Good Finishing Times for Running a Half-Marathon

Athletes are running in Old Town streets of Istanbul during Vodafone 10th Istanbul Half Marathon

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Finishing times for most half-marathons (13.1 miles) range from a little over an hour for elite runners to over three hours for slower runners or walkers. There is a huge variation among runners, depending on running experience, gender, age, and racecourse.

Half-Marathon Records and Average Times

A male professional runner might win a half-marathon in under an hour and the women's race might be won in under 1 hour and 10 minutes. The world record for the half-marathon is 58:23 for men and 1:04:51 for women, but the vast majority of half-marathon runners don't run anywhere close to those times.

The average times for half-marathons in the U.S. in 2016 were 2:05:15 for males and 2:23:48 for females, according to Running USA's Annual Half Marathon Report. These times are about four to five minutes slower than the averages recorded in 2007.

Half Marathon Times:

  • Elite men: Under 60 minutes
  • Elite women: 1:10
  • Average men:  2:05
  • Average women: 2:24

Setting Your Goals

For most first-time half-marathoners, the goal is usually to finish, rather than achieving a specific finishing time. Runners who run subsequent half marathons usually find that their time improves as they train more and gain more race experience. Once you have one half-marathon under your belt, you can focus on trying to beat your personal record (PR), rather than worrying about what other runners are doing.

For those with some half-marathon experience, breaking 2:00 (9:09 minutes per mile pace) is a common goal, and that time is considered a decent half marathon time among runners. Highly competitive runners aim for other time barriers, like 1:30 (6:51 minutes per mile pace). Or, they try to break a pace barrier, such as sub-7:00 per mile pace (1:31 half-marathon time) or sub-8:00 per mile pace (1:45 half-marathon time).

If you're curious about the range of typical finishing times for a half-marathon that you've done or you're planning to run, look at the race results, which should be listed on the race's website. You can see the times of the age group winners, those who finished in the middle of the pack, and those who finished in the back of the pack.

Factors Affecting Half-Marathon Times

The time to finish a half-marathon can vary greatly based on several factors. Gender plays a big part, as male half-marathoners tend to be faster than women in their age bracket. Although many half-marathon runners continue to improve their times into their late 30s, most find that their times start to slow down after age 40. To provide fair and equal opportunities, most half-marathons give awards for overall male and female winners, as well as age groups winners.

If you'd like to see a fair comparison of your half-marathon time versus other runners' times, you can use an age-grading calculator, which puts all race participants on a level playing field, regardless of their age and gender. Many half-marathons list all the race participants' age-graded finish times next to their net finish times.

Weather and course terrain also are also huge variables. A half-marathoner will get a much faster time on a flat versus hilly course, or on a cool day versus one that is hot and humid.

Predicting Your Half-Marathon Time

Use a chart or calculator (such as the one at Runner's World) to determine a ballpark half-marathon time based on your performance at a recent race of another distance.

Keep in mind that your half-marathon time prediction is just an estimate of what you might achieve if you do the appropriate training. In most cases, only experienced half marathoners will achieve their predicted time. If it's your first half-marathon, focus on completing the race, which is an incredible achievement. If you're looking for a ballpark finishing time prediction for your first half-marathon, add five to 10 minutes to the calculator prediction.

Note that many half-marathons have time limits, such as three hours. If you're a slower runner or walker, this is an important number to know before registering.

How to Improve Your Half-Marathon Time

Aside from choosing a flat race during a cool season, here are some other tips to improve your next half-marathon time:

  • Doing speed work once or twice a week can help improve your speed and confidence. Tempo runs or hill repeats will make you stronger, as well as improve your running efficiency and increase your lactate threshold. All of that translates into faster running. Use a half marathon training schedule that incorporates speed work.
  • Many half-marathoners fade in the final two or three miles of the race, slowing their overall time significantly. Work on improving your finishing kick.
  • It helps to figure out a plan for your race to avoid going out too fast or not racing to your full potential. Once you determine your predicted time, plan to run that pace for the entire race, making slight adjustments for the course terrain.
  • Do some mental prep for that race, so you'll be ready for the inevitable rough patches that happen during the race. Try some of these mental tips and strategies for dealing with discomfort when racing.

Half Marathon Training Schedules

If you're planning to train for and run a half-marathon, here are training schedules to choose from, based on your experience and fitness level:

A Word From Verywell

The half-marathon distance is an excellent endurance challenge for runners of all levels. It is a very popular distance and you will have many races to choose from. Find the one that will work best for your level and put in the training needed to finish strong.

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