Half Marathon Distance Explained: How Long is It Really?

Half marathon distance runner
Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

The half marathon distance is 13.1 miles — it’s exactly half the distance of a full marathon (26.2 miles).

The 13.1 mile event is especially popular because it’s long enough to be a challenge, but not as long as a full marathon.

Many runners naturally work up from a 5k or 10k to a half marathon. And then, later on, choose to run 26.2 miles. The half marathon is the most popular race distance.

If you’re thinking about training for your first half marathon, then this blog post is for you. We cover everything you need to know, from how long it should take to finish (on average), plus a few tips to help you get the most out of your training.

What is the distance of the half marathon? 

A half marathon is 13.1 miles.

And the distance of a half marathon in kilometers is 21.0975km. That’s exactly half the length of a full marathon.

Half marathon races are available all over the world — from Antarctica to the land down under—Australia.

But you don’t need to go that extreme. There are likely numerous half marathons in your city or near your town, too. 

How long does it take to run a half marathon on average?

The average half marathon time for males between 20 and 40 years old age group is approximately 2 hours, and for women, the average finish time is 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Related: How To Tell if You Have a Good Half Marathon Time?

How fast is a 2 hour half marathon?

A 2 hour half marathon requires an average race pace of 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer. 

Crossing a half marathon finish line in 2 hours in the half marathon is a common goal for many beginner runners and those new to the event.

How fast is a 1 hour 30 minute half marathon?

To run a 1 hour 30 half marathon, you need to run at an average half marathon pace of 6:52 minutes per mile or 4:16 per kilometer.

Running under 90 minutes is a goal for intermediate runners who take their running a little more seriously and who already have a few half marathons under their belt.

What is the time for a 1 hour half marathon?

You will need to run at race pace of 4:35 minutes per mile or 2:51 per kilometer to come in around the 1 hour mark.

The 1 hour finish time is typically only seen amongst the elite or very experienced runner category — the fastest half marathon and current world record half marathon is recorded by Jacob Kiplimo in 2021 in the Lisbon half marathon, where the Ugandan set a time of 57:31.

That’s a running pace of close to 14 miles per hour for the half martahon.

How to train for a half marathon

Training for a half marathon may seem scary at first, especially if this will be the furthest you’ve ever run. 

But sticking to a half marathon training plan for a number of weeks will:

  • Provide you with the confidence to finish the distance
  • Increase your fitness
  • Allow you to set your best possible half marathon time

We have a number of half marathon training plans from 8 weeks up to 20 weeks, ideal for beginners to help you prepare for your first half marathon. 

You can search our training plans to find the right half marathon schedule for you.

Create or follow a training plan 

Following a training plan is the best way to make sure you’re ready for your race.

While, of course, we recommend our own half marathon training programs, you can use your own or be guided by the use of a training app like Runna.

The Runna app creates personalized training plans for every type of fitness level: from beginners to advanced runners. The app specializes in holistic support, dynamic training plans crafted by experts, and mixed in cross-training for strength and conditioning.

If you don’t like the rigidity of our training plans or a guided running app, you can create your own plan, we suggest you include the following sessions:

  • A weekly long training run 
  • Tempo runs
  • Shorter interval training efforts as speed work outs – Running 400 meters, 800 meters, or 1 mile distance repeats)
  • Strength & conditioning cross-training workouts 

A mix of sessions is needed to facilitate the right training adaptations. This will make running 13.1 miles that much easier (and faster).

For example, shorter interval efforts and mile repeats increase your VO2 Max — that’s a fancy way of saying you use less oxygen to increase energy.

Running at a faster pace will also improve running economy and make you a more efficient runner. 

That means better running form, but also more physiological adaptations, such as an increased number of red blood cells (more oxygen to supply the body).

Running for longer distances will increase your slow twitch muscle density training your muscles to feel less fatigue during races.

We recommend following a training plan designed by a coach or an app like Runna to reduce your risk of injury and improve your performance.

A few rules for successful half marathon training

Training for your first half marathon can be tough. 

You will spend a lot of time training and ticking off various sessions. Start with building a habit of running consistently and increasing your distances and don’t worry so much at the beginning about “tempo runs,” “mile repeats,” or running on hilly terrain. 

This can seem daunting at first, but don’t worry.

We’ve put together a few rules for successful half marathon training:

1. Be consistent with your training 

If you’re not consistent with your training, i.e., you miss several runs a week because you’re taking too many rest days, then you inevitably make the event that much harder — strive for consistency.

To remain consistent, choose a training plan that fits your lifestyle.

It sounds so simple, but if it’s not sustainable, you won’t follow it. And then you’ll be in a world of pain on race day.

2. Get your nutrition in check

When people talk about half marathon nutrition, they often talk about race day.

