How Long Is A Marathon?

Curious about how long a marathon is, exactly? Perhaps you’re considering running a marathon one day!

How Long is a Marathon

Either way, you’ve arrived at the right place.

Marathons are no small feat, it has to be said. For the average runner, they often take hours to complete, requiring race day preparation and a strict running pace – not before months (sometimes years) of dedicated training.

But that doesn’t mean marathons are unachievable. Anyone (yes, anyone) can work towards completing a marathon with the right mindset and training.

Knowing the exact distance of a marathon is important, since it will help to break the distance down when training, as well as manage running pace!

The Distance Of A Marathon

So, how long is a marathon?

A full marathon is exactly 42.195 kilometers, or 26.2 miles.

You’ll often find that these numbers are often shortened to 42 kilometers and 26 miles in conversation, but the full distance of 42.195 kilometers or 26.2 miles applies for most marathons.

So, no walk in the park, by any means.

Half marathons are therefore 21.1 kilometers, or 13.1 miles. And, yes, half marathons are ideal to complete first before attempting a full marathon!

Quarter marathons are not as common, however, so it’s also a term that’s not widely used. It’s more likely that you’ll see 10-kilometer (10k) runs and 5-kilometer (5k) runs instead.

In fact, a quarter marathon measures at 10.5 kilometers (or 6.5 miles) – so, essentially, a 10k run!

How Long Does It Take To Run A Marathon?

There’s no single answer for how long it takes to run a marathon as, of course, everyone will complete it in their own time.

Factors that come into play here include age, height, and overall fitness – including stamina, endurance, and cardiovascular health.

Mindset is another big factor, since running a marathon requires just as much mental preparation as physical preparation!

For the record, though, it takes the average male 4 hours and 13 minutes to complete a marathon. For the average female, it’s 4 hours and 42 minutes.

In general, for both males and females, the average time to complete a marathon is 4 hours and 42 minutes.

As for elite athletes, most will complete a marathon in just over 2 hours! In fact, the fastest marathon time for males is 2 hours and 1 minute, and for females, it’s 2 hours and 14 minutes. Phew!

How To Train For A Marathon

How Long is a Marathon

Now that you know how long a marathon is, as well as the average time it takes to run a marathon, how do you train for a marathon?

Like most goals, it’s a good idea to break the distance down into achievable steps.

So, for beginner runners, it would involve starting small, then gradually increasing the distance as fitness is improved.

Working up to a 5k (5-kilometer) run is often the first goal for beginners. Once that’s achieved, you’d start working towards a 10k (10-kilometer) run, and then the half marathon!

And the best way to progress is by having a manageable running routine. It can be a few days a week, or even once a week.

Monitoring the distance you run, as well as the time it takes to run that distance, is also important, as those are the key metrics to build upon.

Running pace is another metric worth monitoring, as the key to endurance is managing your speed and energy levels.

Using running apps or fitness watches are two easy methods for doing this.

And for achieving optimum physical performance, don’t forget to maintain a healthy, nutritious diet!

What Happens If You Don’t Finish A Marathon?

Not finishing a marathon is the worst nightmare for most marathon runners – especially those attempting a marathon for the first time.

For many, even correct preparation and the right mindset can not go to plan on race day, since there are so many factors that can affect performance.

Unexpected fatigue, muscle soreness, injury, mental discouragement – these are just a few of the things that can result in an unfinished marathon run. Even your shoes falling apart can be an unexpected obstacle!

Marathon events all have a cut-off time. This is the official time for when the marathon is considered over, resulting in a “DNF” (did not finish) for all participants who have not reached the finish line by that time.

You might be glad to know, however, that most official marathon events have a cut-off time of more than 6 hours.

This is 2 hours more than the time it takes the average runner to complete a marathon. Despite that, some official marathons have no cut-off time at all!

Can Anyone Run A Marathon?

Absolutely! With the correct preparation, training, and mindset, completing a marathon can be achieved by anyone.

Of course, some will take longer than others to train and prepare, but it’s by no means unachievable – even for people who are currently considered unfit or overweight.

By breaking down the distance and creating a consistent routine with manageable goals, your fitness will gradually improve and the full marathon will become more and more achievable over time.

Remember: completing a marathon is just as much about mindset than it is physical fitness. And you don’t need to be “in good shape” to complete a marathon.

Even seniors and people who are considered overweight manage to complete marathons!

Final Word

As a quick recap, a full marathon is exactly 42.195 kilometers, or 26.2 miles, often referred to as 42.2 kilometers or 26 miles for short.

And for the average person, it takes 4 hours and 42 minutes to complete a marathon.

For males specifically, the average time is 4 hours and 13 minutes, and for females, the average time is 4 hours and 42 minutes.

Distances and times aside, though, completing a marathon is a big deal – no matter what time is clocked at the finish line.

So, even if you complete a marathon in 7 or 8 hours, pat yourself on the back as it’s still a massive achievement!

Richard Harris