A half-marathon or 13.1 miles (21.1 km) is my favorite running distance. It's less demanding than the marathon but more challenging than 5k on the weekend. It requires a decent amount of physical fitness and miles logged. Before completing my first one, I wondered how long it should take to run a half-marathon and what is a good time to do that.
It took me two years to prepare for my first 13.1-mile run and complete it faster than the average half-marathon time — under 2 hours and 10 minutes. Today's half-marathon distance is my weekly routine and the longest run I usually plan for Sundays.
The average half-marathon time is 2:10:00. This result will bring you above 50% of participants in the world's most crowded 13.1-mile races regardless of age, gender, and experience.
Half-marathons are becoming increasingly popular, with many races taking place worldwide throughout the year. In this article, we'll cover the following:
- How Long Does It Take to Run a Half-marathon For a Healthy Person
- Average Half-marathon Time by Age for Men vs. Women
- How Long Should It Take a Beginner to Run a Half-marathon
- Average Time to Run a Half-marathon For an Intermediate Runner
- How Long It Takes to Run a Half-marathon For a Professional Athlete
- The Current Half-marathon World Records
- Factors That Affect the Half-marathon Completion Time
- How to Improve Your Half-marathon Time
- Half-marathon Pace Chart for Goals Setting
Defining a good half-marathon time standard isn't easy. To address this, we'll analyze the 13.1 finish times from the ten biggest running races in the world, with more than 5,000 participants each. According to World Athletics, these are the Platinum and Gold Label courses, where the world records were set. They took place in 2021-2022 in Valencia (Spain), Lisbon (Portugal), Berlin (Germany), London (United Kingdom), Tokyo (Japan), Houston, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and New York (USA).
How Long Should It Take to Run a Half-marathon For a Healthy Person
These people mostly didn't run half-marathons before. They have a limited experience with sports but work out from time to time, live a healthy lifestyle, and have prepared for the race at least a few months ahead.
Healthy people make up at least 75% of the runners that complete the 13.1-mile run. They overtake 25% of those who are less fit or ready for the distance. For example, in a race of 1,000 runners, a regular healthy person will finish 750th or higher.
It takes, on average, between 2:15 and 2:35 to run a half-marathon for an ordinary person in average shape and physical fitness. It is an excellent result for the first 13.1-mile run and corresponds to the pace of 10:18-11:50 and the speed of 5.1-5.8 mph on a treadmill.
Average Half-marathon Times by Age and Gender
The average half-marathon times stated in the table represent the "middle" result. It means running faster than half of the athletes from your age and gender group. It's not a rule of thumb, as many factors can affect a runner's time, and each person's experience will be unique.
The average half-marathon times from the table are good targets for intermediate runners with at least a year of regular running practice, but not for the first non-stop 13.1 miles. A good goal for your first half-marathon is to complete the distance without injuries and with excitement at the finish line.
How Long Does It Take a Beginner to Run a Half-marathon
A jogger-beginner has one year or less of regular or semi-regular training. They work out 1-3 times a week primarily for health reasons. The rookies don't have significant endurance sports experience but are in regular shape and above average physical fitness.
A beginner runner overtakes 50% of less-prepared race participants regardless of age and gender. For instance, within 1,000 racers, a beginner runner will finish the 500th or better.
It takes from 1:55 to 2:15 for a beginner to run a half-marathon. This time corresponds to 8:45-10:20 min/mile pace and 5.8-6.9 mph speed on a treadmill. It is a good half-marathon time for a novice runner with about a year of running experience that doesn't follow a particular training program.
Read also: How Long Does It Take to Run 10K?
Average Time to Run a Half-marathon For an Intermediate Runner
Intermediate runners have been training consistently for a few years and have several half-marathons behind. They run 3-4 times a week and complete 100-150 miles monthly.
The intermediate runner gets into the top 20% of fastest racers and overtakes 80% of the participants of a public running event. For example, they will obtain 200th place or higher in a race of 1,000 runners.
An intermediate runner's average half-marathon completion time is 1:35-1:55. It equals 7:15-8:46 min/mile pace and 6.8-8.3 mph speed on a treadmill. It is a good half-marathon time for a person in nice shape with proper technic, several thousand mile practices, and solid preparation.
Read also: How Long Should It Take to Run a Mile?
How Long It Takes to Run a Half-marathon For a Professional Athlete
Professional runners have been training for more than five years and have completed a lot of half-marathons and marathons. They know their capabilities and race for a particular result. The advanced joggers finish the race within 10% quickest participants. For instance, in a race of 1,000 participants, they will get into the top 100 fastest runners.
However, a professional athlete doesn't equal an elite runner. The latter compete for the podium and can set a course record. Although the former can take the top place in their age-gender group qualification.
It takes a professional athlete from 1:15 to 1:35 to run a half-marathon race. It corresponds to 6:06-7:15 min a mile pace and 8.3-9.8 mph on a treadmill. It is a good half-marathon time resulting from years of hard work and thorough preparation.
Read also: How Long It Takes to Run a Marathon?
