How Long Does A Marathon Take?

If you’re a seasoned long-distance runner or even a beginner who’s looking to set their sights on something bigger than just their regular route at home, then you may be considering running a marathon. 

The 26.2 miles of a marathon is a difficult run for any kind of runner, but you may want to know some average marathon finishing times so you can compare yourself to other runners and see if there’s some room for improvement. 

So keep on reading to find out how long a marathon takes and also ways to improve your marathon finish time.

Average Marathon Finishing Times

Most average runners will finish a marathon within 4 to 5 hours and will have an average mile time of 9 minutes to 11.5 minutes.

However, the average marathon finishing time will vary drastically depending on your running level, with more elite runners being able to finish in around 2 hours and first-time marathon runners may do bouts of walking and can take up to 7 hours to finish the race. 

Marathon finish times can also vary depending on age, gender as well as running level, so let’s look further into how these factors can vary the finishing times.

Age & Gender

The global average marathon time for males is around 4 hours 13 minutes with women’s being at 4 hours 42 minutes, so if you were to better one of these times then that would mean you are ranking above average, but this can also depend on your age category. 

Many people would presume that the younger you are, the more chance you have of having a quicker marathon time, but this is not always the case. 

In the 0-15 years age category, the average male marathon time is 4 hours 53 minutes, with women’s being 6 hours 4 minutes. Whereas in the 65-99 years age category, the average male marathon time is 5 hours 6 minutes and female’s being 5 hours 20 minutes. 

The age category that has the lowest average marathon time for males is 20-24 years and for females, it is 25-29. 

However, on average, male marathon finish times are mostly always quicker than females because testosterone increases the concentration of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the body which means more oxygen can be carried around the body to increase running efficiency.

The male body can carry 11% more oxygen than the female blood. 

This is not a set rule, as there will be many women who can outrun a man and will achieve a faster marathon time, as it will depend on training, fitness levels, and also some other factors. 

Over time, the marathon time and half-marathon time have got slower, with data from 2001 showing that the average marathon time then was 4 hours 28 minutes but data shows now that the average marathon time is 4 hours 32 minutes, which means that runners have got slower by 4 minutes. 

What Factors Affect How Long A Marathon Takes?

Other factors can impact your marathon time that isn’t just limited to gender or age.

Weather

Runners who train in cooler climates but then compete in marathons that take place in hot climates may come out with slower marathon times than those who train in hot climates as their bodies will not be used to those running conditions. 

You may not be able to know what the weather will be like on race day, but training in all weather conditions will allow you to be the most prepared for whatever is thrown your way during the marathon. 

Conditions Of The Course

Every marathon is 26.2 miles, but not every course is the same, some will be completely flat whereas others will have some hilly parts which can cause you to slow down.

Knowing the conditions of the course of the marathon you will be doing will put you in better stead in regards to your training as you’ll be able to incorporate different elevations in your running so you are better prepared for the course. 

Hydration & Nutrition

Improper nutrition the days leading up to and the day before the marathon can severely affect your marathon time. Marathon training and the marathon itself will burn lots of calories so you’ll need to eat plenty of slow-burning carbohydrates to make sure you’ve got enough energy to get through the entire race. 

Keeping properly hydrated will also increase your chance of a greater marathon time. If you’re dehydrated throughout the race then you may experience cramps and you may not be able to sweat properly to cool down, which could hinder your finishing time. 

Training

Your training schedule will also impact your marathon finishing time. This is how much you trained each week and how long you trained for leading up to the event.

If you’re a complete beginner, then you’ll want to start as early as possible to make sure you’re prepared. More advanced runners may find they don’t need to start as early and can get away with beginning their training only a handful of months before racing. 

How To Improve Your Marathon Time

Record Your Progress

Record all your running times and lengths in a book so you can look back on if you’re improving or not. This will also help you make sure you’re slowly building up your distance but also keeping at a good pace. 

Don’t Just Stick To Running

Even though you’ll be running the marathon, other workouts like strength training, yoga, cycling, and swimming can benefit your marathon time. This will allow you to be more flexible, stronger, and power to keep going even during the toughest stints of the marathon. 

Keep Your Nutrition In Check

Make sure you’re fueling your body with the right nutrients to make sure you’re running at the optimum level each time. Eat complex carbohydrates to give you energy and refuel your body with protein to help repair your muscles. 

Try to get into a good eating routine, so your body is accustomed to it before marathon day comes around. 

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