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How To Hit Your Half Marathon Pace

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When you set yourself a goal for any race, you need to break that down to a pace you want to hold. What does that entail? If you are looking to run 5 miles in 50:00 minutes, you know that you need to average 10-minute miles.

There are many ways to accomplish that. The last thing a runner wants to do is come out of the gate hot then slow down. This is why runners practice pace or tempo work.

If you’re running a half marathon, you will most likely want to hone in on a half marathon pace to help you reach your goals. 

Half Marathon Pace Chart

If you have chosen your goal time, you may want to find a pace chart. That can help you to stay focused and on target throughout your race. These pace charts are often given or sold to athletes at race expos. You can get them in the form of bracelets, tattoos, or stickers. 

The pace charts can show the runner the time shown on your running watch at certain intervals. Most runners in the United States measure their running distances in miles, so those pace charts would show the athlete what their watch should read at each mile. 

Some runners prefer to measure distance by kilometers, and you can get pace charts that lay it all out based on that. 

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What is a Pace Calculator?

A pace calculator helps you figure things out from multiple perspectives. If your coach tells you that you ran a 22:32 5K and want to know your average mile pace, you can use a pace calculator. You can plug in your time and the distance you have run, and voila – you realize that you have averaged a 7:15 pace. 

A runner can also set goals in the reverse order. If you run a one-mile time trial and find yourself holding a 6:30 pace, you might wonder how fast you would have to run a 5K if you held that pace the entire time. Enter pace calculator!

5 Ways to Pace a Half Marathon

As a coach, I am frequently asked how to pace a half marathon. A common occurrence among new runners is that they start fast out of the gate and end up slowing down as time goes on. When determining how to pace a half marathon, there are different ways to look at this.

You might want to pace the marathon by dividing it into thirds.  In the first third of the half, you should be going slower than your goal pace. You can speed up a little during the second third of the run but still focus on running strong and steady. For the final third of the race, you can kick it in, consistently getting quicker over the miles. 

If you are looking at ways to pace yourself in general, here are 5 good rules to live by:

  1. Slow Down: This is simple. You just need to keep yourself from going out too hot. Don’t get sucked in by the pack.
  2. Tune in to Your Body: Pay attention to your breathing to be sure you are not going too hard. 
  3. Heart rate: Knowledge of your body and how your heart rate should look at a certain pace is a way to stay consistent.
  4. Practice: When trying to hit a particular pace, you need to practice that pace. If you want to know what a mile pace feels like, the best way to do that is to hit it over and over. You can do that through mile repeats, fartleks, and/or tempo runs at a certain goal pace. 
  5. Run by Feel: Sometimes, I love to cover my Garmin with painter’s tape and just run by feel. Choose a familiar loop, try to dial in to a “feels like” pace, and just run. After the run, check your stats and see how you did. 

What is a Good Pace for a Half Marathon?

A good pace and time for a half marathon run by an “average Joe or Jane” is under two hours. When you look at completing a half marathon at this speed, you wonder what that 2-hour half marathon pace would look like.

You can go back to that pace calculator. When you run a half marathon in 2 hours, you are holding a 9:10 pace for those 13.1 miles. 

When looking at an average half marathon pace, that really depends on three things: age, gender, and experience. A 30-year-old beginner male runner averages 2:25 for a half. A novice runs closer to a 2:01. 

Women, on the other hand, look different. Let’s examine the same age. A 30-year-old beginner female runner finishes around 2:43. A novice of the same age? 2:21. 

What Should My Half Marathon Pace Be?

Your half marathon pace depends on many things. Again, think about your age, gender, and experience. Examining your long-run workouts should give you some idea of what you can expect if you are new to running. 

Veteran runners often are trained to run their long runs slower than the other runs. This is intentional and not a reflection of their anticipated pace on race day.

However, newbies usually race closer to their long-run pace. You also need to look at what your longest run distance is. If your longest run in prep for a half marathon is 10 miles, you may fizzle out a bit in the final three miles.

Some runners go as far as 12 miles prerace. This should give you a more accurate idea of what to expect your legs to pull off when you race. 

What Can I Do To Improve The First Half of My Half Marathon Pace?

Okay, so here is where things get interesting. On the one hand, I am telling you that you should slow down at the beginning of your race. Setting a pace can help you stay steady and consistent as you speed up throughout the miles. However, some athletes really want to know how to improve their first half.

My question is: what do you mean by that?

If you are looking to improve by slowing your roll, so you don’t go out too fast then fizzle out, my best advice is to dial into your body so that you can prevent that from happening.

Maybe your problem is that you do not take in enough fuel throughout your run, which has you hitting the wall in the second half. If that is your issue, you need a plan for fueling. A great starting point is to start taking in calories every 45 minutes of running

For more insight into fueling for your half marathon, read our article titled “6 Simple Rules To Fuel Your Half Marathon“.

It’s Time to Set YOUR Goal

If you have made it this far, you are clearly motivated to run a solid half marathon in the near future.

Pick yourself a race somewhere 10-14 weeks away. Put it on the calendar. Find a training plan. Set yourself a goal.

Forward motion, folks.


If you’re not quite at half marathon training yet, we recommend looking into a 15K race first. To learn more about the 15K and how to train for it, click here.

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