The Current Half-marathon World Records
The world record for men's half-marathon is 57:31, set by 21-year-old Jacob Kiplimo from Uganda on November 21, 2021, during the Lisbon Half Marathon.
The current world record for women's half-marathon is 1:02:52, set by Letesenbet Gidey from Ethiopia on October 24, 2021, during the Valencia Half Marathon.
For elite athletes, running is a job and the primary source of income. They are the fastest participants and are usually intentionally invited to race by hosts. This group is highly competitive and runs for records and financial rewards.
Elite athletes have an average half-marathon time under 1:10. It corresponds to an under 5:20 min/mile pace and more than 11 mph speed on a treadmill. This is a good half-marathon time for winning the race and setting the course's best time.
Factors that affect half-marathon completion time
Unlike one-mile or 3-mile runs where your strength is crucial, a half-marathon is more demanding to the endurance or qualities that help you maintain the pace longer. Thus, the factors that impact your 13.1-mile time are the following:
- Training level and preparation. The more training and preparation a runner puts in before the race, the faster they complete the half-marathon. Consistency in training and progressive increases in distance and intensity is crucial to improving running performance.
- Runner's fitness level. A runner's overall fitness level, including cardiovascular and muscular endurance, can significantly impact their half-marathon completion time. Excessive weight puts an additional load on your body, slows you down, and decreases your ability to keep pace.
- Race strategy. Long-distance races require runners to know the speed they are ready for and distribute their effort accordingly. The two most effective strategies for a half-marathon are a steady pace and a negative split. The latter means running the first 6.5 miles slower than the second. Most of the records in the running are set following this tactic. Lastly, it's essential to know how often and when you're going to drink and eat during the race.
- Weather conditions. Running in hot weather, humid conditions, and severe wind can slow down a runner and make it more challenging to maintain pace. On the other hand, cool, rainless, and windless conditions make running easier. So, if you are running in unsuitable weather, adjust your pace and target half-marathon time, respectively.
- The terrain of the race. The type of terrain on the race course, such as hills, gravel, or pavement, can also affect your half-marathon time. Hills and uneven terrain can slow a runner down, while flatter, more consistent terrain can make it easier to maintain a steady pace.
How to Improve Your Half-marathon Time
Consistent training is essential for runners to build up their endurance and complete the race faster than the average half-marathon time for their fitness level. Proper training programs can help runners gradually increase their distance and speed over time and without injuries. Although, be careful with widely available online half-marathon preparation programs as they primarily do not consider your previous sports background, individual physical fitness, and your body's recovery capabilities.
A typical half-marathon training plan will last several months and include running, strength training, and enough recovery time. It should also have long runs, interval training, and tempo runs. 80% of the total mileage must make slow pace running. Rest and recovery are the program's most essential and widely underestimated parts. They say, you pump muscles in the kitchen, not in a gym. The same with running; you increase your fitness level during recovery and rest.
Improving the time it takes to run a half-marathon can be challenging, and it's essential for runners to stay motivated throughout the process, even when there are no immediately noticeable improvements. Setting realistic goals, tracking progress, and having somebody to support you all can help you stay motivated. Finding a running partner or joining a running community can also provide a sense of accountability and courage.
Half-marathon Pace Chart for Goals Setting
The table below defines the most popular time targets for a 13.1-mile race. It will help you find the pace corresponding to your desired half-marathon time. Also, the 3, 6, 9, and 12 miles splits are the checkpoints to verify if you are on track.
Participating in a half-marathon is a rewarding physical and mental experience. It requires hard work and dedication, but the sense of accomplishment and personal growth from training and completing your perfect 13.1-mile race is genuinely fulfilling.
Running a half-marathon is a great way to challenge yourself, stay active, and improve your health. If you're new to running, don't be intimidated by the distance, the average half-marathon times, or the time it takes to run. With the proper preparation and training, you will be ready to conquer 13.1 miles—one step at a time.
This article is a part of our “Average Running Time” series. For more information about the average time it takes to run different distances, see the other articles from the series:
Average Time to Run a Mile
Average Time to Run 3 Miles
Average Time to Run 10K
Average Time to Run Marathon
FAQ about Average Half-marathon Time
How long is a half-marathon?
A half-marathon is a long-distance running race that is approximately 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers in the distance. The half-marathon is also equal to the following:
- 53 laps of a standard-sized track
- 21,098 meters
- 23,056 yards
- 32,750 steps
- 69,168 feet
Are 2 hours fast for a half-marathon?
2 hours for a half-marathon is way above average half-marathon time for women and close to the middle result for men. So, yer, it is fast and requires a decent fitness level and a lot of practice. Usually, it takes a beginner about one year of consistent training to run a half-marathon in 2 hours or less.
Do I need to run 13 miles before a half-marathon?
It is not necessary to run 13 miles before a half-marathon. However, a good rule of thumb is to complete 80% of your targeted distance at most a week before the race. If you can run 10 miles with an average half-marathon target pace, you'll likely complete a 13.1-mile race at the same speed.