Aside from the 5k, the half marathon is the most popular race distance worldwide, with 2.1 million participants in 2018, according to the International Institute of Sports Medicine.
Many runners gravitate towards the half marathon because it’s a nice sweet spot between the shorter distances like the 5k and 10k and the unforgiving and time-consuming distance of the full marathon.
Essentially, the half marathon is long enough to have the allure of a challenge daring to be conquered and short enough that training doesn’t feel like a second full-time job. Running a half marathon also serves as a useful training step on the ladder towards completing a full marathon, exposing runners to some of the fueling, training, and pacing requirements they’ll face as they work up to the full 26.2-mile distance.
But what is a good half marathon time? What is the average time to run a half marathon? Though running is an individual sport and comparing yourself to others isn’t always productive, many runners do like to have a sense of a good half marathon time to help set race goals and see how they stack up.
In this guide, we will look at:
- How long is a half marathon?
- What are the current half marathon world records?
- What is a good half marathon time?
- What factors can impact your half marathon time?
- What is the average time to run half marathon by age and sex?
- 3 tips for improving your half marathon time
Are you ready to see how you stack up at this beloved race distance?
Let’s dive in!
How Far Is a Half Marathon?
As the name suggests, a half marathon is exactly half the distance of a full marathon. That means that the half marathon distance is 13.1094 miles or 21.0975 kilometers. This is equivalent to 53 full laps on a standard 400m track.
Note that most people simply round the half marathon distance to 13.1 miles when discussing the race, but official races will be the marginally longer distance.
What are the Current Half Marathon World Records?
Let’s start by looking at the half marathon world records and see how impressive the fastest athletes are.
The world record for the half marathon for men is a blistering 57:31, set by Jacob Kiplimo from Uganda in Lisbon, Portugal on November 21, 2021. Kiplimo averaged 4:23 per mile for 13.1 miles!
The world record for the half marathon for women is an impressive 1:02:52, set by Ethiopian runner Letesenbet Gidey in Valencia, Spain on October 24, 2021. This means she averaged a blazing 4:48 pace for 13.1 miles.
What is a Good Half Marathon Time?
Now that we are fully awestruck at the performances of these incredible runners, let’s look at what is a good half marathon time for everyday runners.
According to our data set of average finish times for different race distances based on age, sex, and ability, the average time for the half marathon across all ages and sexes is 1:50:15. This takes into account runners of all abilities, so it is the true average half marathon finish time.
Since the half marathon is 13.1 miles, this average half marathon time works out to 8:25 pace.
The site classifies a good half marathon time for men to be 1:43:33, which is a 7:54 pace for the 13.1 miles. This is the average half marathon time for men across all ages and falls roughly in line with the level of an intermediate runner.
A good half marathon time for women is 2:00:12, which is a 9:11 pace. Again, this is the average half marathon finish time for women across all ages and levels.
What Factors Can Impact Your Half Marathon Time?
As with any distance, there are three primary factors that impact your half marathon run time: your age, sex, and fitness level.
When it comes to age, research suggests that most runners reach their peak aerobic performance between the ages of 25-35. Half marathon performance declines beyond these peak years, with average half marathon finish times being slowest after the age of 54, according to research.
This age-related performance decline is primarily due to age-related sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), which reduces strength and metabolic capacity.
However, the good news is that even if you are past your prime running years, the decline in running performance is very gradual. Many masters, veterans, and senior runners continue to train and race competitively for life.
In other words, don’t let your age count you out of setting goals, doing structured speed work, and running races.
When it comes to sex, male runners usually outperform female runners due to having more lean body mass and a percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Finally, your fitness level certainly plays a major role in dictating your half marathon race time. Of course, the fitter you are, the faster you can run.
Most importantly, unlike your age and sex, which are uncontrollable factors, you can train and increase your fitness level to improve your half marathon time.
Related: What’s A Good Marathon Time? Average Marathon Times By Age + Sex
What Are The Current Average Half Marathon Times By Age And Sex?
We’ve looked at the fastest half marathon times and good half marathon race times, but now let’s dive in further and break down the average time to run a half marathon by sex and age group to see what a good half marathon time is for each range.
