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Walking a Half Marathon

Amanda Wendorff

As a beginning runner, it will likely take you some time to build your endurance to the point where you can continuously run 21 kilometers or 1.31 miles. In the meantime, you may wonder, "Can you walk during a half marathon?" The answer is an unequivocal yes!

Walking during a half marathon is not only allowed but also very common. If you're ready to enter a half marathon event but still want or need to do some walking, you are not alone and will still find the race day experience rewarding.

In this article, we'll answer some questions about walking in a half marathon, including:

  • Can you walk a half marathon running race?
  • What's the cutoff time for a half marathon race?
  • What's an average walking pace?
  • What's an average half marathon time for your age and gender?
  • How fast do you need to go in a half marathon walk to complete the race within the official time?
  • What are some tips for training to walk a half marathon?
MOTTIV app user Brett Faro gets ready to cross the finish line at a race.

Walking During A Half Marathon Running Race

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. You will find athletes in all sorts of situations who choose to walk during the half, 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 weeks. But you don't need to wait to enter a half marathon until you can run the entire distance non-strop - run-walk intervals work in races, too!
  • Experienced runners whose bodies do better with walk breaks. Many experienced runners 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.
  • Runners who need to walk a bit during the half marathon in order to cool off, catch their breath, or take a mental break.
  • Devoted walkers - beginners and experienced racers alike - who enter the race with the plan to do more walking than running. Many half marathon races have participants who choose to walk the entire race or a large portion of it. Some of these walkers are new athletes, but many are experienced racers who simply prefer walking. Some athletes have very fast power walking paces and often walk faster than a lot of runners!

Walking the Entire Half Marathon

If you're planning to walk the entire 13.1 miles of a half marathon, or a large proportion of it, the biggest concern is ensuring your walking pace is fast enough to complete the race within the stated time cutoff, if there is one.

At most races, 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. However, some race directors may ask you to stop the race if you fall behind the pace to finish in time. If you're going to walk most of the half marathon, it is always worth researching to determine the cutoff time and how it is enforced.

What is the Cutoff Time for a Half Marathon Race?

While there is no standard cutoff time for half marathon races, the majority will have a cutoff of 3.5 to 4 hours.

Here are the average paces you will need to hold to finish the race before a few example cutoff times:

  • 3.5 Hours: You will need to hold an average pace of 16 minutes, 2 seconds per mile, or 9 minutes, 58 seconds per kilometer.
  • 3 Hours, 45 Minutes: You will need to hold an average pace of 17 minutes, 11 seconds per mile, or 10 minutes, 40 seconds per kilometer
  • 4 Hours: You will need to hold an average pace of 18 minutes, 19 seconds or 11 minutes, 23 seconds per kilometer

How Long Does it Take to Walk a Half Marathon?

If you're planning to walk and wondering how long it takes to walk a half marathon or what finish time to expect, we've compiled this chart showing the average brisk walking speed for various age groups and the corresponding half marathon finish time.

Age Miles/Hour Pace Per Mile Kilometers/Hour Pace Per Kilometer Approximate finish time for 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers
20-29 4-4.5 13:20 to 15:00 6.4-7.2 8:17 to 9:19 2 hours, 54 minutes to 3 hours, 16 minutes
30-39 4-4.2 14:17 to 15:00 6.4-6.8 8:52 to 9:19 3 hours, 7 minutes to 3 hours, 16 minutes
40-49 3.8-4.2 14:17 to 15:47 6.1-6.8 8:52 to 9:48 3 hours, 7 minutes to 3 hours, 26 minutes
50-59 3.6-4 15:00 to 16:40 5.8-6.4 9:19 to 10:21 3 hours, 16 minutes to 3 hours, 38 minutes
60-69 3.4-3.8 15:47 to 17:38 5.5-6.1 9:48 to 10:57 3 hours, 26 minutes to 3 hours, 50 minutes
70-79 3-3.7 16:12 to 20:00 4.8-6 10:04 to 12:25 3 hours, 32 minutes to 4 hours, 22 minutes
80-89 2.8-3.5 17:08 to 21:25 4.5-5.6 10:39 to 13:18 3 hours, 44 minutes to 4 hours, 40 minutes

As you can see, it is possible to walk 13.1 miles and finish within the race cutoff time. A very quick walker could finish a half marathon in 3 hours! But remember, these numbers represent brisk walking paces, or what some may call "power walking." Brisk walking will increase your heart rate, is a full-body workout, and will cause some muscular fatigue.

If you're walking slower or at a more relaxed, typical walking pace, your speed will likely be closer to 3 miles per hour or 20 minutes per mile. Covering the half marathon distance at this speed will take around 4 hours and 22 minutes, which is not within most cutoffs.

If you're planning to walk most of the half marathon, pay attention to your paces. You may need to mix in some jogging or faster walking to finish before the race cutoff.

What's an Average Half Marathon Time For Your Age and Gender?

If you plan to complete a half marathon race using a combination of running and walking, predicting your finish time can be trickier, as it depends on how fast you walk and how much you plan to walk.

Knowing the average half marathon time for your age and gender is a good place to start. For that, we've created a calculator that shows average half marathon times:

This calculator assumes you'll run most or all of the half marathon without significant walking. If you plan to do a mix of running and walking, your time will likely be somewhere between the average half marathon run times from the calculator and the average half marathon finish times for brisk walking, shown above. The more you walk, the closer you'll be to the brisk walking average. Conversely, the less walking you mix in, the closer you'll be to the half marathon run average.

MOTTIV app user Dena McPhedron has a skip in her step and is all smiles as she gets near the end of her race!

