Besides the pressure of “good” times, every runner’s journey to the starting line is unique, fueled by their own goals. While elite athletes chase records, for most of us, race day is about celebrating victories. However, the question “What’s a good half marathon time?” still pops up a lot and that’s why we’re here. 

Curious about good finish times? Fine. Even if it’s your first 13.1 miles or you’re aiming for a new personal best (PB), knowing a “good” half marathon time can be a great motivator to set a realistic goal.

To answer this question, we drew insights from various data sources on half marathon finish times to provide you with achievable benchmarks. So, you can focus on what truly matters: crushing your goals! 

What is a ‘Good’ Half Marathon Time?

A good half-marathon time is relative and depends on many factors like age, sex, and general running ability. As a baseline, RunRepeat’s 2019 State of Running report showed that the average finishing time for half marathons in the U.S. is 2:02:00 for males and 2:16:00 for females.

Of course, these averages don’t tell the whole story. There is a wide range of times among half-marathon runners, from elite athletes who can finish in under an hour to casual runners who take more than 3 hours. 

However, a better measure is how your time compares to others in your age group. For example, in the 20–24 age category of advanced runners, typical half marathon times would fall under 1:30:00 for men and 1:45:00 for women. As you get older, your finish time may increase by 10-15 minutes per decade.

Factors Affecting Half-Marathon Times

Various physiological and environmental variables affect how quickly you can complete a half-marathon. Knowing these factors helps set realistic race goals tailored to your body’s abilities.

1. Age

Peak performance is often observed in the 20–40 age bracket. However, as you get older, research shows that your aerobic capacity, muscle mass, endurance, and flexibility tend to decline from 12%–14% per decade after age 50, which can slow down your pace. 

As people age past 40, their finishing times tend to be around 10–15 minutes slower on average for each decade. For instance, the average time for a 50-year-old intermediate runner is 02:16:03, while for a 60-year-old, it is 02:34:12. Therefore, manage your expectations based on your age group and train accordingly.

2. Sex

Due to men’s higher levels of testosterone, muscle mass, and hemoglobin, they tend to averagely run 10–12% faster than women. 

Men’s higher testosterone improves muscle mass and potentially influences energy metabolism, while their larger leg muscles can contribute to faster strides. 

Also, higher hemoglobin in male runners aids oxygen transport, which increases the endurance potential of men. 

Most data for different age groups shows that men are 9 to 12 minutes faster. For instance, running level data revealed that men’s average time for a half marathon is 01:43:33, while for females it is 02:00:12. In a nutshell, don’t compare your half marathon times to those of the opposite sex, instead compete against those of the same gender.

3. Weather

Running a half marathon in hot, humid, windy, or high-altitude conditions can reduce your speed and endurance. 

For instance, high temperatures cause you to heat up quickly. To cool you down, your body diverts blood from your muscles to your skin, leading to fatigue and reduced pace. Similarly, high altitude conditions raise your heart rate and increase dehydration, making it harder to maintain speed. 

So, what can you do about the weather? Try to schedule races in cooler spring or fall weather whenever possible and acclimate to warmer temperatures during training.

4. Nutrition

What and when you eat before and during a race is crucial in managing your energy reserves and achieving your best performance. Usually, we advise half-marathon runners to practice carbo-loading in the prior days along with a high-carb pre-race meal. This provides ample glycogen to avoid hitting the dreaded “wall.” 

Proper fueling allows you to achieve the fastest times within your fitness level’s limits.

5. Fitness Level

Your fitness level mainly determines your half-marathon performance. For instance, building your VO2 max through consistent training like tempo runs and interval sessions leads to faster paces and less fatigue over the distance. 

Also, long runs can increase endurance, allowing you to maintain a comfortable pace for longer, while speedwork like fartlek and hill repeats strengthens your lactate threshold, delaying fatigue and helping you run faster for extended stretches. Strength training helps muscles improve form, efficiency, and injury prevention.

Overall, a well-rounded fitness base is the most important factor when determining your half-marathon time.

