What Is a Good Finishing Time for Running a Marathon?

Diverse runners racing excitedly toward finish line during marathon
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You want a good marathon finish time, but how can you compare it to others? Everything is relative when it comes to good marathon times. For elite runners, the men's race at a major marathon may be won in about 2:05 and the women's race might be won in about 2:22. But 99 percent of marathon runners are running nowhere near those times. Here are some more realistic yardsticks by which to measure your marathon finishing time.

Average Marathon Finishing Time

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 minutes per mile pace), according to Running USA. The median finishing time for women was 4:45:30 (10:53 minutes per mile pace).

Boston Marathon Qualifying Times

For amateur runners, some people use the Boston Marathon qualifying times (BQ) as a measure of a good marathon time. Only a small percentage of marathon runners achieve these times. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, men ages 18 to 34 must run 3:05 or faster, and women in that age group must run 3:35 or faster. After that, additional time is given to older age groups. The BQ time standards can change from year to year. To qualify, you must run a marathon that is one of the designated Boston Qualifier races. Many runners select one of the marathons with the fastest courses to attempt to earn a BQ time.

Setting Your Personal Record

For most first-time marathoners, the goal is usually to finish, rather than worrying about their finishing time. Runners who run multiple marathons usually find that their results improve as they gain more experience and confidence. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to run a fast time in your first marathon.

Once you have a marathon under your belt, then it's fun to compete against yourself and try to beat your personal record (PR) rather than worrying about what other runners are doing.

You can use your finishing time for shorter distances to estimate your marathon race time. By knowing your time for other distances such as the mile5K10K, and half marathon, you can determine if you are on track for your best marathon time.

Compare Yourself to the Pack

If you're curious about the range of typical finishing times in a marathon you're running, take a look at the race's previous results, which should be listed on the marathon's website. You can see the times of the age group winners, those who finished in the middle of the pack, and those who finished in the back of the pack.

Age-Grading

Your performance really depends on numerous factors, such as your level of experience, age, and gender. One way to put all marathon participants on a level playing field, regardless of their age and gender, is by age-grading. Age-graded results let you compare your race times to those of other runners in the race, as well as to the standard for your age and gender. You can use an age-grading calculator to figure out your age-graded race time to get a comparison of how your finishing time compares with others.

Marathon Training Schedules

A marathon is a serious challenge, no matter whether it's your first or your fiftieth. Your time should improve with experience and proper conditioning. If you're planning to run a marathon, here are some training schedules to choose from:

  • Beginner Marathon Training Schedule: The schedule is designed for beginner runners whose goal is to simply finish the marathon. You should have a running base at least 15 miles a week to start this program.
  • Run/Walk Marathon Training Schedule: This schedule is geared towards beginners who want to use run/walk strategy for training and completing your marathon.

A Word From Verywell

As runner John Bingham said, "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start." You can avoid all of the rookie marathon mistakes and be fully prepared for race day, but anything can happen over the course of 26.2 miles. You might take home the trophy for your age group or be the last runner across the finish line. Either way, you are a marathoner and you are a winner. Wear your marathon medal with pride.

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