The half marathon is one of the most popular race distances in the world. You may be wondering: “How long is a half marathon?”
A half marathon is exactly half the distance of a marathon at 13.1 miles. For many runners, this is a major milestone in their running journey.
It’s a good distance to train for having completed a 5k and 10k. It is also seen as an achievable goal to aim for before going on to run a marathon, which can be time consuming and physically demanding.
There are lots of half marathon events around the world, with new events popping up in major cities all the time.
So if you’re thinking about running a half marathon for the first time, or if you’re a seasoned runner looking for some inspiration or advice, this guide has got you covered!
In this guide we’ll explore:
- How long is a half marathon?
- What is a good time for a half marathon?
- Half marathon pace chart
- How long does it take to train for a half marathon?
- Half marathon training plans
- 7 tips for running a half marathon
How long is a half marathon?
A half marathon in miles is 13.1 miles. A half marathon in kilometres is 21km.
This is exactly half the distance of a marathon which is 26.2 miles and 42km.
According to RunRepeat’s State of Running Report, half marathons have the highest numbers of participants, with 2.1 million participants in 2018.
However, they also suffered the biggest decline in participation, declining by 25% from 2.9 million in 2016 to 2.1 million in 2018.
What is a good time for a half marathon?
Your half marathon time will depend on a number of factors, including your age, gender, fitness levels and running experience.
The weather and course terrain can also have an impact on your race time.
- The average half marathon time for a beginner runner is between 2.20 and 3.00.
- The average half marathon time for an intermediate runner is between 1.45 and 2.10.
- The average half marathon time for an advanced runner is between 1.10 and 1.40.
If you’re a beginner runner and complete a half marathon in 2.20 hours or less, then that is a fantastic achievement!
- A good half marathon time for a male runner is 1.43.
- A good half marathon time for a female runner is 2.00.
Half marathon pace chart
Pacing is essentially how fast you need to run in order to achieve your desired race time. You can read more about pacing in my guide on how to pace your run.
As with your finish time, your half marathon pace will depend on a number of factors, including your desired race time, gender, age, fitness levels and running experience.
It’s worth noting that if you’re used to running 5k and 10k runs, you won’t be able to sustain your 5k and 10k race pace during a half marathon, so be prepared to switch things up a bit!
Let’s break this down:
- If you want to achieve a 2 hour half marathon, your pace for a 2 hour half marathon would need to be 9.10 minutes per mile.
- This means your 5k pace and 10k pace will likely translate as 8.24 minutes per mile and 8.45 minutes per mile, retrospectively.
You will notice that your 5k and 10k race paces are quicker. This is for good reason as these are shorter distances meaning you are able to run at a challenging pace for a shorter length of time.
Average half marathon pace time for male runners
Here are the average pace times (per min/mile) for male runners by age and running ability.
Average half marathon pace time for female runners
Here are the average pace times (per min/mile) for female runners by age and running ability.
How long does it take to train for a half marathon?
The majority of half marathon training plans last between 12 to 16 weeks.
Most people will tell you that it takes at least 12 weeks to train for a half marathon.
- If you’re a beginner runner, then a half marathon training plan that lasts between 14 to 16 weeks is what you’ll want to aim for.
- If you’re an intermediate runner, aim for a half marathon training that lasts 12 to 14 weeks.
- If you’re an advanced runner, then a half marathon training plan that is 12 weeks long is probably right for you.
In the section below you will find examples of half marathon training plans.
Half marathon training plans
In order to run a half marathon, you’ll need to start with a half marathon training plan that suits your goals, fitness level and running experience.
It’s also key to find a training plan that will fit in with your lifestyle. There’s no use starting a plan that gets you running five days a week if you simply won’t be able to fit these runs into your schedule.
Typically you will be able to choose from the following types of half marathon training programs:
- Half marathon run/walk training program
- Half marathon training plan for beginner runners
- Half marathon training plan for intermediate runners
- Half marathon training plan for advanced runners
Half marathon run/walk training program
A run/walk training program is perfect if you’re new to running a half marathon.
It essentially involves periods of running and walking intervals, much like the Couch to 5k program.
This type of plan typically lasts 16 weeks.
You should be running at least 6-8 miles per week before attempting this plan to ensure you have a base level of fitness from which to work from.
