Can You Walk a Half Marathon in 4 Hours?

Whether you’re a seasoned walker, runner, or brand new exerciser, deciding to walk a half marathon is a big undertaking. More and more new walkers and runners are jumping into the sport of walking in order to live a more healthy lifestyle. One of the most common questions asked by walkers is, “Can You walk a half marathon in 4 hours?” Let’s explore this question in depth.

Can you walk a half marathon in 4 hours?

Most walkers should be able to walk a half marathon in 4 hours with proper training. In order to complete a half marathon in 4 hours, you must keep an average pace of 18:18 minutes a mile (11:22 minutes a kilometer). Two factors to determine whether or not you will be able to walk a half marathon in four hours is your current fitness level and your weekly volume of walking. 

How do I know how fast 18:18 minutes/mile (11:22 km/mile) is?

The easiest way to determine how fast 18:18 (11:22) is by attempting to walk 1 mile (1 kilometer) within those time constraints. if you don’t have a GPS running/tracking app you can use your phone to determine your pace. Most people have a smartphone with apps installed to track their pace but in case you don’t here is a quick hack to figure out if you can walk 18:18 mile (11:22 kilometers).

  1. Find a walking location where you know how far one mile is. I live next to a park where the trail around the park is exactly 0.5 miles. Twice around is one mile. A track is another great place to run this assessment.
  2. Set a countdown timer on your phone for 18:18 if you’re walking 1 mile or 11:22 if you’re walking 1 kilometer.
  3. Begin your walk and see how far you get around before the timer runs out.
  4. If you fall short of the distance then your pace is greater and you wouldn’t be able to finish the race within the timeframe of 4 hours.
  5. If you go past the distance of 1 mile/1 km then you should be able to finish the race with the time frame of 4 hours.
  6. Even if you can walk 1 mile at or below 18:18 minutes a mile (11:22 minutes a kilometer) you still need to look at your current total volume of miles walked per week

Quick link to pacing/interval tables below

Do I really need to train for weeks to be able to walk a half marathon?

The short answer is no, however, you need to consider two things before you attempt to walk a half marathon without training:

  1. Are you in good shape, not overweight, no medical issues?
  2. Do you already walk a lot of miles/kilometers during the week?

Even if your weekly walking volume is a low amount of miles/kilometers (let’s say a total of 10 training miles), you can still walk a half marathon with little or no training. However, you might have some really sore legs after it’s all said and done or worse, you might not finish the half marathon race.

Can I walk during my half marathon?

Yes, and here are 11 reasons why you might want to walk instead of run during your half marathon.

Assess Your Physical Fitness – Trial and Error

Before you start doing any type of training you need to assess how long it takes you to walk 3 miles at a moderate walking pace. 20 minutes a mile / 12:25 minutes a kilometer is an extremely easy walking pace. If you walk your 3 miles and find that there is no way you can walk at 20 minutes a mile / 12:25 minutes a kilometer you need to put on the brakes and take a couple of steps back. 20 minutes a mile / 12:25 minutes a kilometer is not even the bare minimum average pace to keep for a four hour half marathon – 18:18 minutes a mile / 11:22 minutes a kilometer is.

If you’re having trouble keeping a 20 minutes a mile / 12:25 minutes a kilometer pace, you need to do one of three things:

  1. Find a half marathon race that has a 5 hour cutoff time or will let all walkers finish regardless of finish time. You need to ask the race personnel or website to determine if this is a feasible option.
  2. Find a half marathon race that is on the same racecourse as a marathon. You’ll have 6 to 7 hours to finish a half marathon if you use this tactic. The only time constraint is placed on the marathon walkers/runners.
  3. You’ll have to train harder than other walkers and perform interval training during your walking training sessions.

Casual walking – don’t make this mistake

When considering your weekly walking volume, don’t use your pedometer (step count) in the equation to calculate the total miles walked per week. Therefore, the only time you use these miles is if you’re actually out walking a paced walk for at least one mile. Why does this matter? Casual walking to the water cooler, around the office, down the street to grab some lunch are usually walked at a much slower pace and at irregular intervals. These casual walking miles which are not cumulative does not reflect a true half marathon race environment.

