Cookie Consent

By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.


The Half Marathon Distance: How Long Is It?

Amanda Wendorff

When thinking about making a leap from casual jogging to entering a race, one of the first questions a beginner runner may ask is, "How long is a half marathon?" The half marathon, a popular and admirable goal for many runners, stretches over 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers - a good test of endurance and determination. But beyond the distance, what defines this distance, and more importantly, can you, as a newer runner, realistically aim to complete it?

We wholeheartedly say, "Yes, you can do it!" – with proper training and preparation. Let's begin our journey into half marathon training and find out how you, as a beginner, can get ready to tackle the challenge and enjoy the great feeling of making it to the finish line.

In this article, we'll answer these questions:

  • How long is a half marathon?
  • What's the average finish time for a half marathon?
  • What's a fast half marathon time?
  • How long does it take to train for a half marathon?
  • How many laps is a half marathon on the track?
  • Can I walk a half marathon?
  • What does a half marathon training plan look like?
MOTTIV app user Carl Binner celebrates after a 70.3 IRONMAN race; the running portion of a 70.3 triathlon is the length of a half-marathon!

How Long is a Half Marathon?

Before you start training for a half marathon race, having a handle on the race distance is a good idea. You can look at a half marathon running race from a few different standpoints as far as distances go:

  • A half marathon is 13.1 miles long. That's a bit over 169,000 feet!
  • As its name suggests, a half marathon is exactly half the distance of a full marathon, which is 26.2 miles.
  • For our metric friends, a half marathon is 21 kilometers long.
  • If you were to run the distance of a half marathon on an outdoor 400-meter track, it would take a little over 52 laps.
  • For an average person, it'll take roughly 20,000 steps to run a half marathon or 30,000 steps to walk it.

A half marathon running race is a great challenge for a runner who has some experience doing running races but isn't quite ready to commit to the training demands of a full marathon. It's also a distance that many runners choose to focus on. The half marathon is fairly demanding, but the training and racing commitment is manageable enough that most runners can do multiple half marathons yearly.

In 2018, 2.1 million runners worldwide completed half marathon races. This shows just how popular the distance is!

What is the Average Finish Time for a Half Marathon Running Race?

In 2019, the folks at and the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) published a report entitled "The State of Running." This report is the largest and most recent major analysis of race results. Its authors analyzed the finishing results of more than 70,000 running races from 1986 to 2018.

According to this study, the average half marathon finish time for male runners was 1 hour, 59 minutes, which is a pace of 5 minutes, 40 seconds per kilometer (or 9 minutes, 7 seconds per mile).

For women, the average half marathon finish time was 2 hours, 14 minutes, a pace of 6 minutes, 22 seconds per kilometer (or 10 minutes, 14 seconds per mile).

To find out the average half marathon run times for your age and gender, you can use the following calculator:

What's a Fast Half Marathon Time?

Half marathon events often have plenty of new runners aiming to reach the finish line for the first time. At the front of the race, however, you can always find a handful of speedsters aiming to reach the finish line as quickly as possible.

Very fast male runners may complete a half marathon race in a finish time of 65 to 75 minutes or even faster.

Local elite female runners will likely be able to finish a half marathon in 75 to 85 minutes. Some will run even faster than that.

To give a sense of the fastest half marathon runners, the world record finish times for the half marathon distance are:

  • 57 minutes and 31 seconds for men, set on November 21, 2021, by Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda at a race in Lisbon, Portugal
  • 1 hour, 2 minutes, and 52 seconds for women, set on October 24, 2021, by Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia at a race in Valencia, Spain

How Long Does it Take to Train for a Half Marathon?

Once you've decided to begin training for a half marathon, it's time to set a training schedule and determine how many weeks you'll need to be ready to cross the finish line.

Generally, we don't suggest starting with the half marathon as your first running race. There is much to be learned in the process of training for a 5k or a 10k, and for most beginner runners, those shorter distances are the best place to start.

Once you're ready to take on your first half marathon, the number of weeks you need to train for the 21k distance depends on multiple things, including:

  • Your background in endurance sports: for example, if you've been an elite swimmer in the past, it'll take fewer weeks to train than if you're still a very new runner.
  • Your current activity level: if you've already been running or walking regularly or recently completed a 5k or 10k, it will take you less time to increase your mileage to train for a half marathon than if you took a long break from running and are just getting re-started with an exercise routine.
  • Your goals for race day: generally, if your goal is to finish without worrying about your speed or time, the training required to meet your goal will be less than if you were trying to race for the win or a personal record.

Generally, most runners need between three and six months to train for a half marathon properly.

To determine how long you should devote to training for a half marathon, you can use this calculator, which takes into account your background and goals:

Remember that these recommendations are minimums. If you can devote even more weeks or months to your half marathon training than the calculator shows, that will help keep you injury-free for your race.

How Many Laps is a Half Marathon on the Track?

When training for a half marathon, your local running track is ideal for building mileage and practicing running faster.

