What is the average marathon time?

The marathon is an event that finds its way onto the bucket lists of many runners - from total beginners to athletes. The challenging distance of a marathon means that training is crucial to being able to complete the 26.2 mile course, and even more so for those hoping to do so in what they regard as a good time. With that in mind you might be wondering “how long should it take to run a marathon?”.

Runner timing their marathon run

How can I measure my running time?

Your running time for any distance will depend on your pace, for example if you run at a speed of 10km (6.2 miles) per hour you will finish a marathon (26.2 miles or 42.2km) in around 4 hours and 13 minutes. Average speeds will also vary depending on age, fitness level and gender, with male runners tending to have faster finishing times on average than female runners of a similar age.

During your training you may want to use a fitness tracker or app to help you monitor your progress and keep an accurate record of your speed and running distance. You can use the data they track to ‘race yourself’ and identify areas for improvement.

Average marathon time for beginners

For a beginner it is better to focus not on a finishing time, but instead on crossing the finish line. For a marathon it’s recommended that you follow a training plan focused on building up your running distance and overall fitness level – don’t feel pressured to keep up with Mo Farah or Paula Radcliffe just yet! An average beginner’s marathon time comes in at around 4:30 for men and 4:45 for women. 

Average half marathon time for intermediate runners

Intermediate level runners, particularly those who have completed a marathon or a half marathon before may have their sights set on a more ambitious finishing time. A common goal is to complete a marathon in a sub 4-hour time. The average time in this category can range between 3:30 – 4:10 for men and 3:50 – 4:20 for women.

Average marathon time for athletes/elites

Elite athletes train extremely hard to achieve their impressive pace over the 26.2 mile distance of a marathon. Elite men can achieve a marathon race time of 2:05-2:20, for this is around 2:15-2:30. The world record holder for the men’s marathon is Eliud Kipchoge, completing the race in just over 2 hours at 2:01:39. The women’s half marathon record is held by Paula Radcliffe with a time of 2:15:25.

How can I improve my average marathon time?

Whilst simply finishing a marathon is plenty to be proud of, once you’ve completed one or two races you may want to start working on your time and getting that new personal best. Here are a few tips for shaving down your average marathon time:

Recovery: You’d be mistaken for thinking that the first thing we would advise to improve your marathon time would be to run more! In fact, rest days are just as important when it comes to your marathon training plan. Rest days allow your joints and muscles time to recover from the miles you clock up over the course of a week and help to strengthen your body overall. Rest and recovery allow your body to adapt to the increasing miles in your training plan, and a stronger body will give you a much better chance of sustaining a good pace when it comes to race day.

Train at your goal pace: This applies to your shorter training runs more so, as you should be pacing yourself a little slower for your long training runs, but adding in some goal paced tempo runs will help you get acclimatised with what that pace feels like. Start by aiming to run around 5 miles at this pace, then as you progress with your training, work up to 10 miles, or try adding a few miles at this pace into your longer training runs.


If you are looking for your next marathon, take a look at our event listings to find the perfect event for you - Marathon Listings

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UK Marathons

A marathon is often seen as the ultimate challenge for long-distance runners. Covering 26.2 miles, a marathon will challenge your fitness, endurance, pace, and grit, but reward you with an amazing sense of accomplishment at the finish line! Marathons take place all over the world, with well-known events such as the London or New York marathons attracting thousands of entrants every year.

Why run a marathon?

For many runners, once they’ve trained up from completing a 5k, 10k or haIf marathon, completing a full marathon is the big race that will be in their sights. A marathon is no easy feat, but if you’ve already completed a few longer races such as 10k or half marathon distance, you should be able to increase your training and take on a marathon as the next natural progression in your running journey. That being said, even If you’ve never run competitively before, many beginners often choose to take on a marathon as a way to encourage a change in fitness and lifestyle and to have a real challenge to work towards. You’re sure to feel a great sense of achievement after running your first marathon, regardless of your time, and you might just catch the running bug too!

