Good Finishing Times for Running a Half-Marathon

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

 Evren Kalinbacak / Getty Images

A half-marathon is a challenging race that can take anywhere from a little over one hour to four hours to complete. Like many aspects of running, finishing times vary greatly depending on a variety of factors, some of which include age, sex, experience, and the course.

Whether you're about to run your first half-marathon or you're hoping to beat your personal record (PR), setting a goal when training for the 13.1-mile run can help keep you motivated.

Half-Marathon Times

Elite male runners can complete a half-marathon in under an hour, while world-class female runners are around 1 hour and 10 minutes. The world record for the half-marathon is 57:32 for men (Kibiwott Kandie, 2020) and 1:04:31 for women (Ababel Yeshaneh, 2020).

But the vast majority of half-marathon runners don't run anywhere close to those times—they're records for a reason. According to RunRepeat's 2019 State of Running report, the average times for half-marathons in the U.S. are 2:02:00 for males and 2:16:00 for females.

Half Marathon Times

  • Elite men: Under 60 minutes
  • Elite women: 1:10
  • Average men: 2:02
  • Average women: 2:16

Setting Your Goals

For most first-time half-marathoners, the goal is usually to finish, rather than achieving a specific finishing time. Your first half-marathon is an automatic PR. Once you have one half-marathon under your belt, you can focus on trying to beat your PR.

Finishing a half-marathon in less than two hours is a common goal for experienced half-marathons runners. Running a sub 2 hour or 1:59:59 half-marathon means maintaining an average pace of 9:09 minutes per mile, which is considered a respectable half-marathon time among runners.

Highly competitive runners aim for harder targets, like a 1 hour and 30-minute half-marathon (6:51 minutes per mile pace or faster). Still, others make more specific time limits, such as being able to run 7:00 minutes per mile (for a half-marathon time of 1:31:44) or 8:00 minutes per mile (for a half-marathon time of 1:44:53).

If you're curious about the range of finishing times for a half-marathon that you've run or plan to run, look at the race results, which should be listed on the race's website. There you will find the range of typical finish times, including the times by age group, times of those who finished the race in the middle or in the back of the pack, and top finish times.

Factors Affecting Half-Marathon Times

The time to finish a half-marathon can vary greatly based on several factors.

When it comes to speed, male runners have the upper hand over their female counterparts. And although runners continue to improve during 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 by gender and age group.

One way to level the playing field and see how you compare to other runners, regardless of age and sex, is by using a system called age-grading. An age-grading calculator allows you to compare your times to those of other runners, as well as to the standard for your age and sex. 

Weather and course terrain also are also huge variables. A half-marathoner will get a much faster time on a flat versus hilly course and in comfortable weather conditions versus uncomfortable or unfamiliar ones. It can be tough to race in the cold if you live and train in the heat, and vice versa.

Predicting Your Half-Marathon Time

Use a chart or calculator 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 in and of itself.

Note that many half-marathons have a cut-off time, or a time by which all participants must have crossed the finished line. If you don't think you can finish before the time limit (usually three hours), look for a race that's friendlier to walkers and slower runners.

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:

  • Do speed work once or twice a week to help improve your speed and confidence. Tempo runs, hill repeats, and interval training will make you stronger, as well as improve your running efficiency and increase your lactate threshold. All of this translates into faster running.
  • Work on finishing strong. Many half-marathoners fade in the final 2 or 3 miles of the race, slowing their overall time significantly.
  • 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 so you'll be ready for the inevitable rough patches that happen during the race. Try mental strategies like creating your own mantra or using imagery. Also come up with 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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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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