Written by

Ben Parker

March 30, 2023

Pacing A Half Marathon

A half marathon can be tricky to pace. Runna is here to help!

A group of people running.

A half marathon is a challenging race that requires both physical and mental preparation. One important aspect of this preparation is pacing. Nailing your pacing can make all the difference between a strong finish and a painful last few miles. So, ensure you think about your pacing prior to your half marathon.

Find out Head Coach Ben's strategy for half marathon pacing below.

Define your goal time for your next half-marathon

Start by working out what time you are aiming to finish in.

If you’ve already run a half marathon before, you can use your previous finish time to define your target time and pace. Use our pace calculator to determine your pace.

For example:

If you are aiming for 1 hour 40 minutes, then this is an average pace of 4:44 min/km. Sticking to an exact pace to the second is a tough job, so I would recommend targeting a pace range of 3-4s either side of your target pace. For the 1 hour 40 mins runner, this would be a pace range of 4:41-4:47min/km.

To finish in 1 hour 45 minutes, you need to maintain a pace of 4:58 min/km or 8:00 min/mile.

If you're aiming to finish your next half-marathon race in under 2 hours, you need an average pace of 5:41/km or 9:09/mile.

If it's your first time doing a half marathon, you might not know what goal time you should aim for, and that's completely fine. Aiming to finish the race is an excellent objective for a first-time half-marathoner. You could also use your PB for a shorter distance (for example a 10k) to define your approximate goal for the half marathon race, but keep in mind that long-distance running requires targeted training to build up your endurance. Check out our half marathon training guide and plans to find out how to get started.

How to pace a half marathon on race day

You can then break down your half marathon into three sections of 7 km each (approx. 4.50 miles). Here's how:

The first 7km

The first 7 km is the 'easy' or 'free' section.

At this point, you're fresh and it should be relatively easy to hold your target pace. Don't get ahead of yourself and start running too fast; you might regret it later in the race! This can be an easily done by keeping an eye on your pace.

The second 7km

This is the 'meaty' or 'hard' section.

By this point, you'll likely be feeling fatigue in your legs but it's still important to aim to maintain your pace. If you're holding back and feel that you're able to go faster, allow yourself to speed up by 5 seconds per km.

By reaching the 14 km mark, you're two-thirds done. Focus on this mental achievement to help through this section.

The final 7 km

This is the fun part!

By this point, you'll be physically tired. However, if you can get into the mindset that it's the final stretch, it'll be easier to maintain good form and enjoy the rest of the race. If you have anything left in the tank, increase your pace for this entire section, instead of saving it all for the last 1 km. Use the energy of the crowd to power through.

Home straight

The final 500m is a chance to reward yourself for all the hard work you've put into training and completing the race.

Use this thought to push yourself to the finish line in style!

How to prepare for your next half marathon

A half marathon is a distance that most runners can achieve – but still remains a challenging one, requiring targeted preparation over the course of a couple of months. The hardest part of all this for many runners is staying accountable and consistent with your training, and building a weekly running routine that helps you lace up and go out for a run two, three, or more times a week, rain or shine.

Having a specific deadline and a structured training plan can really help you stay on track in preparing for your next half marathon race. That's why we've built Runna, which you can use to create a personalized half marathon running plan that adjusts to your goals, performance, and schedule, and sets out all sessions for you. Using a training plan will help you become faster and stronger  – and define a target pace based on your current performance. Simply download Runna to get started – your first week is on us.

If you have any questions about half marathon pacing or our training plans, reach out to our support team. We'd love to help.

And, most importantly, best of luck for race day! You've got this.

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