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?”.
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