What’s A Good Half Marathon Time? Average Times By Age + Sex

How do you stack up to these half marathon times?

​​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.1The State of Running 2019 – IIRM. (n.d.). Racemedicine.org.  

Whether it’s your first half marathon or your twentieth, runners like to know what a good half marathon time or average half marathon time is based on their age and sex to know what they should be shooting for and how they compare to others in their age group.

According to Running Level, the average half marathon time across all ages and sexes is 1:50:15. They classify a good half marathon time for men as 1:43:33 and a good half marathon time for women as 2:00:12, again, across all ages and sexes.2Half Marathon Run Times By Age And Ability – Running Level. (n.d.). Runninglevel.com. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://runninglevel.com/running-times/half-marathon-times#google_vignette

So, how do you stack up? Keep reading as we get into the details of what a good half marathon time is by age, sex, and experience level.

Let’s dive in!

A runner during a half marathon, with a stopwatch superimposed on a purple background.
Credit: Marathon Handbook Staff

What’s a Good Half Marathon Time?

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 an 8:25/mile average pace.

Typical Half Marathon Times By Age, Sex, and Ability

Defining Running Ability Levels

To define the ability levels we’ve included, we used Jack Tupper Daniels’ VDOT Levels (based on VO2 max).

Daniels provides predicted times across different distances for each of the VDOT Levels for men and women (available here), which we’ve used in our table as the benchmark times for the 18-39 age range.

Here’s how we’d define each of the levels listed in our table, along with the VDOT that Daniels assigns to them:

  • Beginner (Male VDOT 35/Female VDOT 31.4): By beginner, we’re not referring to somebody straight off the couch who’s shown up to their first race with no training, as there’s too much variation in terms of baseline fitness and physique to provide a useful guideline time. Instead, in this sense, we’d consider a beginner to be somebody who’s relatively new to distance running, perhaps entering their first race, but who is taking their training fairly seriously and has a decent base level of fitness. However, they lack experience in building an effective training program and in pacing themselves during a race.
  • Novice (VDOT 40/35.8): You’re still running casually, but with increasing experience and commitment to training. You’ve completed several races at this distance, and are looking to improve your PB in each one. The vast majority of runners will fall into one of these first two categories.
  • Intermediate Recreational (VDOT 50/44.6): You’re taking running increasingly seriously, and it’s getting more difficult to beat your previous PBs. You might have joined an athletics club or started training with a running coach, and while you’re unlikely to be competing for local race victories, you’d be hoping to finish high up the field.
  • High-Level Recreational (VDOT 60/53.4): You train seriously with a professional coach, and are among the top-performing runners in your athletics club competing for victories in local races. You are likely approaching the peak of your potential performance, with a substantial time investment in training each week.
  • Sub-Elite (VDOT 70/62.2): You are one of the strongest runners in your region, and may even compete nationally, although you’re unlikely to compete for the top positions.
  • National Class (VDOT 75/66.6): You are one of the finest runners in your country, competing for victories against all but the very best athletes in the sport. You likely run either full-time as a professional, or you make a flexible job fit around your training.
  • Elite (VDOT 80/71): You are at the pinnacle of the sport, competing for victories at the most prestigious races and representing your country at major international events.

A counterintuitive point worth mentioning – which isn’t reflected in the data – is that among amateur long-distance runners, performances tend to improve until the age of around 50.

Because non-elite runners are unlikely to be running at their maximum genetic potential, the drop-off in their maximum potential is outweighed by their increased experience, which both enables them to pace themselves more effectively through a race and means they better understand how to build an effective training regime that works for them as an individual.

Half Marathon Times: Male Runners

Age GroupBeginnerNoviceIntermediate RecreationalHigh-Level RecreationalSub-EliteNational ClassEliteWorld Record
Level 1
Level 2
Level 4
Level 6
Level 8
Level 9
Level 10

Half Marathon Times: Female Runners

Age GroupBeginnerNoviceIntermediate RecreationalHigh-Level RecreationalSub-EliteNational ClassEliteWorld Record
VDOT 31.4
Level 1
VDOT 35.8
Level 2
VDOT 44.6
Level 4
VDOT 53.4
Level 6
VDOT 62.2
Level 8
VDOT 66.6
Level 9
Level 10

How We Produced This Data

The tables above have been carefully created to give our readers performance benchmarks and to enable comparisons of relative performance adjusted for age and sex.