Paced walking – the correct way to count your weekly walking volume

No, I’m not talking about training you to walk. During your training, the hours you spend training are the only miles/kilometers you want to use in tracking your progress. This is much more obvious if you’re running a half marathon but less obvious to the walker trying to walk a half marathon. A runner can’t say that they ran 3 miles if they only ran 1.5 miles. A walker could get away with walking only 1.5 miles during a training session that they were supposed to walk 4 miles. They could try to justify and say well my Garmin says I already walked 4 miles today so I guess I’m done training for the day. Again, as I said before, casual walking is not the same thing as paced walking.

Half Marathon - Walking Pace Per Race Cut-Off times

This table shows you the slowest averge pace you must keep to complete the half marathon at the specific finish time. Most half marathon races cut-off time is 4 hours.

This table also shows you cut-off times up to 5 hours in case the half marathon allows racers to finish within 5 hours instead of 4 hours. If you're walking your half marathon on the same racecourse as a marathon then you'll have plenty of time to finish your half marathon.
Finish TimeMilesKilometers
3:0013:438:31
3:0514:068:46
3:1014:299:00
3:1514:529:14
3:2015:159:28
3:2515:389:43
3:3016:009:57
3:3516:2310:11
3:4016:4610:25
3:4517:0910:39
3:5017:3210:54
3:5517:5511:08
4:0018:1811:22
4:0518:4111:36
4:1019:0311:50
4:1519:2612:05
4:2019:4912:19
4:2220:0012:25
4:2520:1212:33
4:3020:3512:47
4:3520:5813:02
4:4021:2113:16
4:4521:4413:30
4:5022:0713:44
4:5522:2913:58
5:0022:5214:13

Set aside time for training

If you’re serious about wanting to complete a half marathon race, you’ll have to carve out some time in your weekly schedule. At a bare minimum, you should set aside three days a week to train for your half marathon. During a 12-week half marathon training cycle, you need to plan on setting aside about 5.5 hours the first week of training which is a total distance of 17 miles / 27.2 kilometers. The one drawback to walking versus running is that you’ll be spending more time on your feet. It naturally takes longer to walk 4 miles then it does to run 4 miles. The one big advantage of walking over running is that it takes much less effort to walk 4 miles versus running 4 miles.

Show training time required

Walking etiquette for a half marathon – Don’t mess this up!

Here are three things that walkers need to adhere to during a half marathon race:

  • Do not start in the front of the race lineup if you are walking a half marathon. Period! Nothing else to say!
  • For the first 2 to 3 miles stay on the RIGHT side of the racecourse. In America, the right side of the racecourse is the SLOW LANE. After the third mile, most runners will have passed you by so do what you want to after mile 3.
  • Do not walk more than 2 people abreast (side-by-side) for the first two to three miles. Get out of the muck of people before you start forming the walking walls. Even after the third-mile marker, don’t stack up more than 3 or 4 people side by side. There might be walkers that need to pass you so be courteous.

Is there a quick way to determine if a half marathon race is walker-friendly?

Most major races, and even smaller races, will have some type of information or registration website that post-race cut-off times. If the website doesn’t list any type of information on cut off times, you can probably assume that you’ll have at least four hours to finish your race. If cutoff times are listed on the website then you need to assume that these are strict cut-off times and you need to pace accordingly.

If a half marathon has a 3-hour cutoff time then they are blatantly telling you that walkers really aren’t welcome. While some walkers, if they perform brisk walking intervals during the race, can finish in 3 hours, I would venture to say about 95% of walkers couldn’t finish a half marathon in 3 hours by walking alone.

If you would like to read more information about half marathon and marathon closing times check out this post: How long do marathons stay open for runners?

Brisk walking form

So when you’re brisk walking you’re going to be leaning slightly forward and your arms will naturally swing much faster to propel you forward. When you’re casually walking your spine tends to be straight up and down and your arms are in a natural slower swinging motion.

Breathing while you walk

When you’re walking your breath is less taxing than when you run. When you are walking briskly, you need to practice your breathing patterns. Here is a quick breathing guide when your walking pace picks up:

  • Try to get into a rhythm of deeper breathing
  • To start with, Inhale every 2 steps and then exhale every 2 steps – this is a 2:2 breathing pattern
  • You want to eventually want to make it to a 3:3 breathing pattern while you walk. inhale every 3 steps, exhale every e steps – this is referred to as a 3:3 breathing pattern
  • If you’re having trouble with the 2:2 or 3:3 breathing pattern, just practice breathing more deeply when you brisk walk

Pacing/Interval Quick Reference Tables

Below are 8 pacing interval tables. Each combination of intervals and pacing will get you to the half marathon finish line in under four hours if you follow it appropriately. Since you will probably have a smartphone or GPS watch you need only to make sure that your average pace doesn’t drop below 18:00 minutes/mile (11:11 minutes/km). Green being the easiest and red being the most difficult for walkers.