Predicting Your Half-Marathon Potential

Predicting your average finishing time for a half marathon can be an insightful part of your training and race strategy. It helps you set realistic goals and pace yourself effectively on race day. There are several methods to estimate your performance, each leveraging your training data and established race predictors:

1. Training Pace Analysis

During your training, track your average performance in various sessions (long runs, tempo runs, and intervals). Focusing on your long and tempo run speeds can indicate your half-marathon pace, provided your training plan is designed for that distance.

2. Race Equivalency Calculators 

Use online tools like the VDOT calculator or the McMillan Running Calculator, which predict your race times across different distances based on a recent race result. 

For example, if you’ve completed a 10K race, these calculators can estimate your half-marathon time by applying performance algorithms that account for the physiological demands of each distance.

3. Fultzy 400s 

The Fultzy 400s method can be used to predict your half-marathon finish time. It suggests that the time you can comfortably sustain 20 x 400-meter repeats, with a 60-90 second walking recovery between each, translates to your hour and minute half-marathon finish time.

For instance, if you can consistently run 400 meters in 1 minute and 45 seconds with the recovery periods, you might target a half-marathon time of around 1 hour and 45 minutes.

4. Pace Adjustments for Conditions

Consider adjusting your predicted time based on race day conditions like temperature, humidity, elevation, and course profile. Warmer temperatures and higher humidity can slow your pace, while a hilly course may also add time compared to a flat route.

How to Improve Your Half-Marathon Time

Thinking of upgrading your personal best? You can use these half marathon training tactics to achieve faster race times: 

1. Follow a Structured Training Plan

Rather than doing trial and error during your workouts, follow a science-backed training plan designed for 13.1 miles. It will increase mileage, include speed workouts, and organize training into periods, all while avoiding overtraining.  

2. Build a Weekly Mileage Base 

Increase your weekly runs gradually, aiming for 40 to 60 miles at the peak. Start slowly with a maximum 10% increase each week to prevent injuries. Over time, increasing your mileage steadily will improve your endurance and speed

3. Incorporate Speedwork 

While slower, long runs build an aerobic base, you need speedwork sessions to improve your half-marathon times. Tempo runs, fartleks, and interval workouts with periods of hard exertion near your lactic threshold promote running efficiency. 

These workouts help your body get used to running faster and handle more discomfort. The improvements from regular speed sessions directly benefit you on race day.

4. Cross-Train 

Mix running with swimming, cycling, or strength training. Stay fit, reduce injury risk, and work different muscle groups. Prioritize low or non-impact cardio workouts like cycling. It will help you improve your aerobic fitness and endurance without overstressing your legs. 

5. Fuel Correctly

The timing and content of your pre-race and race-day nutrition directly affect your energy levels and ultimately your finishing time. In 2-3 days leading up to the race day, follow a carbohydrate-loading plan to maximize your glycogen stores. 

Also, choose easily digestible carbohydrates for your pre-race meal to prevent mid-race hunger pangs. Moreover, you can eat 30–60 grams of carbs (from gels and sports drinks) per hour mid-race to prevent glucose depletion. Avoid foods high in fiber, fats, spices, and caffeine as they can cause stomach upset and decrease performance.

6. Allow Adequate Rest

Pushing through workouts is necessary, but so is rest! Easy runs, rest days, reduced mileage weeks, and 8+ hours of sleep a night help your muscles repair and grow. So, to unleash your full potential, you must prioritize rest.

Conquering Your Finish Line

Remember, “good” half-marathon time is yours to define. Sure, the average might be around 2 hours, but who cares about “average” when you have your own personal best to strive for? 

Using professionally prepared training plans and the strength of your determination, you can shave some serious seconds (or minutes!) off your previous time. It all starts with the first step, so lace up your shoes, put your plan into action, and chase that PR dream!

Are you ready to test your limits? Sign up for the 2024 OC Half Marathon, happening May 5! Join other runners on the coast and discover why runners fall in love with this iconic community. 

See you there!