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What’s a Good Half Marathon Time? Setting Realistic Goals For Your Age & Ability

Even if you don’t get too caught up in running as fast as you can, it’s only natural to want to perform your best on race day. If you’ve been tracking your times during your half marathon training sessions, you’re probably wondering how you’ll stack up to others for the big event.

Runners Goal Lights

What’s a good half marathon time to shoot for?

Watching the Clock

If you tell any runner you were able to cross the finish line for a half marathon in under 2 hours, you’ll earn their respect. That’s a great time to aim for, and it means you’ll have to tough out an average 9:09 pace per mile.

That number would beat how average runners in recent years have performed, but it certainly wouldn’t put you in the elite category of runners. It’s simply a goal many runners strive to reach.

Although lots of runners use 2 hours as a benchmark for half marathons, there’s no magical number that exactly defines your success as a runner. Rather, there’s a number of factors that impact your time.

Time By Age

As you get older, your runs won’t be as quick as they used to be if all factors stay the same. But it’s not as dramatic of a difference as you might believe it is, and studies don’t agree on just how much you’ll be slowed by age.

The seconds your age will cost you can be offset by other factors however. If you train harder, watch your weight and eat better, you may find that your time improves or comes close to your old records, despite the ongoing effects of aging.

Gender

Men are faster runners, on the whole, than women are. It’s a fact that still irritates many women runners out there, but it is what it is.

One of the biggest reasons why is the difference in our testosterone levels.

But just because men as a group are faster runners than women as a group doesn’t mean you can’t beat individual men. Women who are leaner and better trained routinely outrun heavier men who haven’t trained as well.

Although biology gives them an edge, it’s what each individual runner does with what they’re given that determines how fast they are. We’ve all met people in our lives who have squandered their gifts and others who have squeezed out every last ounce of potential they have to make the most of their talent.

The Course

Running a flat course is going to give you a better time than running a hilly one. Hills slow you down.

So if you want to reach your goal of running a half marathon in under two hours, you want to find the flattest course you can. It’ll give you your best shot.

The Weather

Even with the best training, maintaining the perfect weight and eating all the right foods, you can still be thrown off course by Mother Nature. The weather can mess with your plans to run a half marathon in under 2 hours.

Running in high wind or pouring rain can slow the best of us down, especially if we aren’t used to running in those conditions. Scorching temperatures are feared by runners all over the globe because hot days can dramatically impact finishing times.

Try Not to Sweat It

Some of our best runs happen when we aren’t worried too much about the clock. We just concentrate on how we feel and adjust our plans accordingly.

Some factors that impact your finishing time are out of your control. All you can do to reach your time goal is train as best as you can.

Try not to feel too discouraged if you haven’t reached your goal yet. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t -- regardless, your body, spirit and health are all benefiting from your efforts.

Shannon Serpette
 

Shannon Serpette is an award-winning writer and avid runner. She ran her first 5k two years ago, and hasn’t stopped running since. She has completed a half marathon and recently earned her first Top 3 performance medal for her age category in a race.

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