Running a half-marathon over 50? Here’s how long it should take – and how to do it faster

Just how long should running 13.1 miles take? We explain how to do it faster and enjoy it too.

Deciding what a good time is for the half-marathon distance is all about understanding your own running and what those 13.1 miles (21k) will mean to you. 

Because if you get that right the time you take will be largely irrelevant. As a result, it’ll be fun, rewarding in so many ways and quite possibly your best-ever running achievement.  

Altogether however, we understand that everybody likes to know roughly how long something should take. So using averages and race statistics and a race time calculator, which formulates times compared to the best times in the world for each age group, we have the answer. 

Two older runners laughing and running towards the cameraCredit: Zoran Pucarevic/Shutterstock
Running a half marathon distance is achievable and above all, fun

What’s a good half-marathon time for my age?

The numbers

Statistics, along with a straw poll of expert coaches, are central to half marathon distance times. As I have said, they are just a guide and don’t take into account personal circumstances, but they do use a formula based on the fastest time in the world for each age group and then average times.

 

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Calculate an average half marathon time

For this reason, we’ve used 60 per cent of the fastest time ever recorded for that age group over the half marathon distance as an average for the faster groups and just over 30 per cent for the beginner runners, but feel free to disagree. After all, running is very individual. 

Overall, however, the key is to be proud of what you’ve done and enjoy it.  

Your guide to the times

Age  Fast men  Beginner men  Fast women  Beginner women 
50  1 hour 45 minutes  3 hours 15 minutes  2 hours  3 hours 45 minutes 

 

60  2 hours  3 hours 40 minutes  2 hours 20 minutes  4 hours 20 minutes 
70  2 hours 10 minutes  4 hours  2 hours 45 minutes  4 hours 55 minutes 
80+  2 hours 35 minutes  4 hours 40 minutes  3 hours 15 minutes  5 hours 55 minutes 

Run for England

In addition, if you have dreams of representing England over the half marathon distance, these are the minimum standards required to don a vest. 

 

Age group  Male   Female 
50  1 hour 25 minutes  1 hour 40 minutes 
55  1 hour 30 minutes  1 hour 45 minutes 
60  1 hour 35 minutes  1 hour 54 minutes 
65  1 hour 43 minutes  2 hours 10 minutes 
70  2 hours  2 hours 30 minutes 
75+  2 hours 30 minutes  2 hours 45 minutes 

Half-marathon training tips

Things to think about…

  • Firstly, develop a routine and stick to it, even if that means just going for a walk rather than a run. Generally speaking, routine as much as the actual training creates a good mind-set and makes you mentally tougher. 
  • Moreover, training plans reduce the risk of injury because plans gradually increase the workload. Equally, on your own, you can tend to do too much too soon, with potentially disastrous consequences. 
  • Additionally, half marathon distance training plans are also good for your confidence, an often-undervalued aspect of running. Also, refer to it after a few weeks and see how you’ve progressed.  
  • Also, pay attention to your calf muscles. Increased mileage tends to tighten them up, so make sure you stretch three times a week. 
  • Lastly, running on trails really helps as the variety and changing terrain stimulate you and help you avoid burn-out. 
  • From time to time, don’t forget strength training. Generally overlooked by runners, it’s an amazing way to keep injury at bay and keep you on the road. 
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Four easy ways to improve your time

1, Don’t be frightened to back off. Because you’re an older runner, it’s vital to understand what moderation means. “‘In training means that you seldom explore your physical limits,” writes Joe Friel, one of the world’s leading experts in running past 50. “Too many athletes try to do
the hardest workouts they are capable of, frequently. Additionally, long workouts are much too long, and intensity is often too high. Most seem to believe that peak fitness comes from finding their limits several times each week.” 

2, By the same token, run every other day rather than every day, but on your off-days, explore cross training and strength training.   

3, Additionally, sleep a lot. As soon as someone tells you “sleep is for the dead”, ignore them and remember instead that it’s while you’re sleeping that you become fitter. So don’t miss your seven to nine hours a night: it’s when your body adapts to all the hard work you’ve been doing. 

 4, Finally, listen to music. Significantly, it can help you fight off the feeling of fatigue while you’re running. Certainly, we’d recommend Shokz headphones as they work using bone conduction and can deliver sound through your cheekbones to your inner ear. Furthermore, this can help to avoid accidents that may occur while using traditional headphones and earbuds, which block out other sounds. indeed, you can enjoy your music on the move and still hear everything around you – including traffic, emergency vehicles and other warning noises.

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My own half-marathon journey

Why it’s not about how fast you run

Most of my running has involved outings that don’t last much more than an hour. Which, of course, makes finishing a half marathon in a good time challenging to say the least.  

Last year, however, I embarked on a mission completely related to my impending age (60).  

From time to time, I’m constantly reminded that I’m “too old for that”, or phrases to that effect. So I decided to run some tough events in the year leading up to my birthday. As a result, one of those events was the Wales Trail Half Marathon in Snowdonia.  

Obviously, the clue is in the name for this one. Snowdonia is hilly. Very hilly. Furthermore, I live in the Fens, where there are no hills. So: a great challenge that would be tough but perfectly achievable with the right planning. 

At the same time, conquering something like Snowdon is all about the preparation, which is why I created a schedule that involved at least two testing challenges in the build-up.

Firstly, one was a race up Skiddaw, a peak in the Lake District, of just five miles. The other was a run of about four hours in Snowdonia, stopping whenever I felt like it and taking in the scenery, but making sure I was out for ages. The distance I ran was irrelevant (seven miles in this instance), it was all about time on my feet. 

Author Paul running up Skiddaw in the Lake DistrictCredit: Route North
My own half marathon journey was all about challenging myself with mad uphill races

In any event, those runs were superb. True, as I discovered firsthand, Skiddaw can be cold and wet and very, very windy, but defeating it was such a boost, as was enjoying the amazing scenery Snowdonia has to offer.  

Equally important, I knew from these experiences that the race would be fun. Certainly it was. Even though I can tell it was hilly and therefore slow – I ran about 15 minutes slower than I would for a flat half marathon on the road – the drinks coaster given to every finisher has pride of place right here on my desk.  

Lastly, take it from me, half marathons aren’t about the time. They’re about the work you put in before and the fun you had on the day. Enjoy. 

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Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins

Updated:

Paul is Senior Coaching Editor at Saga Exceptional. He has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors.

But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide. In fact, he’s still very competitive. In 2022 he ran in the World Masters’ Mountain Running Champs in the over-55 age group and is now looking forward to moving up a category and taking on the 60-year-olds.

He’s also part of the England Team Management set-up in road running as well as being an England team coach in the U18 age group for track and field athletics. Currently, he coaches a group of athletes ranging from 13 years old to 55 at his local club.

Outside of work, Paul loves cooking and driving classic cars. He’s owned everything from a 1966 Ford F-250 pickup to a clapped-out 1987 Porsche 944. He’s married to Elaine and they have a West Highland White Terrier named Benji, who’s not that keen on being timed for every run!

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