We will focus on runners who are at an intermediate running level, but you can click here to calculate your specific running level based on your current times. You can also find the average half marathon times for novice, beginner, advanced, and elite runners here.
For each age, we have listed the average half marathon finish time along with the pace per mile to achieve that result.
Let’s take a look at the average times for men.
Average Half Marathon Times for Men (Intermediate Level)
|Age||Average Half Marathon Finish Time||Pace Per Mile|
Now, onto the women!
Average Half Marathon Times for Women (Intermediate Level)
|Age||Average Half Marathon Finish Time||Pace Per Mile|
So, how do you stack up to these intermediate half marathon times? Looking to improve? Here are some tips to help you achieve that personal record!
3 Tips for Improving Your Half Marathon Time
So, how do you improve your half marathon time? Here’s where your fitness level comes in. By training, you can train your body to run faster for longer and improve your half marathon time.
Here are three tips to improve your half marathon time:
#1: Perfect Your Pacing
The half marathon is a test of not only your aerobic fitness and endurance but also your patience. If you blast off the starting line, you’ll run out of steam before the end of the race. Therefore, pacing yourself appropriately is vital to running a good half marathon.
Research shows that most runners follow a more even pacing strategy in the half marathon compared to the marathon, which is advisable for optimal performance.
By running even splits, you’ll keep your effort level below your lactate threshold, preventing the buildup of metabolic waste products that induce that dreadful burning, heavy legs feeling, and intense fatigue.
Improve your pacing by training at race pace and dialing into your anticipated pace so often that it feels natural. Tempo runs, threshold runs and even long runs can have a few miles at race pace.
Additionally, use your watch to guide your pace. The effort at the beginning of a race often feels far easier than the pace you’re actually running because of all the adrenaline and excitement.
If you’re planning to run a 1:51:15 half marathon, for example, make sure you’re hitting the mile mark around 8:25.
#2: Hit the Gym
Strength training helps you build muscular strength and power and correct imbalances, enabling you to run more efficiently. It can also help prevent injuries, allowing you to train consistently, which is the key to progress.
Be sure to include strength training into your plan twice a week to assure you’ll reap all of the benefits.
#3: Follow a Training Plan
A training plan gives you structure and consistency and ensures your workouts are effective for the demands of the half marathon. Use a reputable half marathon training plan that not only works with your schedule and lifestyle but also excites you and looks motivating.
Inspired to step up to the half marathon or set a new PR? Check out our half marathon training tips here!
6 thoughts on “What’s A Good Half Marathon Time? Average Times By Age + Sex”
As a analyst I must protest. Using average here is highly misleading. Your data is heavily skewed towards the speedier end of things because there is such a variance in the top performances and most common times. I would highly recommend using median time here as I suspect it is much slower. If you plot a histogram of the data set used it should reveal this quite nicely. The peak (ie the median) should be to the right of your average time. I only say this because that average time for men is way faster than I can currently run!
It’s a great point….if I can find the original data set in all it’s glory, an update with the median is a must!
I’d not know I was thinking the opposite I’m 44 to never competed in any long distance sprot before, decide to take up running about 1 year and half ago to run my first marathon last November and just ran last weekend my first half marathon having only had two weeks back in full trading after two months off because of falling heavily I’ll to COVID for tow weeks. I just ran it in 1:36 and some seconds
Those are commendable numbers. Barring any future injury etc. you will likely challenge that time as slow twitch fibers/running economy increase. To remind everyone these totals are averaged. There are runners pushing well below these averages through decades of road time. But just finishing a half/full marathon is to be commended experienced runner or not.
This article completely neglects the affect of weight. The single biggest improvement that a runner with excess fat can make is attributable to fat loss. It’s a virtuous circle…..
I’m a 65 year old woman.
I have had only one lung since the age of 2yrs. I completed the Ave of the Giants Sept 2021 in a time of 3:05.
I trained for the half marathon over a period of 12 weeks, simply fast walking with intervals of slow jogs. I used my pulse rate to keep within my max and used an Apple Watch as an approximate gage of Vo2 max over time (averaged 24-24.8)
I continue to walk/jog as cross training for my on the water rowing with a women’s masters team.
I find that as I age, consistency, adequate rest and nutrition are even more important than when younger.