And while what you eat on the day of your half marathon is critical, what you eat during the build-up, i.e., the 8 to 20 weeks before your event, is not as often discussed but equally important.

You should eat plenty of protein to support recovery and consume plenty of carbs to fuel your runs. 

A lot of people tend to avoid fat — but not all fat is bad. Although do your best to avoid sugary snacks.

At the end of the day, you want to be consuming enough calories to fuel your body for training. 

Just make sure to eat enough of the right foods — you are what you eat. And what you eat fuels your half marathon training.

For examples on good half marathon nutrition, you can read more about the best breakfasts for runners.

3. Prioritize rest & recovery

Training for a half marathon is tiring. You’re spending hours on your feet completing long runs, tempo efforts, and intervals. Long training sessions while road running cause high-impact to joints and muscles and require scheduled decompressions. And let’s not forget those strength sessions — they play a big part in your training schedule.

Compound that with your daily commute, looking after kids, and your job, and it won’t be long before you can’t wait to hit the pillow every evening.

Therefore, it’s essential to prioritize rest & recovery.

Start going to bed earlier than usual, if possible. And eat plenty of protein and a well-balanced diet.

4. Pace yourself properly

A lot of beginner runners tend to set off too quickly and then pay the price later in the race or training session. 

A good pacing strategy is key.

Practice your pacing during training. A good time to do this is on your weekly long run.

Learning to better pace yourself helps you achieve your running goals.

We recommend wearing a running watch or using the Runna or Strava smartphone app to measure your pace.

The more you pay attention to it, the easier it gets.

But it’s one of the best skills you can learn that will drastically improve your running.

Avoid these mistakes when training for a half marathon

A lot of runners make the following mistakes when training for their first half marathon event:

1. Running the bulk of their weekly mileage in one session

A big mistake we see many people make is running the bulk of their weekly mileage in one session — usually the weekly long run.

And while it’s important to get time on your feet, try not to run more than 30% of your weekly miles in one run.

For example, if you run 30 miles for the entire week, your long run should be no more than 9 miles. 

Obviously, you increase your weekly miles the closer you get to the event.

So while on week 1 of training, your long run could be 6 miles, in the final few weeks, it could be 10 or 11 miles.

2. Not strength training 

Unfortunately, this is a lesson many people learn the hard way when training for their first half marathon.

Training for a half marathon requires more miles — that means more time on your feet and more force placed through your joints.

Research shows that including 2-3 strength training sessions/per week increases running efficiency over a 8-12 week period [1,2].

But that’s not it. 

Adding strength training sessions to your training will likely reduce your risk of injury. And with 24% of half marathoners and 30% of full marathon runners reporting injury during or 2 weeks after their event [3], a weights session once or twice a week is a good trade-off.

3. Missing a session and then jumping into the progressive version

If you miss a session, perhaps a weekly long run or mile repeats, don’t try to make up the miles in your next session.

Also, don’t skip the progression and move on to the more difficult version.

For example, if you have a session of 4×1 mile repeats and the following week you’re supposed to do 5 x 1 mile repeats, do the 4×1 instead.

Progressing too soon without the proper training increases your risk of injury. 

4. Not investing into the proper running gear

Bare minimum, if you’re going to be participating in a half marathon, you need running shoes. There are amazing shoes for every type of runner. You can read our recommendations on best half marathon running shoes.

Also consider safety products and recovery products. But, the shoes are the most important above all else.

How long do you need to train for the half marathon distance?

We suggest a minimum of 8 weeks up to 20 weeks of training to run a half marathon successfully.

The longer you train, the better prepared you’ll be.

And if you follow a structured training plan, you can be confident that you’ll toe the line ready to perform at your best.

Find a half marathon training plan that suits you and your schedule.


How long is the half marathon?

The half marathon is 13.1 miles — it’s exactly half the length of a full marathon (26.2 miles).

What is a 10k distance?

The 10k distance is 6.2 miles. Many runners choose to complete at least one 10km event before moving up to the half marathon.

What is a realistic time for a half marathon?

For a beginner, a realistic time is anywhere between 2 and 3 hours.


  1. Balsalobre-Fernández, C., Santos-Concejero, J. and Grivas, G.V., 2016. Effects of strength training on running economy in highly trained runners: a systematic review with meta-analysis of controlled trials. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 30(8), pp.2361-2368.
  2. Blagrove, R.C., Howatson, G. and Hayes, P.R., 2018. Effects of strength training on the physiological determinants of middle-and long-distance running performance: a systematic review. Sports Medicine, 48, pp.1117-1149.
  3. Mohseni, M.M., Filmalter, S.E., Taylor, W.C., Vadeboncoeur, T.F. and Thomas, C.S., 2021. Factors associated with half-and full-marathon race-related injuries: a 3-year review. Clinical journal of sport medicine, 31(5), pp.e277-e286.

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