My recommendation for walkers is to stick to a 10-minute interval cycle such as the 6/4 (6 minutes casual walking followed by 4 minutes of brisk walking) repeated every 10 minutes.

If 4 minutes of brisk walking is too much then switch to a 5-minute interval cycle. Using the example above the 5-minute cycle would be a 3/2 (3 minutes of casual walking followed by 2 minutes of brisk walking) repeated every 5 minutes. This allows for a less intense interval of brisk walking (from 4 minutes to 2 minutes), however, you get less casual walking time (from 6 minutes to 3 minutes).

Interval Pacing for Walkers 3.5/1.5 - Finish Time: 3:56:01

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
Finish Time: 3:56:01 (average pace 18:01/mile 11:11/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
53:301:30
107:003:00
1510:304:30
2014:006:00

Interval Pacing for Walkers 3/2 - Finish Time: 3:51:39

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
Finish Time: 3:51:39 (average pace 17:41/mile 10:59/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
53:002:00
106:004:00
159:006:00
2012:008:00

Interval Pacing for Walkers 2.5/2.5 - Finish Time: 3:43:37

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
Finish Time: 3:43:37 (average pace 17:05/mile 10:37/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
52:302:30
105:005:00
157:307:30
2010:0010:00

Interval Pacing for Walkers 2/3 - Finish Time: 3:38:20

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
Finish Time: 3:38:20 (average pace 16:40/mile 10:21/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
52:003:00
104:006:00
156:009:00
208:0012:00

Interval Pacing for Walkers 1.5/3.5 - Finish Time: 3:32:52

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
Finish Time: 3:32:52 (average pace 16:15/mile 10:05/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
51:303:30
103:007:00
154:3010:30
206:0014:00

Interval Pacing for Walkers 1/4 - Finish Time: 3:26:06

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
Finish Time: 3:26:06 (average pace 15:44/mile 9:46/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
51:004:00
102:008:00
153:0012:00
204:0016:00

Interval Pacing for Walkers 0.5/4.5 - Finish Time: 3:21:31

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
Finish Time: 3:21:31 (average pace 15:21/mile 9:33/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
50:304:30
101:009:00
151:3013:30
202:0018:00

Interval Pacing for Walkers 0/5 - Finish Time: 3:16:30

This table shows you the time needed for switching between casual walking and brisk walking to be able to meet the finish time. Each column is represented in  minutes. 
Casual Walking pace: 20:00 minutes/mile (12:25 minutes/km)
Brisk Walking pace: 15:00 minutes/mile (9:19 minutes/km)
In this table you are walking at 15 minute brisk pace with no casual walking breaks.
Finish Time: 3:16:30 (average pace 15:00/mile 9:19/km) - Half Marathons
IntervalCasual WalkBrisk Walk
50:005:00
100:0010:00
150:0015:00
200:0020:00

Can I use a 1/1 interval for walking a half marathon?

Yes, you can change up the intervals however you like. Here are some other examples that you might want to try:

  • 1/1 – This is the same as the 2.5/2.5 above in total time. You’ll casually walk 1 minute then brisk walk 1 minute and repeat.
  • 2/2casually walk 2 minutes then brisk walk for 2 minutes and repeat.
  • 3/3 casually walk 3 minutes then brisk walk for 3 minutes and repeat.
  • 4/4 casually walk 4 minutes then brisk walk for 4 minutes and repeat.
  • 5/5 casually walk 5 minutes then brisk walk for 5 minutes and repeat.

Can I use distance instead of time?

Yes, you can use distance instead of time for the interval variable. Here are some examples of using distance instead of time as the interval variable:

  • 0.25 miles (0.4 km) – Casual walk for 0.25 miles ( 0.4 km ) / Brisk Walk for 0.25 miles ( 0.4 km ). This ends up being roughly the same as a 5/5 for time.
  • 0.5 miles (0.8 km)– Casual walk for 0.5 miles ( 0.8 km ) / Brisk Walk for 0.5 miles ( 0.8 km )

What are my recommendations?

