How Long Does It Take to Run a Marathon?

Typical Average Marathon Times

Runners in the ING New York City Marathon in 2013
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Finishing times for marathons (26.2 miles) range from a little over two hours for world-class, elite marathoners to 8 or more hours for walkers. In terms of average marathon times, the median marathon finishing time in 2015 for men in U.S. marathons was 4:20:13 (9:55/mile pace), according to Running USA. The median finishing time for women was 4:45:30 (10:53/mile pace).

Before running your marathon, it's definitely helpful to have an estimate of your marathon finishing time, so you know how to pace yourself properly.

You'll also want to give your family members and friends cheering for you an idea of when to expect you on the course. But predicting race times, especially for marathons, can be tough because there are so many variables, such as weather and course conditions.

A quick formula that a lot of runners like to use is to take a recent half marathon time, double it, and then add 10-20 minutes, depending on the difficulty of the course, but you can also use other methods to predict your time.

Race Prediction Calculators

Race time prediction charts or calculators help determine your marathon time based on a recent race. For the most accurate prediction, you should use a race time from a race you've done about 4 to 6 weeks before your marathon.

These are a few good race time prediction calculators to try. If this is your first marathon, add 5 to 6 percent to the calculator prediction. Some marathons do have time limits, such as six or seven hours (although others have no limit).

So, if you're a slower runner or walker, be sure to find out if there's a cut-off time when selecting a marathon.

  • Running for Fitness Race Predictor: Just plug your age, gender, and time/distance from a recent race into the calculator to find out how you might perform in races at other distances. This calculator shows several different predictions, based on different formulas. So you get a range of predicted times and you can see that it's not an exact science, just an estimate.

Once you have an estimated finishing time, you can use a Pace Calculator to figure out the average pace for that time.

Analyze Last Year's Results

If you're curious about where you might end up finishing (top 25 percent, age group winner, etc.) in a particular marathon, look at the online results from last year's race. The range of finishing times and the number of participants will probably be similar this year. Big city marathons and flat, fast marathons tend to be much more competitive than small, local ones. But you'll be much more likely to have others around you to run with if you choose a large marathon.

Can I Really Run the Predicted Time?

Keep in mind that a predicted marathon time is not a guarantee that you'll run that time. In most cases, only experienced marathoners achieve their predicted time or very close to it. You have to do the appropriate endurance training for a marathon, and there are lots of other factors—course difficulty, crowds on the course, weather conditions, nutrition and hydration, how you're feeling—that come into play.

Training and preparation always helps. Note that your training schedule may differ depending on whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced runner. 

A Word From Verywell

If you're running your first marathon, focus on completing the race and finishing strong. Regardless of your time, finishing a marathon is an incredible achievement. You should strive for the time you want, but also remember to be realistic. Slowly, with proper training, you can improve your time.

Source:

Running USA. 2015 Running USA Annual Marathon Report.

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