Once beginner runners have grown accustomed to running 5k and 10k easily, the next hurdle many runners will attempt is a half-marathon. However, because of the importance of goal setting in running, many runners question: what is a good half marathon time?
Although a “good half marathon time” is subject to age, gender, experience, and overall physical health, a general goal for beginner to intermediate runners is to run a half marathon in under two hours. While two hours is well below the level of elite runners, it is a good time for competent runners.
To better understand what factors determine a “good half marathon time,” we will explore the characteristics of age, gender, and experience concerning long distance.
Then we’ll look at some vital training guidelines to help you achieve your half marathon time goals.
- What Factors Determine A Good Half Marathon Time?
- How To Train For A Half Marathon
- What Is A Good Half Marathon Time?
What Factors Determine A Good Half Marathon Time?
Before we discuss half marathon times, it is crucial to outline that regardless of the time it takes to complete a half marathon, covering such a long distance under race conditions is an accomplishment in itself!
Therefore, while you should set a set goal time and do your utmost best to achieve that time, performance does fluctuate on any given day subject to numerous variables. Therefore goal times should be malleable and consider your performance on the day.
However, some crucial factors affect the performances of different people. The characteristics that we will explore in greater detail are:
How Does Age Affecting Running Times?
Age has a notable effect on physical performance, particularly over shorter distances where speed is the primary driver of performance. While men and women that have yet to hit puberty lack the physical strength of a mature athlete, men and women older than thirty usually display lower energy levels than younger athletes.
However, although age is a determining factor in one’s physical prowess and subsequent running times, different people age differently, meaning that some people can comfortably record sub-two-hour half marathon times into their fifties and sixties.
While age affects the ‘ceiling’ of every athlete’s best possible time, it’s not nearly as indicative as your dedication to training.
Somebody who commits to running after 40 will likely crush the half marathon time that would have been possible when they weren’t training in their 20s.
Runners of all ages should take heart in the power of training.
How Does Gender Affecting Running Times?
Generally speaking, gender differences for half marathon times can be illustrated as follows:
- Elite men: under sixty minutes,
- Elite women: one hour and ten minutes
- Average men: two hours and two minutes,
- Average women: two hours and sixteen minutes.
Therefore, while some men have a physiological advantage over women, this is only noticeable at an elite level.
Between elite and average, you have a separate class that we might call ‘club runner standard’.
This consists of the majority of runners who race for recreational reasons, as a hobby, or as a passion that they love – but can’t dedicate a full-time training plan to.
A club runner who can complete a half marathon in under 1:30:00 is a very accomplished runner compared to the wider population – even if his/her time is a long way off elite standard.
Most women with the correct training and fitness routines will comfortably beat their male counterparts that haven’t been training. At the same time, intermediate to advanced female athletes can expect to achieve a sub-two-hour marathon with ease.
How Does Experience Affecting Running Times?
Although age is a marker for slower half marathon times, experience is the positive side of the equation. Those who have been training for a long time, throughout their lives, and/or have partaken in multiple half marathons are likely to be faster than novice runners.
Again: active training is the trump card.
The reason is that long-distance running is an endurance sport that requires conditioning over long periods and understanding various tracks, physical challenges, mental hurdles, and/or different weather conditions – as well as how to fuel correctly for the physical demands.
Here are some interesting statistics on real-life half marathon times by age and gender.
How To Train For A Half Marathon
While training for a half marathon may seem like a daunting task that requires endless running and training, there is a lot of nuance to the art.
Therefore, it is essential to follow these training guidelines:
- Understand the importance of pace setting
- Alter your training program
- Don’t over train
Understand The Importance Of Pace Setting
When you train/run a half marathon, you shouldn’t simply have the end goal in mind and constantly watch the clock to make sure you hit that sub-two-hour goal or whichever time goal you hope to achieve.
While it is essential to have a time goal in mind, as it keeps you motivated and stops you from becoming complacent, your focus during training should be on understanding your body and when to push/hold back.
The action of understanding your fitness level and capabilities over different distances is known as pace-setting. To illustrate pace setting, you need to develop a scale from one to ten whereby you measure your effort.
For example, number one should be a slow, casual walk that you can keep up indefinitely, while a number ten should be a full sprint that you can only exert for approximately 100m.
Ideally, you should aim for a number six or a number seven across a half marathon, which is a comfortable speed but not comfortable enough to have a conversation for an extended period.
Alter Your Training Program
Although half-marathon training may only include long-distance running at face value, it is vital to alter your training program. The reason is that it helps you avoid injury, breaks the monotony of long-distance running, and develops muscle groups for all conditions.
Therefore, it is advisable to include speed runs, hill runs, strength training, cross-training, and low-impact exercises like swimming. All of these exercises help condition your body and improve your holistic fitness.
It is also advisable that you train across different terrain, circuits, and weather conditions (while taking care not to put yourself in unnecessary danger!)
Don’t Over Train
Although training for a half marathon requires extensive training over numerous weeks and months to condition your body and reach your time goal, constant training puts you at risk of injury, overtraining, or burnout.
Therefore it is essential to take slow, easy runs to keep your body and mind across a consistent timetable while also improving blood flow and healing.
Furthermore, rest days and active recovery activities such as physical therapy help improve conditioning and healing. While also giving yourself a mind and body a much-deserved rest!
What Is A Good Half Marathon Time?
In conclusion, while a sub-two-hour marathon is a decent marker for a “good half marathon” time, there is no definitive objective test that determines a good half marathon time.
A seasoned club runner will look at 1:30:00 as a benchmark.
But the only true race is against your own expectations.
Instead, you should measure your time in the context of race day, your time in relation to your peers, and the growth and development of your time compared to your individual physical baseline.