Tips for Training to Walk a Half Marathon

Although most of us incorporate plenty of walking into our daily lives, that does not mean that walking a half marathon is easy or something that can be done without training. If you want to walk a half marathon, you should expect to be on your feet for a very long time. To avoid injury and make sure that you can finish the half marathon feeling good, you should spend several weeks or months building up your mileage. Here are some basic training tips for walking a half marathon.

Follow a training plan to build your mileage

Just like if you were preparing to run a half marathon, if your goal is to walk a half marathon, you should follow a well-structured half marathon training plan designed to get you to the finish line. A good plan will help you to gradually increase your mileage and allow your body to adapt without risking injury.

Here are a few features of a good half marathon walking program:

Ramp up slowly

For any walking or running program, it's important to increase your training load gradually. Rather than simply jumping into walking for hours, start where you are comfortable. If your typical routine is to walk for 30 minutes every other day, use that as your starting point, and then build bit by bit. Next week, try walking for 40 minutes, take a longer walking route, or add an additional day of walking.

One good rule of thumb for any long-distance training program is to increase your distance by no more than 10% each week. This gradual progression is crucial for building endurance safely. Remember, consistency is key.

Aim for frequency over being a weekend warrior

For many athletes with busy lives, the tendency is to skip exercise during the week and then train for many hours at a time during the weekend.

This approach carries a high risk of injury and is not the best way to prepare to walk a half marathon. Instead of long, hero sessions, aim for frequency and consistency. Shoot for three to four days of walking per week, with one long walk that progressively increases in distance.

On very busy days, remember—something is always better than nothing. If you only have time to walk a mile, then walk a mile. You could even recruit co-workers or other people to walk with you during your lunch hour.

Give yourself enough time to build endurance

Many athletes with a half marathon goal in mind want to know how long it will take to be ready for a race. Unfortunately, there's no simple answer to this. The time it will take to train for walking a half marathon depends on several factors, including your starting fitness and athletic background. Generally, however, so long as you have the ability to walk at least 30 minutes to start, a 16 week training plan should give you plenty of time to prepare for the half marathon, whether you are running or walking it.

To prevent injury and ensure that you are really ready to cover the half marathon distance, take more time than you might think you need to prepare.

Incorporate rest and cross training days

A good half marathon training schedule will incorporate rest days into the plan. These are just as important as your walking days, as they allow your muscles to recover and grow stronger. Listen to your body—if you feel overly fatigued or experience any pain, give yourself extra rest. Adjusting your plan based on how you feel is perfectly okay; flexibility can help prevent burnout and injuries.

If you have the time, incorporating cross training, like cycling and strength training, can improve your general health and fitness while also helping to ensure that you avoid injury.

Vary your walking pace in training

As we showed above, it is possible to walk a half marathon within the cutoff time, but it will require a pretty brisk pace. Be sure to practice this by incorporating intervals of brisk walking or speed walking into your regular training walk. For example, try walking at a moderate pace for five minutes, then increase your speed for two minutes, and repeat. These variations in intensity can make your training sessions more engaging and less monotonous while preparing you to finish a half marathon.

As you progress through your training program, challenge yourself to include more extended periods of faster walking or introduce hill walking to your routine as a form of strength training. Training on varied terrain and at different paces will prepare you for the unpredictable conditions of race day while also building strength.

Practice good walking form

Good walking form is essential for efficiency and injury prevention. Keep your head up, looking forward, with your shoulders relaxed but straight. Swing your arms naturally with a slight bend in the elbows, and make sure your hands are not clenched into fists. This arm movement is not just for balance; it also helps propel you forward, reducing the workload on your legs.

Also, pay attention to your foot strike. Your foot should roll from the heel through to the toe with each step. Proper walking shoes (which we'll discuss next) can support this motion. Remember, practicing good form during your training will help ensure you're walking efficiently and prevent common injuries associated with poor posture and technique.

Make sure you have good walking shoes

Proper footwear is very important when training for a half marathon, whether running or walking. Like running shoes, good walking shoes provide the necessary support, cushioning, and flexibility to protect your feet and joints from the repetitive impact of walking long distances. You'll be spending a lot of time on your feet, so make sure they are comfortable!

While there are shoes designed specifically for walking, it is also fine to complete a half marathon in running shoes. If you're planning to mix running and walking on race day or in your training (for example, using a running-to-walking ratio of 1:1 or mixing in two minutes of walking for every two minutes of running), it's best to use shoes designed for running.

When choosing running-walking shoes, consider your foot arch type and any specific needs you might have, such as wide feet or the need for additional arch support. A visit to a specialty shoe store where you can get a professional fitting and advice is a worthwhile investment.

Remember, shoes have a lifespan. They typically need to be replaced every 300 to 500 miles, so monitor your shoes' condition and replace them as needed to ensure continuous support throughout your training. Also, be sure that you follow the golden rule: nothing new on race day! If you need new shoes before the half marathon, make sure you purchase them at least a couple of weeks in advance and get in several hours of solid walking time before using them in a race.


Half-marathon races are fun, inclusive events open to runners and walkers of all abilities. Whether you are still building your running endurance and including walk intervals, are a seasoned athlete but prefer to use a run-walk technique, or simply wish to walk a half marathon without jogging, there's no reason to delay entering a race.

In this article, we've touched upon:

  • The rules about when you are allowed to walk in a half marathon (there are none!)
  • Some reasons athletes may choose to walk during a half marathon
  • Typical cutoff times for half marathon races
  • Average brisk walking paces
  • Average half marathon finish times, according to age and gender.
  • Why it's not smart to try to walk a half marathon without training
  • Some important tips you need to know about training for long-distance walking

Using a run-walk pattern in a half marathon is often a smart approach for a beginner runner. So, even if you're still building up your running endurance, don't hesitate to enter your first half marathon. You can walk as little or as much of the race as you want and still have plenty to celebrate at the finish line.

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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.

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