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What Finish Time Should I Expect for a Marathon or Half Marathon?

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Updated May 16, 2014

Finish Line

Finish Line

By U.S. Navy photo by Candice Villarreal [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Question: What Finish Time Should I Expect for a Marathon or Half Marathon?

I want to enter a particular marathon but I am worried I won't make the finish time cutoff. How can I predict what my finish time will be?

Answer: There are charts and calculators to determine what your half marathon and marathon time might be based on your current race speed. It is best to use an actual time for a hosted event, as that is when you are performing at your peak.

  • Runners World Race Prediction Calculator: Enter your actual times for various distances to predict your time for any other distance.
     
  • Marathon coach Hal Higdon suggests multiplying your 10 kilometer time by 5, if you are a first-timer, or 4.66 if you are an experienced marathoner.
     
  • Another formula suggested by Dr. John Robinson is to add 20 seconds to your mile each time you double your distance. If you have done a half marathon, take that average minutes per mile, add 20 seconds and multiply by 26.2.

Don't Enter an Event You Can't Finish by the Cutoff Time

Do not enter an event if you might not make the cutoff time. There are many marathons available that are walker-friendly with no cutoff time or a generous cutoff time of 8 hours or even longer. Choose one of those events for your first marathon.

Late Finishers Endanger Marathons

Frankly, event directors hate people who enter their events even though they can't make the cutoff. They often have expensive permits and contracts to close streets to make a safe course for the participants. They must reopen the streets by the stated times, which on some courses makes it unsafe or impossible for the walkers or runners to continue on the course. They also have water stops, etc. set up with those same expectations and their volunteers may close up shop and depart, leaving you without any support.

If You're Lagging, Take the Sag Wagon

The most enraging issue for event directors are walkers and runners who are lagging behind but refuse to get into the "sag wagon" to safely transport them to the finish. They can't kidnap you from the course against your will, yet you are a lawsuit waiting to happen if you are injured on the course once they have reopened it to traffic and no longer have water stops, etc. The result often is the event director making the finish time even more restrictive to dissuade walkers and run/walkers from registering. If your expected finish is near the cutoff time, make a firm pledge that you will take the sag wagon if you are not on the proper finish pace. Otherwise, you are part of the problem.

Half Marathon and Marathon Step by Step Advice

Find out how to train for and walk a half marathon or marathon, including advice on shoes, clothing, hydration, snacks, training schedules, and race day tips.
Training to Walk a Marathon or Half Marathon

 

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