How to Estimate Your Half Marathon Finishing Time (Charts Included!)
Whether you are a beginner runner or someone who has been at it for quite some time, it is not uncommon to wonder how fast you can anticipate completing a race. In fact, it would be unusual if you had not given any thought to a time goal for a set distance.
Some people theorize that it is easier to estimate your finish time in a shorter race like a mile or 5K than it is to come up with a half marathon time estimate. Why? Because there is more opportunity for things to go awry when covering the longer distance.
Predicting a finishing time for a long-distance race is pretty tough since there are a lot of variables you should take into account.
Among others, you need to consider your mental and physical preparation, your current fitness level, elevation on the course, altitude, and weather conditions.
Of course, estimating race times isn’t an exact science, and you can never predict it exactly.
However, you can use specific race calculators and charts in order to approximately determine a “ballpark finishing time.”
These are mainly based on your recent race, no matter what distance it was.
What Is a Reasonable Time for a First Half Marathon?
If you are a new runner gearing up for your first half marathon, don’t be tempted to compare yourself to other runners. Why?
Because it is hard to compare finishing times for half marathons since there is a great variation among runners.
Your finish time at any given race distance depends largely on gender, age, and previous running experience. In addition to that, you also need to consider other things such as the course, weather on race day, travel to the event, and other factors.
A solid goal for a newer runner tackling the half marathon distance for the first time is anywhere from two hours and fifteen minutes to three hours.
Bear in mind that we are not talking about people who have been experienced runners, just trying this distance for the first time. This is for newbies, both to running and the half.
We here at RunnerClick are of the mindset that if you are running your first half, just head out there to do your best and see how it goes.
Running 13.1 miles can seem quite daunting and remember: if it is your first attempt at a distance you have already hit a personal record (PR).
What Is The Average Time to Run a Half Marathon?
According to Annual USA’s Half Marathon Report, the average finishing times for the half marathons in the United States last year were 2:22:21 for females and 2:04:00 for males.
Keeping in mind that these are finish times for professionals, while the vast majority of runners are not able to run a half marathon close to these times, let’s talk about elites.
The male professional runners are capable of running a half marathon in slightly less than an hour; the female experienced runners can win in about 1 hour and 10 min.
For runners with some previous experience, breaking 2 hours is a common goal. To achieve such a time, your running pace should be 9:09 per mile. That finish time is considered a decent time among half marathoners.
On the other hand, most of the first-timers aim to finish a half marathon rather than achieve a specific finish time.
What is a Good Half Marathon Time by Age?
On the one hand, it seems natural to slow down with age. It is important to note that this fact is not always true. Most of us get a little bit better grasp on things as we get older. With age comes wisdom and experience in all facets of life. This includes running and racing.
When reflecting back at my running life in my 30s, I did not fare as well as I do now. Why? Because as a young mom with children still at home my priorities we’re different.
Now, as an empty nester, I have more time on my hands to devote to myself and my own interests. This includes running. So even though looking at average half marathon finish times based on age group averages and gender, there are many other things to consider.
So if you are finding yourself wondering if you are doing “good” for your age and gender, check out the national averages. If you are faster than “average,” I would say you are doing pretty well for yourself.
Men’s average half marathon run time by age and ability
Women’s average half marathon run time by age and ability
How Do I Estimate My Half Marathon Time?
One of the most popular ways to estimate your finish time is to use a race predictor. Race predictor calculators take your data of recent runs and put them into an algorithm to figure out how long it should take you to finish a race.
If you are hoping for an accurate predicted time of what you should expect, you will use the data from the longest run or race you have information on.
What that means is if you are planning to run a marathon, predicting your finish time based on data from a recent 5K has a larger margin of error than if your goal race is a half and your recent race is a 15K.
Another thing to consider when looking at a race calculator is how many points of reference they ask for. If the calculator asks for more than one race and/or distance, that is good.
The calculators also keep in mind that they expect you to slow down as you are covering more distance. In other words, they don’t expect you to keep that 5K pace for miles and miles.
Here are some popular race estimators to check out:
Other Considerations: Weather, Altitude, Injuries
When estimating the finishing time, you should take into consideration the race course. It’s not the same if you run on a flat or hilly course. That will considerably affect your time. Also, you need to take into account the average altitude of the particular course. It is more difficult to run at a higher altitude.
Weather is another huge factor. Living in NE Wisconsin, I was training all winter for a February race in Florida. It was super hot and humid on race day, which shocked my body after running in the ice and snow. The exact opposite can also happen. A friend of mine traveled to Texas for a run and they had an uncommon ice story. All of those southern runners were in for a shock.
Check out the race results listed on the official half marathon’s website for the race you are planning to run or you have done. There, you can find a wide range of typical finish times, including the times of the age groups, times of those who finished the race in the back or in the middle of the pack, and top finish times.
Keep in mind that some half marathons have specific time limits. This means all participants have to finish the race under a given time. You should know based on your training if you will struggle to finish within the allotted timeframe.
Runners who have had their training plan derailed for injury, sickness or just because life gets in the way should also go into it realizing that it may not be the race or finish time they were hoping for. Sometimes, we just have to accept things for what they are.
Whatever those extenuating circumstances are if you’re going to participate in a half marathon for the very first time, you should focus on completing the half marathon rather than your finishing time, which is a big achievement.
Your finishing time is going to be better as you gain more race experience and train more.
Run Happy, Friends.
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