If you’ve ever wondered how long it takes to run a marathon, you’re not alone. Many people are curious about the time it would take them to complete this challenging race. The average marathon time can vary depending on several factors such as age, sex, and fitness level. A marathon is always 26.2 miles in length, and finishing times can range from a little over 2 hours for world-class elite marathoners to 8 hours or more for other participants.

The average marathon time for men in U.S. races was 4:30:46 (10:19 minutes per mile pace) in 2019, according to a study by RunRepeat. Women had a median finishing time of 4:56:39 (11:18 minutes per mile pace). These statistics give us an idea of the average times, but it’s important to remember that each individual’s performance can vary.

Factors Affecting Marathon Time

The length of a marathon can seem daunting if you’ve never run one before. However, with proper training and commitment, it is a challenge that can be conquered. Various factors can affect how long it takes to complete a marathon.


One of the most crucial factors that can impact marathon time is training. The amount of time spent training leading up to the race and the intensity of the training program are essential. Following a training program that includes sufficient weekly mileage is vital. The training program may vary depending on whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced runner.

Nutrition and Hydration

Proper nutrition and hydration play a significant role in marathon performance. During training, you’ll be burning more calories than usual, so it’s important to eat enough energy-dense foods to replace expended energy. Many runners load up on carbohydrates before the race to ensure they have enough energy to complete the distance.

Staying hydrated is also crucial. Dehydration can negatively affect running performance and slow down finish times. Adequate hydration before, during, and after the race is necessary to prevent dehydration.


While the weather on race day is unpredictable, training in similar conditions can be beneficial. If you are running a marathon in cooler months, training in the summer heat can help you adapt to the race conditions. Similarly, if the race is taking place in hot weather, training in warmer conditions can make running in cooler weather more comfortable.

Course Conditions

The terrain and elevation of the marathon course can affect your finish time. Running uphill takes longer than running on flat surfaces, so training to handle inclines is essential. Additionally, running at a higher elevation can be more challenging than running at sea level. Knowing the course conditions in advance can inform your training and impact how long it will take you to complete the race.


Your race pace is another determining factor in how long it takes to finish a marathon. If you’re an experienced runner, you may already have an idea of how to calculate your marathon pace. If you’re new to running, logging miles and determining your current pace will help you estimate your marathon pace.

Finding your training pace and using calculators or race prediction charts can give you an estimate of your average race pace.

Why Is a Marathon 26.2 Miles?

The distance of a marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers. The origin of this specific distance can be traced back to historical events and influential figures.

The original modern marathon, held in 1896, was 40 kilometers long, or about 25 miles. The distance was chosen because it approximated the distance from the city of Marathon in Greece to Athens. According to legend, a Greek soldier named Pheidippides ran this distance to deliver a message of victory from the Battle of Marathon to Athens.

In 1908, during the Olympic Games in London, Queen Alexandra wanted the marathon race to start at Windsor Castle and finish in front of the royal box at the Olympic stadium. The distance was extended to 26.2 miles, and it became the new standard distance for marathons.

Average Marathon Finish Times

Analyzing average marathon finish times provides insights into the trends and differences among participants from various demographics. The study conducted by RunRepeat offers substantial data on marathon finish times across different age groups, genders, and countries.

Over the years, the average marathon finish time has increased. Initially, marathon running was mainly limited to competitive and elite runners. However, with the increasing popularity of recreational running, more people of different ages and abilities participate in marathons. This broader demographic has contributed to a slower average marathon finish time.

The average marathon finish time in 2018, according to the RunRepeat data, was 4:29:53. Gender differences also play a role in average finish times. The average marathon finish time for men in 2018 was 4:15:13, while for women, it was 4:56:18. These times reflect the inclusivity of marathon running and the participation of runners of various abilities.

When examining marathon finish times by country, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Spain were among the countries with the fastest average times, with average finish times around 3:50. Conversely, the Philippines, India, and Mexico had slower average marathon times.

Benefits of Running a Marathon

Running a marathon offers numerous physical and mental health benefits. The physical benefits include improved cardiovascular health, increased lung function, strengthened muscles, boosted metabolism, stress reduction, enhanced immune function, weight management, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Running a marathon can also strengthen muscle fibers and improve fatigue resistance. The mental health benefits of marathon running include stress relief, improved mood, increased self-confidence, and a sense of accomplishment.

Marathon running is not only about personal benefits but also about achieving records and accomplishments. Elite runners constantly push the boundaries, and world records continue to improve. The current world record for men is 2:01:09, set by Eliud Kipchoge, while the women’s world record stands at 2:11:53, achieved by Tigst Assefa.

Estimating marathon times can be done using various methods and formulas, such as race prediction calculators or pace calculations. It is crucial to prepare for a marathon by investing in proper gear, setting clear goals, following a structured training program, and paying attention to nutrition and hydration. Mental readiness is also important, as marathons can be physically and mentally challenging.

In conclusion, a marathon is a challenging but rewarding race. The time it takes to complete a marathon varies based on several factors, including training, nutrition, weather conditions, course difficulty, and pace. Understanding the average marathon finish times and the factors affecting marathon performance can help individuals set realistic goals and prepare effectively. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner, completing a marathon is an incredible achievement that requires dedication and perseverance.

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