The start of the men's race at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships Gdynia 2020 (Getty Images)

How it works

A road race of 13.1094 miles or 21.0975km is exactly half the distance of a full marathon. The half marathon has become a hugely popular distance, with many thousands of events taking place globally every year.

The finishing order is determined on time.

The half marathon is not part of the World Athletics Championships or Olympic programmes but the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships is a biennial event which first took place in 1992.


With the steady growth of recreational running in the 1950s, race organisers looked to offer an alternative to the standard marathon distance, and so the half marathon was born.

The first world best, as listed by the sport's global governing body, was Ron Hill’s 1:05:44 clocking in Freckleton in 1965, although it should be noted that Abebe Bikila’s half-way split of 1:04:28 from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was quicker.

Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea is a five-time world half marathon champion and Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya secured a hat-trick of world half marathon titles from 2014 to 2018. Kenya and Ethiopia have also been to the fore in women’s half marathon running. Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir is the reigning world half marathon champion, achieving the feat in a women’s only world record time of 1:05:16.

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