Most modern outdoor tracks are 400 meters per lap or ¼ of a mile. To run a half marathon on an outdoor track, you'd need to complete 52 laps. That probably sounds like a lot of laps! Few runners will complete the entire half marathon distance on a track. However, the track is an excellent place for shorter workouts, intervals, or tempo runs that will be part of your half marathon training.

Indoor tracks at gyms and colleges can vary in distance. Tracks at colleges or universities used for track and field competitions are likely 200 meters. 21 kilometers on a 200-meter track would take 104 laps - again, a fairly unreasonable amount. Use the track for training, and move your long runs to more enjoyable surfaces.

Keep in mind as well that indoor tracks at recreation centers or gyms are not standardized and can be almost any distance. In this case, getting clarification from the facility's manager is best.

MOTTIV app user Dena McPhedron completes a triathlon, which includes a half-marathon to finish the swim-bike-run event!

What are the Benefits of Running on a Track?

Running on a track can be a very good idea for a beginner runner. Some unique benefits of doing some of your training on a track include:

  • Softer surface: rubberized tracks are softer and more forgiving for the legs than harder surfaces like sidewalks, paved paths, or roads, which lowers the risk of injury.
  • No elevation: you can build your running endurance without worrying about hills
  • Easy to keep track of your distance: to calculate the distance you've run, you only need to count the number of laps you've run
  • Access to fluids: it's always a good idea to plan to drink water or sports drink when training for a half marathon. You can place a water bottle on the ground at a track and access it every few minutes.
  • Perfect for intervals: beginner runners usually start by training with a mixture of running and walking. Similarly, more advanced runners will mix fast and slow running intervals into their workouts. A track is perfect for these sorts of training sessions.

Can I Walk a Half Marathon?

It is absolutely permissible to walk during a half marathon race. Whether you include walking breaks between jogging intervals or decide to walk the entire race, you are still welcome in any half marathon event.

You'll definitely have company if you include walking in your half marathon race! You will find athletes in all sorts of situations who choose to walk during the half marathon, including:

  • Beginner runners who are still building up to running 21 kilometers continuously. Most training plans built for beginner runners will start with a run-walk program that, on most training days, alternates walking and running intervals. This strategy works very well for new runners and may last many months or years. But you don't need to wait to enter a half marathon until you can run the full distance - run-walk intervals work in races, too!
  • Experienced runners whose bodies do better with walk breaks. Many experienced runners, and even marathoners, find that including short walk breaks during their races allows them to finish the race faster and feel better. Many running coaches suggest walking through the aid stations in any distance race, as the short break is good to bring the heart rate down a bit, allows for a mental reset, and generally helps runners maintain good form for longer.
  • Devoted walkers doing a half marathon walk. Every half marathon race has some participants who choose to walk the entire race. Many of these walkers are experienced racers who simply prefer walking. Some athletes have very fast walking paces and often walk faster than many runners!

The only concern with walking in a half marathon race is ensuring that your walking pace is fast enough to complete the race within the stated time cutoff if there is one. Finishing after the cutoff does not mean you cannot finish the race or will be pulled from the course. It simply means the official race is over, so you may not get an official time or finisher medal.

What Does a Half Marathon Training Plan Look Like?

If you're ready to get started, a good training plan will help you to prepare to reach the finish line. We have designed half marathon training plans to help beginner runners (at any fitness level) comfortably finish a half marathon and even reach the finish line in a faster time. These training programs provide a holistic approach to training for a half marathon, and will help you to increase your weekly mileage and speed with plenty of recovery incorporated to keep you healthy. They also provide lots of great training tips, such as how to fuel your weekly long runs and race day and how to incorporate strength and mobility work to keep your joints and muscles healthy.

You can look at an example training plan below or get a personalized half marathon training plan for free with our run training app.


If running a half marathon piques your curiosity, you're not alone. Training for and completing a half marathon run is a wonderful way to challenge yourself physically and mentally. Often, first-time half marathon runners enjoy their experience so much that they decide to run more and more half marathons or even build up to the full marathon.

This article has introduced you to the basics of the half marathon, including:

  • The distance of a half marathon
  • The time it takes to run a half marathon
  • How long it takes to train for a half marathon
  • How you can train for a half marathon on the track
  • The pros and cons of walking in a half marathon
  • What a training plan for a half marathon looks like

Now, it's time to take your next steps. Lace up your shoes, find a training plan, get running, and before you know it, you'll be celebrating at the finish line.

Get a free run training plan

Sign Up for Free

Amanda Wendorff

| Author

Amanda Wendorff is a professional triathlete, focusing on the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman distances. In the last several years she’s competed in multiple gravel bike races. Top Achievements: Top 3 Ironman Ireland and Ironman 70.3 Coquimbo, Multiple time top-5 finisher, 3rd Overall at Moran 166 Gravel Race in Michigan, Age group podium at Gravel Worlds, Big Sugar, and Ned Gravel in first year of gravel racing.

With Mottiv, you're ready

The only app with personalized training plans designed specifically for real people who want to accomplish something amazing in endurance sports.

Try free now