I like to keep things as simple as possible. If you’re walking a 4-hour half marathon, I would go with 3 minutes of casual walking followed by 2 minutes of brisk walking (3/2). Interval training is easy to set up on a Garmin watch and/or apple watch. The 3/2 allows for more casual walking than brisk walking which might cater more to the weekend walker since there is more casual walking involved.

Can you walk a half marathon in 3.5 hours?

In order to walk a half marathon in 3.5 hours, you must maintain an average pace of 16:00 minutes a mile / 9:57 minutes a kilometer. Walking a 3.5 hour half marathon is no easy feat. You’ll need to add some speed work into your weekly training at least once a week, preferably twice a week. There are several forms of speed work that you can use to help make you a faster walker.

  • Hill repeats: find a good-sized hill with an average incline (not too steep). perform brisk walking up the hill and casually walk back down the hill. Repeat this 8-16 times for each interval session. start off at 8 repeats and then increase it by 2 every week. I wrote a great article on running hills to increase performance, you can swap out the running for walking and do these exercises as well.
  • Walk/Brisk Walk intervals: Another form of speedwork you can utilize is intervals. You can do these separately on another day or integrate into each walking training session. Instead of walking steadily at an easy pace, you’ll vary your speed by a certain time interval, look at this example below:
  • Treadmill Workouts: You can use a treadmill to automatically change your interval speeds for you. They all have an interval training mode where you specify how fast you want to walk on the slow side and how fast you want to walk on the fast side. You also set the total number of minutes for both the easy and hard intervals. Check out this Speed/Pace Conversion chart and 9-speed workouts you can do on a treadmill.

Increasing/Decreasing intensity with intervals and repeats

Walk for 2 minutes, Brisk Walk for 2 minutes – Repeat until you’re finished with your daily required miles/kilometers. You can experiment with the numbers. If 2 minutes walk/Brisk Walk is too easy, then push it up to 3 or 4 minutes. So you could walk for 4 minutes, brisk walk for 4 minutes. You could also simply shorten the easier time interval for walking so that a training session would look like this. Walk 30 seconds, brisk walk 5 minutes. You’ll have to experiment for yourself to see what works best. Listen to your body and if you start getting winded then slow it down and adjust your times.

Do I need to eat energy gels if I plan on walking a half marathon?

Since you will more likely be out on the half marathon racecourse for a longer period of time when compared to runners, you will need to pack some type of snack for the race. While you don’t necessarily need energy gels, you could get away with simply bringing along a couple of energy bars and maybe some pretzels or chips. At a minimum, you should probably aim to consume about 30 grams of carbohydrates an hour while walking your half marathon race.

For a quick reference chart on half marathon fueling check out my fueling guide for half marathons here – ultimate half marathon fueling guide.

If you’re interested in eating energy gels, my top two recommended brands are Huma and GU. For a complete review of energy gels, I personally tested click here – Energy Gel Review.

Can you walk a half marathon in 3.0 hours?

In order to walk a half marathon in 3.0 hours, you must maintain an average pace of 13:43 minutes a mile / 8:31 minutes a kilometer. I don’t recommend that walkers attempt to walk a half marathon at this pace unless they will be brisk walking almost the entire time. To put this another way, some slower-paced runners can jog around this pace.

It will be difficult to keep a 13:43 minutes a mile / 8:31 minutes a kilometer sustained average pace for an entire three hours. If you’re a seasoned fast-paced walker then you very well could complete a half marathon in 3 hours. You need to determine and assess your physical fitness to see if this is a reasonable goal or not.

Most walkers that want to complete a half marathon are simply wanting to complete a half marathon and don’t care how fast they finish the race.

Do you want to read 3 FREE eBooks on walking a half marathon, increase daily step counts, and 10 hacks to supercharge your walking?

Click here to go to my books page where you can read all 3 walking series ebooks for FREE with an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Do you want a free 12-week half marathon walking training schedule?

Click here to get the free downloadable 12-week half marathon walking training schedule.

Are you possibly thinking about running a half marathon but find running hard, check out this in-depth post I wrote about why running is so hard for new runners?

What should you do if your half marathon race gets canceled?

If a race gets canceled due to weather, sickness, or a viral pandemic, you can’t help but feel at a loss. You’ve trained for week after week, laser-focused on your race day, just to see it fizzle away. Don’t despair, you do have some options that will help you stay focused during a race cancellation.  Check out this detailed post about – what to do when your half marathon race gets canceled.

Coach Scott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach (Level 2). He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 14th half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

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