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Training for a half marathon is a feat in itself—and even more of a challenge if you have a specific goal in mind. A “good” half marathon time for you might be breaking two hours, trying to run under seven-minute miles, or just crossing the finish line.
Even though there’s no real answer for what a “good” half marathon time is, we talked to the experts about meeting your race goals and what else to focus on besides race time. Remember, no matter when you cross the finish line, you should feel great about what you accomplished as you complete the 13.1 miles.
Meet the Expert
What Is a "Good" Half Marathon Time?
Nate Helming, Strava strength coach and co-founder of The Run Experience, says there’s no such thing as a “good” half-marathon time—that is going to look different for everyone. How fast you finish can depend on your current fitness level, how hard you train, and even the conditions on race day.
“Anyone who commits to the months it takes to prepare for a half marathon and successfully crosses the finish line has a GREAT time in my book,” he says. “The 13.1 miles is too long for nothing bad to happen in the event itself that could prevent you from finishing. Even more so, you could get sick, injured, or bombarded with a new work project during the long training cycle that could prevent you from even getting to the starting line healthy and fit. Finishing a race at all is a good time!”
On the other hand, as a target goal, many half-marathons who have run at least one or two races before try to finish under two hours, says Helming. But your goal time may look different. Think of it as your “personal best goal” versus focusing on if you are finishing with a “good” time or not.
How to Lower Your Half-Marathon Time
If your goal is to improve your speed and run a faster race time, you may need to adjust your training plan, says Joel Runyon, an endurance athlete who has run an ultra marathon on all seven continents and founder of IMPOSSIBLE. He recommends following a training plan that includes long runs, tempo runs, and half-marathon-specific training runs. An example of a weekly training plan might include:
- One long run per week. Add in one to two miles each week as your training progresses.
- One tempo workout where you run two to five minutes at a tempo pace and recover for one to two minutes. You can work up to three to five miles at tempo pace.
- One half-marathon-specific training run where you run several set miles at a half-marathon goal pace.
- Short, easy pace run day or cross-training
- Rest and recovery day(s)
Race Day Tips
To run your best on race day, follow these pieces of advice:
- First, don’t run too much the week before. You want to “taper” or back off before the race, so you run on fresh, well-rested legs.
- Don’t eat anything new the morning of. Instead, stick with your usual, long-run breakfast you had during training.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water or an electrolyte-infused sports drink, if you wish.
- Stick to your training plan—don’t run too fast the first half of the race and be tired for the second. Try to run consistent mile splits.
- Enjoy yourself and feel proud as you cross the finish line. You made it!
Time Isn’t Everything
Completing the race and crossing the finish line is a huge accomplishment to feel proud of, no matter whether you finished in less than two hours or three. But instead of time, Helming recommends focusing on the healthy habits you hopefully built up as part of your training.
“For many, a half marathon is an incredible bucket list achievement. It’s a medal you can hang on your wall and admire whenever you need a pick-me-up. But, the sneaky and more important thing, training for a half marathon is really a gateway drug to establishing healthy habits and a better lifestyle,” he says. For you, that might mean eating healthy and staying hydrated throughout the week or continuing to build up strength and stamina. But, on the other hand, you may be more committed to a weekly workout schedule or want to set another fitness goal.
“While training for a half marathon is a big-time commitment, all of these habits can be compressed into a more bite-sized form that can continue to keep you happy, healthy, and balanced no matter what craziness inhabits your life,” he says. “Plus, you'll be that much more fit and ready to go when that racing bug bites you again.”