Half marathon training plan for beginner runners
A beginner half marathon training plan is for you if your goal race time is between 2.20 and 3.00.
A plan of this kind typically lasts between 12 to 16 weeks.
You should have experience running 5k and 10k runs before attempting this plan.
A well-rounded beginner half marathon training plan will include the following runs and workouts:
- 2-3 easy runs
- 2-3 rest days
- 1 long run
- 1 strength training and/or cross training session (optional)
Half marathon training plan for intermediate runners
An intermediate training plan is for you if your goal race time is between 1.45 and 2.10. This type of plan normally lasts between 12 and 14 weeks.
You should be running between 30 to 60 minutes, five times a week, before attempting this type of plan.
An intermediate half marathon training plan is great for any runner looking to improve their half marathon race time or achieve a PB at their nextv race.
A well-rounded intermediate half marathon training plan will include the following runs and workouts:
- 2-4 easy runs
- 2-3 rest days
- 1 long run
- 1 speed training session (e.g. interval training, tempo running, hill sprints)
- 1 strength training and/or cross training session
Half marathon training plan for advanced runners
An advanced training plan is right for you if your goal race time is under 1.45.
An advanced training plan typically lasts 12 weeks, or less if you are well versed in half marathon training.
You should be able to comfortably run for 8 miles continuously without stopping before starting this plan.
A well-rounded advanced half marathon training plan will include the following runs and workouts:
- 3-4 easy runs
- 2 rest days
- 1 long run
- 1-2 speed training sessions (e.g. interval training, tempo running, hill sprints)
- 1 strength training and/or cross training session
7 tips for running a half marathon
Now you know all about half marathon training, here are 7 top tips for half marathon success.
#1 Be consistent
When training for a half marathon, it’s all about consistency.
You need to be running regularly and progressing at regular intervals during your training plan.
This means it’s important to complete all or the majority of your runs in your training plan.
As you progress through the weeks of your training plan, you will start to see improvements in your endurance, stamina and strength.
If in the first few weeks you don’t see any improvements, just hold out and you will soon turn a corner.
#2 Prioritise rest and recovery
Whilst consistency is key as described above, it’s also important you prioritise rest and recovery.
Your training plan – no matter whether it’s for beginner or advanced runners – should include at least two rest days.
Rest days are important to allow your body to recover in between runs. If you skip a rest day or run on all seven days of the week, you will risk burnout and injury.
Sleep is also incredibly important when training for a half marathon. Avoid late nights and get into the routine of going to bed early, especially if you’re planning an early morning run.
#3 Introduce variety into your training plan
You will see that each training plan includes different types of runs and workouts, and this is for good reason!
Variety is key to any training plan if you want to improve your endurance and stamina as well as your strength and speed.
If you stick with one type of run throughout your training plan, you won’t see any improvements in your running performance in the long term.
Make sure you include easy runs and long runs, as well as ancillary workouts like speed training, cross training and strength training.
By including these, this will improve athletic performance and translate to faster race times.
#4 Warm up before each run
The warm up is essential to any workout.
When training for a half marathon, you’ll be doing a lot of mileage each week so it’s important you warm up before each run to improve your running performance and more importantly reduce the risk of injury.
Focus on incorporating a light jog and some dynamic stretches in your warm up. You may also want to include some running form drills.
#5 Fuel your body properly
When you start training for a half marathon, your training will step up a gear and your weekly mileage will increase.
This means it’s all the more important to fuel your body in the right way to support it through what could be a grueling three months of training.
Focus on getting your carbohydrate intake before each run, especially for longer distance runs of 90 minutes or more.
Your meals should be high in carbs, contain moderate levels of protein, and lower levels of fat.
You can read about carb loading in my guide on carb loading for runners.
#6 Perfect your form
Proper running form is essentially running in the most efficient way possible, so it puts less stress on your muscles and joints.
Your posture, arm swing, foot strike and cadence are all key components of proper running form.
You can read more in my guide on running form and technique.
#7 Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
This is probably one of the most important tips when it comes to half marathon training, especially if you’re new to running a half marathon.
Don’t compare yourself to any other runner during your training or on race day.
Run your own race and trust your instincts – you’ve got this!