How Far Is a Marathon?

Mo Farah of Great Britain starts the Virgin London Marathon on April 13, 2014 in London, England
Stephen Pond/Getty Images

"I'm thinking about training for a marathon. How many miles is a marathon?"

A marathon is 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers. Although some marathons differ in their terrain (some are very flat, some are extremely hilly) and degree of difficulty, the distance is always 26.2 miles. Races that are shorter or longer in distance have different names (such as 5K, 10K, half-marathon, or ultra-marathon).

Before you attempt to run a marathon, it's a good idea to be running for at least six months and run at least three times a week.

I advise runners to consider these questions about marathon training before they commit to running a marathon.

If you've never run a race before, I'd suggest that you train for and run a shorter race, such as a 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles0, or half marathon (13.1 miles) to get some race experience and boost your confidence about running. Once you've completed a shorter race distance, you'll be in a better position to decide if you want to take on the challenge of running or walking 26.2 miles.

If you'd like to train for a marathon, it's important to follow a training schedule so you're properly prepared for the race, avoid getting injured, and feel confident when you get to the starting line. Having a training schedule to follow will also keep you motivated during the four to five months that you'll need to prepare for the race.

Here are some free marathon training plans:

  • Advanced Beginner Marathon Training Plan
    This 20-week marathon training schedule is geared toward runners who can run 4 miles comfortably and can run 4 to 5 days per week.
  • Intermediate Marathon Training Plan
    This 18-week marathon training schedule is geared toward intermediate runners who have already run a marathon, currently run five days a week, and can run up to 6 miles at a time.
  • Advanced Marathon Training Plan
    This 18-week marathon training schedule is geared toward advanced runners with marathon experience who can run up to 8 miles comfortably and are running at least five days a week.

Also see:

Other Race Distances: How Far is 1500 Meters? l How Far is a 5K? l How Far is an 8K? l How Far is a 10K? l How Far is a Half Marathon?

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