There are certain things that are intrinsic to every story, regardless of genre. One of those, is transportation. How do your characters get from one place to another? Do they walk? Perhaps they are amorphous blob creatures that simply will themselves from place to place.
Regardless of how they move, there are limits to what any character, creature, or object can traverse in any given time. It can shatter the careful illusion of a story to say that the heroes walked 100 miles in a single day. For the average person, even if they didn’t stop to eat, drink, relieve themselves, or sleep…they still couldn’t make 100 miles in 24hours. (If you’re on a world where there are more than 24 hours, well… there are still limits to human endurance)
With that in mind, I made a bit of a table to help me. As I found I was re-researching this for every single story I wrote, and none of it seemed to be all in one location. Now, I know there are other methods of transportation that I don’t have here, and maybe I’ll add to this over time, but I think this covers some of the most basic methods.
Type – km/h – mph – km/day – approx. km/day2 – mile/day – approx. mile/day2 – Duration
Walk – 5.0km/h – 3.1mph – 40-60km – 50km – 25-37 miles – 31 miles – n/a
Brisk walk – 6.5km/h – 4.0mph – 52-78km4 – 57.5km – 32-48 miles4 – 35.5 miles – 1-2 hr.
Jogging – 13-16km/h – 8-10mph – 104-192km4 – 78.5km – 64-120 miles4 – 48.7 miles – 30-60 min.
Run/Spring – 16-24km/h – 10-15mph – 128-288km4 – 79.7km – 80-180 miles4 – 48.6 miles – 15-30 min.
Horse, walking – 6.4km/h – 4.0mph – 51-77km – 64km3 – 32-48 miles – 40 miles3 – n/a
Horse, trotting – 13.0km/h – 8.0mph – 104-156km4 – 97km – 64-96 miles4 – 60 miles – n/a1
Horse, canter – 16-27km/h – 10-17mph – 128-324km4 – 107km – 80-204 miles4 – 66.4 miles – 5-10 min.
Horse, gallop – 40-48km/h – 25-30mph – 320-576km4 – 123km – 200-360 miles4 – 76.3 miles -2-5 min.
Motorboat – 35-45km/h – 22-28mph – 280-540km – 405km – 176-336 miles – 253 miles – n/a5
Sailboat – 9.2km/h – 5.7mph – 73-110km – 91.7km – 45-68 miles – 56.8 miles – n/a5
Trireme – 11-16km/h – 7-10mph – 88-192km – 137.5km – 56-120 miles – 86.48 miles – n/a5
1 Trotting is a nice, easy pace for a horse, but the quick up-down movement will quickly tire a rider out. For realism, assume a hard day of travel is half trotting, half walking.
2 The average distance per day accounts for the max durations of increased speeds. It is calculated by assuming the person/horse requires an hour of rest (i.e., regular walking) between each spurt of speed. Any person/horse would be extremely tired at the end of a day like that and would be unlikely to be able to repeat the pattern the following day.
3 A horse that is heavily laden or pulling any sort of load (like a wagon, cart, carriage, etc.) cannot go faster than a walk for any significant distance.
4 These numbers are for informational purposes only. They are the distances if the increased speed could be maintained indefinitely.
5 Boats do not tire, but the people sailing them do. If the crew is large enough, they can man the boat in shifts and double the distance travelled every day (while they sail at night). Otherwise the boat must find somewhere to drop anchor or dock every evening.
Here is a link to a pretty image version of the above chart. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to want to fit very nicely on the page.
While these are the numbers I personally use, please note that there is some wiggle room. They are based off of averages, and in some cases are converted from and to various different formats (i.e., all boat speeds are converted from ‘knots’), which can result in some discrepancies. Assume a reasonable level of health for individuals travelling at these speeds. Somebody in peak physical fitness could probably travel faster/further, while somebody that is overweight/out of shape would not be able to travel that fast/far. Use these numbers as a starting place.