Aside from being a great form of cardiovascular exercise, there are plenty of other great benefits to running too. Firstly, if you’re thinking of taking up running as a way to lose some weight, running a marathon is a big commitment, and through your training, you’ll work on getting your heart rate up and burning calories.

Another reason to sign up for a marathon is that it’s a great way to raise money for charity. Marathons are really popular events for fundraising and there are hundreds of marathons in the UK every year. Some people even choose to so the whole race in fancy dress to make fundraising that bit more interesting!

Finally, running your first marathon is a great way to really challenge yourself and improve your long-distance running ability. Once you’ve finished one marathon you’ll be looking for your next race to beat your PB. If you’d rather start with a shorter distance to ease into running, why not check out a 5k or 10k race first?

Marathons near me

Whilst you’ll have no doubt heard of some of the most popular marathons out there such as the London Marathon, did you know that there are dozens of local marathon events that take place every year in the UK too? As marathons are popular events and great for fundraising, you’ll find that there are more and more marathons springing up across the UK all the time, meaning that there is bound to be one that is easy and convenient for you to get to. Another benefit of joining one of the smaller marathon events nearby is that you’re less likely to miss out on a place and joining fees are generally lower.

If you’re looking for ways to get more active, or even start exercising more with a friend or partner, training for a marathon together is a great way to introduce a little friendly competition and also support each other in reaching your fitness goals. We list lots of marathon events that take place all over the UK, so be sure to take a look for marathons near you using the search bar on the left. You can then find races based on location and other options using the filters to find the perfect event for you.

Marathons near me and fundraising

As we’ve mentioned, running a marathon is a great way to raise some money for a good cause, and with such a long race distance, you could even get people to sponsor you per mile. As well as the better-known events, such as the Virgin London Marathon and the Great Run series, there are plenty of smaller local events you can sign up to as well. In fact, many local charities organise their own events to raise money for specific causes.

Setting up funding for a marathon is easy too. Most charities will provide you with a sponsorship pack to get started you can also fundraise online and share your goals with your friends on social media. Running in a local marathon race is also an ideal way to raise money for charities that are based in your local community, and also a great way to get more familiar with your local area.

Charity marathon events are some of the most popular events out there, so if you want to get into running then these are a great place to start!

How can I find a charity marathons near me?

If you’ve decided to run a marathon for a charity, you may be wondering ‘where are the charity marathon events near me?’. Well, you’re in the right place! On the UK Fitness Events website, you’ll find pages of fitness events that are taking place all across the UK. Use the search bar on the left and once you’ve filtered down the type of race you’re looking to take part in, you can then further refine the results by selecting your location and then choosing from a range of charities that you are interested in supporting.

If you’d like to support a charity that isn’t listed, you’re welcome to do that too! Be sure to check the website of your chosen charity to find out more about getting started with fundraising.

Training for a marathon

Marathons are probably the biggest challenge a runner will ever face and will push you to all your limits. Marathons require a much longer training plan where you have to train both your body and mind to be able to stand up to the length of the race.

If your goal is to do a marathon or even half marathon then you’ll need to get lots of training done before you even look at the track! Start off similar to a 5K prep with smaller runs and sprints and then slowly build up the length of the runs you do. You’ll also want to get into the right diet regime too so that your body gets in the right shape, find out more by looking at our marathon training plan

What are the best UK marathons 2020?

The most famous marathon is the Virgin Money London Marathon, though there are many others dotted around the country too such as the Brighton or Edinburgh marathons which provide just as much challenge and give you multiple scenic routes to run on. For a little more adventure you can also look at something like the Midnight Marathon Run which will have you sprinting around a mountain in total darkness! Want to find more, take a look at our guide to the Best UK Marathons

Related posts

Are you looking for some more information on marathons? We have some great quick-read articles covering everything from pace, training and nutrition to top tips. See some of our related posts below:

Calories burnt running a Marathon

How long is a marathon?

How to train for a marathon

Top Marathon Running Tips

What are the Best UK Marathons?

What is the average marathon time?

How to run a marathon faster

What to eat before a marathon