Travel Times: A Reference

— November 16, 2011 (12 comments)

I frequently find myself having to calculate how far away things are when I'm writing. "How long would it take him to walk there? Can a horse run that far? Who would get there first?"

This is a reference for myself, but I figured you could probably use it too. The numbers here are averages. Actual speeds and endurances will vary.

HumanHorse w/ Heavy LoadHorse w/ Light Load
Walking Speed5 kph
(3 mph)
6 kph
(4 mph)
10 kph
(6 mph)
Distance Traveled in a Day (8 hours)40 km
(25 mi)
48 km
(30 mi)
80 km
(50 mi)
Hurried Speed10 kph
(6 mph)
15 kph
(9 mph)
22 kph
(14 mph)
Distance Traveled (1 hour)10 km
(6 mi)
15 km
(9 mi)
22 km
(14 mi)
Running Speed24 kph
(15 mph)
30 kph
(19 mph)
44 kph
(27 mph)
Distance Traveled (5 minutes)2 km
(1.2 mi)
2.5 km
(1.5 mi)
3.7 km
(2.3 mi)

Walking Speed: A basic, slow walk that can be maintained for hours at a time.
Hurried Speed: A jog or canter that can be maintained for about an hour.
Running Speed: A sprint or gallop that cannot be maintained for more than a few minutes.

Again, these are just averages. There are horses that can gallop at speeds of 70-80 kph (40-50 mph), people can be forced to walk for more than 8 hours a day (with consequences), and some folks couldn't maintain a jog for longer than 30 seconds (*raises hand*). But for me, these averages are useful in figuring out how far apart things are in my worlds, among other things.

Feel free to correct my numbers, if you know better, or to request other means of transport for me to add.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this, Adam! Very handy.

  2. Yes, but how far can an unladen swallow wing it's way in a headwind across the Atlantic? :)

    You know I heart you when you put up graphs (and charts!). Now I wish I had horses in my story, just so I could make them canter. :)

  3. Is that photo of the Fellowship? I don't recall that shot.

    And this is interesting for me, because I have a lot of hiking in my novel, but luckily I have experience with it, and know that hiking 50 miles in a day took me about 16 hours, and was one of the most exhausting things I've ever done.

    Probably couldn't do that now.

  4. This is awesome. I was fighting with myself over how far my characters had traveled, and couldn't figure it out, then pop, there's your blog. Thanks so much for this!!!

  5. That's useful. Yes, I will have that same question later in a future novel. Great resource.

  6. I was just working something like this out in my manuscript when I happened upon your blog. Great information - thanks for sharing! <3

  7. Awesome! A chart will be very handy so I don't have to stop and figure it out every time.

  8. Isn't it funny all the weird details we have to research and think through when writing novels? I'm constantly amazed how many random facts I have to look up on Google. :)

  9. Susan, is that an African or European swallow?

    This is awesome, and yes, I do the same thing. For instance, supply wagons (say for armies) can go anywhere from 10-20 miles a day, depending on the nature of the roads, how many carts and what/who is pulling the cart. This will limit the speed at which your army travels and it really brings home how much effort was required to launch any sort of lengthy attack. If the army was gone for any time at all, they were forced to either buy from or loot the surrounding villages/cities for sustenance.

  10. Brilliant!! Can you do donkeys and mules too? I've saved this straight into my Scrivener research folder.

  11. I did a little digging, Deniz, and it looks as though the average speed for donkeys and mules is about equivalent to the numbers I have for a horse with a heavy load (maybe a slightly faster running speed, but probably no more than 25 mph).