As mentioned above, we used Jack Tupper Daniels’ VDOT Levels and associated predicted performances in our table as the benchmark times for the 18-39 age range.

For the age-graded world records, we’ve used the official records ratified by the World Association of Masters Athletes (WMA), correct as of 18 March 2024.

To translate the times for ability levels across different age grades, we used our 18-39 benchmark times to establish each ability level as a percentage of the world record for a given age group.

For example, our “elite” men’s half marathon time for the 18-39 range was 1:00:55, which is 105.91% of Jacob Kiplimo’s 2021 world record of 57:31.

So, when calculating the “elite” times for other age grades, we multiplied the respective world records by 105.91%. We replicated this approach across all of the listed ability levels.

It should be noted that this method does create some inconsistencies, with the performance gaps between certain age groups being larger than others because a particular world record happens to be an outlier.

However, we found the resulting data more reliable and with a more accurate representation of performance drop relative to age than we achieved when comparing our results to existing age-grade calculators.

For readability, we rounded all times to the nearest 30 seconds, except for all of the world records, which we left in their original form.

A group of runners at the start line of a half marathon on a yellow background.
Credit: Marathon Handbook Staff

What are the Current Half Marathon World Records? 

According to World Athletics, the world record for the half marathon for men is a blistering 57:31, set by Jacob Kiplimo from Uganda in the Lisbon half marathon in Portugal on November 21, 2021. Kiplimo averaged 4:23 per mile running pace for 13.1 miles!3Half Marathon – men – senior – outdoor. (n.d.). Worldathletics.org. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://worldathletics.org/records/all-time-toplists/road-running/half-marathon/outdoor/men/senior

The world record for the half marathon for women is an impressive 1:02:52, set by Ethiopian runner Letesenbet Gidey in the Valencia half marathon in Spain on October 24, 2021. This means she averaged a blazing 4:48 mile pace for 13.1 miles.

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.

#1: Age

Regarding age, research suggests that most runners reach their peak aerobic performance between the ages of 25-35.4August 2017 – Volume 31 – Issue 8 : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. (n.d.). Journals.lww.com. Retrieved December 12, 2023, from https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2017/08000/Running_Performance

‌Half marathon performance declines beyond these peak years, with average half marathon finish times being slowest after the age of 54.5Nikolaidis, P. T., Cuk, I., Rosemann, T., & Knechtle, B. (2019). Performance and Pacing of Age Groups in Half-Marathon and Marathon. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health16(10), 1777. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101777

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.

#2: Sex

Regarding sex, male runners usually outperform female runners due to having more lean body mass and a percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers.

#3: Fitness Level

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

Jacob Kiplimo crosses the finish line at a half marathon.
Credit: Marathon Handbook Staff

3 Tips To Improve Your Half Marathon Time 

So, how do you improve your half marathon time? Here’s where your fitness level comes into play. By training, you can train your body to run faster for longer and improve your half marathon time substantially. 

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.6Nikolaidis, P., Ćuk, I., & Knechtle, B. (2019). Pacing of Women and Men in Half-Marathon and Marathon Races. Medicina55(1), 14. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina55010014

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 on race day. 

For example, if you’re planning to run a 1:51:15 half marathon, ensure 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 ensure 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.

It will organize your training runs, interval training, cross-training, strength training, rest days, and all of the other pieces to the puzzle that should be included to get your desired race results.

Use a reputable half marathon training plan constructed by a running coach 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 personal record or time goal? Check out our very own Marathon Handbook half marathon plan database to pick out a plan based on your level that will get you to that finish line!


Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

7 thoughts on “What’s A Good Half Marathon Time? Average Times By Age + Sex”

  1. 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!

    • 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.
        Well done!

  2. 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.

  3. What age were you when starting to train? What was prior experience? Did you work up to half marathon – doing 5K 10K’s
    I am almost 65- in March – starting running a little bit. I have slow pace- no special watches etc.
    did 1.60 miles in 23 minutes in tread mill with 3 minute jog 1 minute walk through out.
    I do HIIT CLASS 3-4 times week. Today I felt miserable. I don’t usually.
    I weight 125 today. I have 28.7 body fat- lean body muscle is low low. How many days a week did you run. I don’t know how reasonable to take in half marathon or even 10K is?
    I don’t have running experience but I’ve been doing a lot of reading/research etc.
    I think this is a 2/3 mid life crisis thing. Lol


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