Whether you’ve got a few half marathons under your belt, or are training for your first one, you might be wondering what the average time to complete a half marathon is.
Well, first things first: let’s make it clear that all half marathons are amazing. No matter whether you complete it in 70 minutes or 3 hours, running 21,1 kilometres is an incredible achievement. And it’s an achievable one for a lot of people. It’s longer than a 5k or 10k – so if you’re looking to step up in distance, it’s a great challenge – but it doesn’t require the crazy time commitment that training for a marathon does.
There’s no wonder really that it’s one of the most popular race distances. And even though we reckon that all half marathoners are rock stars, we understand that lots of people like a yardstick with which to measure their performance against. So, here’s everything you need to know about the average time to run a half marathon, including the difference in times between genders, and what you can expect based on your age.
What is the current average time to finish a half marathon?
So, how long does it take to run a half marathon? RunRepeat wanted to find out the answer to that very question, so they conducted analysis of 107.9 million race results from over 70,000 events between 1986 and 2018. The study found that the average finish time for a half marathon in the UK, across genders, is 2:02:43. That equates to an average half marathon pace of 09:22 minutes per mile, or 05:49 per kilometre.
What is the average women’s half marathon time?
Of course, there are differences in average times across all race distances between men and women – and the half marathon is no different. The RunRepeat data found that the average female half marathon time is 2:11:57.
That works out to an average place of 10:04 minutes per mile, or 06:16 per kilometre, over 13.1 miles.
What is the average men’s half marathon time?
The average male half marathon time is slightly faster, breaking the two-hour mark at 1:55:26. That means men have to run an average pace of 08:49 minute miles, or 05:29 per kilometre to hit the good time for a half marathon benchmark.
What is the average time to run a half marathon by age?
As well as gender, age is also a factor when it comes to finishing times. The Marathon Handbook has done all the hard work here and broken down the average half marathon time by age, as well as gender.
For men, those average times are:
From this data, you’ve got the best chance of running a sub-2-hour half marathon if you’re aged 50 or under. But of course, these are just average times. There are plenty of young runners, especially beginners, who’ll run slower times than these, and lots of faster older runners. It’s all relative!
For women, the times by age group look slightly different again:
Interestingly, women aged 25 and 30 have faster half marathon times than those aged 20, before the average time gets gradually slower as women get older.
Again, it’s important to remember that these are just average times, and there’s lots of variation between different runners. But it can be useful to know what average looks like, if you want something to compare your own times to and know whether you’re running a ‘good’ half marathon time by age.
What is a ‘good’ half marathon time?
Speaking of good, what does good actually look like for a half marathon?
Let’s start with the absolute best times in the world.
The men’s half marathon world record is a staggering 57:31, which was set by Jacob Kiplimo during the Lisbon Half Marathon in 2021. The women’s record was also set in 2021, at the Valencia Half Marathon. The current record holder is Letesenbet Gidey, who ran a time of 1:02:52.
There’s no denying that these are good times for a half marathon – but they’re out of reach for most runners.
What good looks like, then, depends on a lot of different factors, including your age, gender, experience, and how much you train.
For fast runners with lots of experience, they’ll usually be aiming to target times that are faster than the average – but not as speedy as the elite times. For men, this could be anything from 1:10:00 to 1:30:00, while women might target times between 1:20:00 and 1:40:00.
Many intermediate runners, both men and women, target sub-2 hours as their goal.
And for beginners, a ‘good’ time could be anything under 3 hours.
It’s all relative though – we think that finishing a half marathon is incredible, no matter what time you do it in!
Which factors influence the average half marathon pace?
Lots of different things can affect average marathon times – and understanding these can help you to set more realistic half marathon goals as a runner. Some of the key factors that can affect pace include:
Often – but not always – people’s half marathon times get faster as they become more experienced runners. This could be down to better pacing strategies, a better understanding of nutrition and fuel, or an increase in training.
Age and gender
As seen above, there are differences in the times posted by men and women, and by older runners versus younger runners. However, these are just averages, and there are plenty of fast times by women, and by runners of all ages, to prove that runners of all ages and genders can perform exceptionally well!
Training volume and quality
The amount of consistent training a runner does can have a significant impact on their half marathon pace – and it’s not just about the quantity of training, but the quality of it, too.
A better fitness level usually means a faster pace.
A hilly trail half marathon is always going to produce slower average finish times than a flat, fast road half.
Whether it’s extreme heat or wind and rain, the weather conditions on race day can affect average finish times massively.
How to improve your half marathon time
So, now you know what the average times are, how can you improve yours? If you’re keen to run a faster half marathon, here are some things to focus on.
Set a clear goal
The first step to getting faster is knowing what you want to achieve. Do you want to finish your first half marathon? Have a dream of finishing in under 2 hours? Or do you want to beat the average time for your age group? Whatever it is, having a clear target can help you to stay motivated in training.
Follow a training plan
A training plan can help to keep you on track to hit your goal. Our 18-week half marathon training plan is a great choice for beginners. It builds up your mileage gradually and includes a mixture of different types of runs including long runs, tempo runs and easy recovery runs to ensure you run happy and hit race day feeling healthy.
Your training plan should include some cross training and strength work to build full body strength and keep your training routine interesting. Strength training can also help to prevent injuries, which can be a common side effect of ramping up your mileage too quickly when training for a big event like a half marathon.
Focus on your form
Small adjustments to your running form can mean big gains in your finish times. Think about your running cadence, drop your shoulders, and run tall.
Practice your race pace
During some of your training runs, practice running at your goal race pace. This will help your body get used to the pace you want to maintain on race day.
Get fuelling right
When you start running longer distances, it’s important to fuel your body properly, before, during and after your runs.
Carbohydrates are the key to fuelling our bodies when we run. We can typically store about 90 minutes’ worth of glycogen (carbohydrates) in our muscles before it starts to deplete. That means that if you’re going to take longer than 90 minutes to run a half marathon, it’s a clever idea to fuel on the go, whether with a gel, a handful of Jelly Babies, or ‘real food’ like dates.
Whatever you choose to fuel with, make sure to practice it in training to make sure your body can cope with it on race day.
Running long distances can take its toll on your body. Don’t skimp on the rest days – you need them to let your muscles rest and repair ahead of your next big effort.
When you’re training for your half marathon, be sure to get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated and spend time stretching to avoid injury.
Go smash your half marathon
Whatever time you’re looking to run your half marathon in, get out there and nail your goal! And once you’ve crossed the finish line, it’s time to rest, recover, refuel – and think about your next challenge.
Will you try to beat your half marathon PB? Or is it time to step up the distance? If you have a taste for long distance running, we’ve put together everything you need to know about average marathon times to whet your appetite for 42,2 kilometres.