How Long Should A Half Ironman Take To Complete?

Feb 24, 2022
Innerforce

The start of any year is always a great time to set a crazy goal, so why not make the jump from triathlon to Half Ironman? I mean, how much harder can it really be? Well, the short answer is about twice as hard, but still well within reach of anyone with a decent base-level of fitness and the commitment to the increased training.


A Half Ironman is just over double the distance of an Olympic distance triathlon and includes a 1900m swim, a 90km bike, and a 21.1km run to end with. The finishing average time for a Half Ironman is 6 hours and 4 minutes.


What Is The Difference Between An Olympic Distance Triathlon And A Half Ironman?


An Olympic distance triathlon is a brutal event in which competitors start with a 1500m swim, followed by a 40km bike, and end up with a 10km run. This is not an event to be taken on lightly even if you look at those distances and think you can do them individually. A 10km run is well within the reach of anyone, but doing it after a 1.5km swim and 40km on the bike is a different story altogether.
When moving up to Half Ironman distance things start to take on a much more intense look. The swim is actually rather forgiving to those who are used to triathlons. At 1900m, it is only 400m longer than an Olympic distance race. The bike, on the other hand jumps to 90km; more than double the Olympic distance. Polish it off with a half marathon of 21.1 km and you have quite the challenge ahead of you.


How Long Should It Take To Complete A Half Ironman Triathlon?


An ‘average’ time is a bit of a strange concept because everyone is coming from a different place. It will be determined by your age, gender, experience and the course difficulty. That said, we all love to see how we compare against the rest.
Based on figures from 188 races, the average time for a Half Ironman is around 6 hours and 4 minutes. However, this figure includes the times from professional athletes, as well as seasoned Ironman age-groupers. As such it might be wise to temper your expectations for your first foray into the world of Ironman.


With the average finish time of the Olympic distance triathlon being 3:09:38 and the time for an average Half Ironman at 6 hours and 4 minutes, a good rule of thumb is to double what your time is for an Olympic distance and you should not be too far away from your target time for the Half Ironman.


The average times for each leg are as follows:

 



Data taken from www.obstri.com .Sample size 188 races.


What Percentage Of Time Is Spent On Each Leg Of The Half Ironman?


When we look at the percentage of time spent on each leg of the Half Ironman, compared to the Olympic distance there are some major differences that you will need to take into account for your training.





As you can see, if you come from a strong cycling background and are used to knocking out 100km rides on a regular basis, then the move to Half Ironman may well suit you. This is because you will be spending relatively longer on the bike as a percentage of your overall time. For the swimmers out there, sorry but any of the time that you were gaining over competitors on the opening leg is going to be greatly reduced and gobbled up quite quickly by the faster cyclists.


In essence, shorter events favor fast swimmers who can build a decent lead on the bike before the others have even left the water. Longer events, on the other hand, are better suited to rapid cyclists. If you want some tips on improving on the bike then check out our article ‘5 Exercises To Improve Bike Strength’.


How Long Do You Need To Train For A Half Ironman?


A Half Ironman is a serious commitment and you will be looking at anywhere from 3 to 6 months of training for you to be able to make the most of the experience. For a complete beginner, you will ideally build up to the distance with a couple of Olympic distance triathlons before the main event. If nothing else, this will give you the experience of racing with others, along with the multitude of things that can (and will) go wrong on race day.


For those of you who already have some Olympic distance triathlons under your belt, 3 months is a decent target in order to build on that endurance that you have so that you can still finish with a strong run.


How Many Hours Per Week Do You Need To Train For A Half Ironman?


In terms of training hours per week this will depend on whether your target is simply to finish, or if you want to be fighting at the top. Either way, you will be looking at a minimum of 8 hours per week once you get into the bulk of your training plan.


Be sure to follow a training plan that has been designed specifically for a Half Ironman event in order to train most efficiently, and don’t underestimate how important those rest days are.


Final Thoughts


If you are looking for a goal that will really challenge you then the Half Ironman is a great one to aim for. It is a huge commitment, but it is when we push your own personal limits that we find out who we are and what we are truly capable of.

 

Written for Innerforce by Stewart Spiessens

Photos. @hunter_lussi

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