your training program, consult with your physician to confirm how physically fit you are. The last thing that we want to happen is to push yourself beyond your limits and suffer from permanent injuries.

2. Starting Early

The preparation for a marathon is supposed to be a long process, and strictly, there are no shortcuts. If participating — and finishing — a marathon is in your bucket list, you must engage yourself in running consistent base mileage for approximately one year. Afterward, embark yourself on a formal marathon training program for 20 weeks.

Avoid establishing weekly mileage too fast and too soon. Don’t train drastically. Doing so will only expose you to the risk of injury. Training must be done gradually. Do it slowly but surely. If it will take you a year or two to prepare, then so be it. If you want to master it, there should be no shortcuts.

Therefore, run a minimum of 20 miles per week on a consistent basis. Do this for at least a year. Then, enroll in a marathon training program.

3. Making Small Accomplishments as a Runner

As you prepare to embark on a formal marathon training program, do not hesitate to join fun runs or those short races conducted every so often. You may start by joining a 5k race before eventually shifting to a 10k race. In fact, I encourage you to join several 10k races or even half marathons.  These are excellent ways to prepare yourself not only physically but also mentally and even emotionally.

The Primary Elements of Training for a Marathon

There are four main elements related to marathon training. These include the following:

  1. Establishing your base mileage
  2. Doing long runs
  3. Improving speed work
  4. Resting and recovering

If you get these elements down, you will decrease the amount of time you need to train to run the marathon or half marathon.

1. Establishing Your Base Mileage

Establishing your base mileage means running a minimum of three times a week in a consistent manner. It is better if you can consistently accomplish five runs on a weekly basis.

When running, it should be performed at a relaxed pace. This means that you are able to run and carry on a conversation at the same time. Also, you may increase your mileage on a weekly basis but it can’t be more than 10 percent of your performance from the past week.

2. Doing Long Runs

Again, gradually execute your preparation. So, start by doing long runs every week — not every day. This way, you can easily adjust when you finally upgrade to long distances.

3. Improving Speed Work

Improve your cardio capacity by practicing — and eventually mastering — intervals and tempo runs.

4. Resting and Recovering

Successfully accomplishing long runs, long distances, and building mileage, among others, may defeat its purpose if you don’t get adequate rest. Make sure to have enough time to recharge your energy to prevent the risk of injuries as well as mental and physical burnout.

Conclusion – How Long Does It Take to Train for a Half Marathon or Full Marathon?

It should take about 12-20 weeks to train for a marathon. It should take about half that time, about 6-10 weeks, to train for a half marathon.

The time it takes to train for a marathon or half marathon depends on the following factors:

  1. Marathon experience
  2. Fitness level
  3. Age
  4. Injury history
  5. Lifestyle
  6. Your goal as a marathoner

Whether you are joining a full or half marathon, always remember to take your training seriously. It will determine your success as a marathoner. Suffice it to say that success all boils down to one thing — discipline.