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Optimum Weight for a Half-Marathon

By L. T. Davidson

Many novice runners dream of eventually finishing a marathon, but the half-marathon is an appealing alternative for runners who want to complete a long race without needing to make the major sacrifices required to run 26.2 miles. Many people start running as a way to lose weight, so it's natural for people to wonder how much they should weigh to run their best in a 13.1-mile race.

Half-Marathon Essentials

As of late 2010, the half-marathon was the fastest-growing race distance in the United States. In 2009, over a million people finished 13.1-mile races in the U.S., and almost three in five were women. Many runners use the distance as a stepping-stone for a marathon, while for others the "half-mary" is a goal unto itself. As of July 2011, the world records for the event were 58 minutes, 23 seconds for men and 65 minutes, 50 seconds for women -- paces of 4:27 per mile and 5:01 per mile, respectively.

Weight and Distance Running

While distance runners come in all shapes and sizes, especially given the surge in popularity of half-marathons and other events, there's undeniably a correlation between weight and performance. Longtime UK athletics coach Frank Horwill says that runners should aim to be 10 percent lighter than the average non-active person of the same height and gender. Horwill sets this average for men at 110 pounds for the first five feet of height plus five and one-half pounds for every additional inch, while for women he sets this value at 100 pounds for the first five feet plus five pounds for every additional inch.

Event Specificity

While Horwill advises runners in general to aim for 10 percent below the average weight for an inactive person, he makes different recommendations for athletes specializing in different events. For example, he suggests that milers and half-milers, who rely on a blend of power and endurance because their events are less than five minutes in duration, be 12 percent lighter, while he advises that road racers who tackle distances 10 miles and longer be 15 percent under the average. For example, the average 5-foot-10-inch non-active man would be expected to weigh 165 pounds and the ideal half-marathon weight for a man of that height would be 140 pounds.


Writing for "Running Times" Magazine, registered dietitian Jackie Dikos cautions against using height-weight charts as a strict determinant of how much you should weigh as a competitive runner. Dikos emphasizes that while a runner who is clearly overweight should focus on losing her extra pounds, training and eating sensibly is far more important for lighter and heavier runners alike than is worrying about one or two pounds of added weight. She adds that the focus should be on long-term health and fitness, not on eating patterns that seem to provide short-term rewards but that may harm your health over time.

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