What Is A Good Half-Marathon Time for Beginners?

Natalie Cecconi
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How Many Miles Is A Half-Marathon?

The half-marathon, which is 13.1 miles, is a great distance for a beginner to get started on. It’s long enough that you’ll challenge yourself and a beginner, but it’s a nice manageable distance that you can work towards over a short period of time.

A lot of people start with the 5K and work their way up to a half-marathon. It’s a great first distance and can be a great stepping stone to training for a half-marathon.

So, the first question you will need to answer for yourself is whether you really want to run a half-marathon. Most beginners are just looking for a way to get active and moving.

If you’re looking to improve your health, increase your stamina, get in shape, and have fun doing it, then you may just be interested in running shorter distances to start.

The next thing you will need to do is decide how you want to train. If you’ve never run before or are a beginner, you can start with a walking/jogging plan.

Good Half-Marathon Times for Beginners

If you’re thinking of running a half-marathon…not for charity or charity’s sake, but just for yourself, then you may have asked the question, “What’s a good half-marathon time for me?” This is a very simple, but very important question, because running a half-marathon is not the same as running a 5K, 10K, or even a marathon.

As a beginner, you may feel that setting a time goal that matches your 5K or 10K time is a fair gauge of where you should be with a half-marathon. But it’s not. Here’s why.

Unlike a 5K or 10K, which is almost always run on a flat surface, most half-marathons are a bit of a challenge to begin with– and then they throw on a few hills simply to make it interesting. Because of this, the most important factor in determining how fast you should run a half-marathon is your current ability to run hills. After speed, the next most critical component is recovery time.

How fast you run a half-marathon is based on several factors.

How Long Will It Take Me?

Ricardo Gonzales, founder of 2-Time Marathon Club, is a two-time marathoner, with a Boston qualifying time of 3:14. In other words, he knows his way around the classic 26.2-mile distance.

He says that, if you're looking to qualify for Boston and you haven't run a half-marathon before, you'll need to run it in 1:45 or better.

"That's a very doable time for most people," he says.

Now, if you already have a marathon time, and you're running a half-marathon, you can run it at about the same level. If you run a sub-1:30 in a marathon, you can run a sub-1:30 in a half-marathon. If you run a 3:30 marathon, just run a 3:30 half-marathon.

On the other hand, if you're very fast, and you plan to run the half-marathon faster than the marathon, beware the wall.

A 5K can be run at 5K race pace, but a 10K can't be run at 10K race pace … because of the anaerobic threshold. The limit you get to on a 10K course is about the same as the limit you get to on a 1-mile race.

Therein lies the wall.

Basic Tips for Your First Half

If you are training for your first half marathon, you’re not alone. The number of runners participating in half marathons continues to rise each year as more and more people take up running. Once the domain of hardcore running enthusiasts, half marathons are now very popular among non-runners as well.

But if you’re a beginner, running a half marathon can be quite intimidating.

Over the coming weeks, you’ll be training hard to prepare yourself for the 13.1 mile journey you will be taking on race day. But how do you know you’re actually prepare yourself for a half marathon?

The first thing to keep in mind when training for your first half marathon is that there are many factors that determine your ability to run a half marathon.

You can’t account for the difficulty of the course, the heat and humidity conditions, aggressive racers, and other unforeseen obstacles. Even if you’re in the best of shape, racing a half marathon is a double edged sword and there is always the possibility you could end up injured and unable to complete the distance.

Speedwork and Strength Training

Whether you are training to build your performance in the short distance 5K run or further, you will likely find yourself having to do speedwork of some sort.

Speedwork is sometimes a controversial subject among coaches and running clubs because there is no one right way to perform it. You can have a coach evaluate you and prescribe a speedwork protocol just for you or you might buy a training program in a magazine or a book that will dictate how and when you should do your speedwork.

The bottom line is that speedwork will help you to run faster. In order to run faster, your body needs to be prepared for the exertion.

First, you need to be able to run faster in a short, very intense burst. Think of it as a quick dramatic burst to instantly bring your body to a higher level of exertion, then bring it down just as quickly.

There are many different methods you can use to improve your ability to do speedwork.

Some people may have a natural ability, but most of us have to train our bodies to react in this manner.

It is helpful to remember that the definition of speedwork has evolved over the past 30 years or so, and it mostly has to do with amount of distance covered over the duration of the workout, not the pace.

Other Tips

If you have been running consistently for at least 6 months and are training for your first half marathon, always err on the side of caution and aim low.

You don’t want to be pressed for time in the final stretch of your training, that’s what your last 3-4 weeks are for.

Also, if you’re training for the first time, you will learn as you go and your fitness will develop over time.

So before the race day, you may surprise yourself with how much you’ve improved.

To improve your running as you progress in your training program, increase your mileage by 10% every 2-3 weeks at the start and then by 5% after that.

Chances are you still can’t run for a half marathon in 13 weeks. But if you start on a good note and reach the finish line with a smile on your face, who cares?

Finish the race when it matters most — on the day of the race itself. Find the best pacing strategy that you can commit to and practice it during your training.

If you hit the wall with only 3 miles left and you have to slow down, so be it.

Race Day

Race day will most likely be the most momentous day of your running career, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful day. You can do a lot to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the big day. Below are the steps you can take to put yourself in the best position to achieve your goals.