If you’re lacing up your shoes to train for your first 13.1 mile race, you probably want to have a goal in mind.
And when you’re coming up with your half-marathon goal, you might wonder…
What’s a good half-marathon time?
That can be a tricky question to answer. When it comes to running, “good” is usually synonymous with “fast.” But both “good” and “fast” are incredibly relative! To someone who runs a nine-minute mile, a six-minute mile is fast. But to someone who runs a 13-minute mile, a nine-minute mile is fast. What’s “good” is in the eye of the beholder.
A “good” half-marathon time could mean “average,” or it could mean “Olympic-qualifying.” Read on for a breakdown to better understand both common and record-breaking half-marathon times.
Average Half-Marathon Times
For the average, recreational runner, a 1:50:00-2:00:00 half-marathon time is generally considered good because it’s average. If your goal is to be solidly within the middle of the pack, shoot for a time just under two hours.
That’s the easy answer. But when it comes to calculating average times, there are additional factors to consider. Men’s times are faster on average, and age plays a part as well, with runners’ speed tending to peak in their late 20s for distances like the half- and full marathon.
The average men’s first-time half-marathon runner in the 20-24 age group runs 2:25:00, while the average first-timer in the 45+ age group runs 2:40:00. For average women’s times, add 15–20 minutes.
Elite Half-Marathon Times
In the world of professional running, “good” half-marathon times look very different. Elite athletes usually run a half-marathon around 1:00:00 for men and 1:08:00 for women.
And even those elite times aren’t close to being record-setting. The current men’s world record is 57:31, set by Jacob Kiplimo in 2021. The women’s record is 1:02:52, and was set by Letesenbet Gidey, also in 2021. To do it, they both ran sub-five-minute miles the entire race.
Now that is objectively fast!
Factors To Consider When Setting a Half-Marathon Goal Time
As mentioned above, age and gender can play a big role in the time you’re targeting. But there are other additional factors to consider when you’re setting a goal and trying to determine if your time is “good.”
While most people sign up for a race with the intent to train…life happens. Running a two-hour half-marathon with little to no specific training is possible for some runners, depending on their experience and their natural running talent; however, other runners may need to follow a consistent training plan to achieve a two-hour half-marathon. Regardless of your background and ability, take your training into consideration when you assess your performance potential.
The majority of half-marathons are held on the road, but some half-marathons are trail races. Surface and terrain have a big impact on your running time, and your trail running time will be slower than your road running time.
Wind, heat, and humidity can all have a major impact on your speed, particularly if your training has not occurred in those conditions. Runners training for spring races may need to adjust their goal times to something more conservative if race day is 10–20 degrees warmer than most of their training day.
How To Set a Half-Marathon Goal Time
As you try to define what’s “good” for you, here are a couple of methods you can use to calculate a goal pace.
Use Your 5k Time
How? Multiply it by 4.5.
Example: 24:00 5k (7:44/mile) = 1:48:00 half-marathon (8:14/mile)
This method may be less accurate since there is a big difference (10 miles, to be exact) between 3.1 miles and 13.1 miles, but if you’re looking for a place to start, your 5k time can help give you an idea of a reasonable goal time.
Use Your 10k time
How? Double it and add 10–15 minutes.
Example: 50:00 10k (8:02/mile) = 1:52:00 half-marathon (8:30/mile)
Use Your Long Run
How? Take your average long run pace and subtract 15–30 seconds per mile
Example: 1:30:00 10-mile (9:00/mile) = 1:54:00 half-marathon (8:45/mile)
Important note: This assumes that you are running your long runs at an easy pace. If you’re running your long runs too fast, then they might not be the most accurate way to calculate a goal race pace.
Finding “Good” For You
If it wasn’t clear before, there’s a lot that goes into determining a good half-marathon time, since it will vary greatly from runner to runner. With these guidelines in mind, you can set a goal within your capabilities that pushes you to your best.