If you’re looking to run a marathon there are many things you need to tick off to have a good race.
You need to make sure you have the right footwear, that your nutrition is on point during your preparation phase, and of course, you need to go out on practice runs to build up your fitness levels.
There’s no denying the sense of accomplishment that is felt once you cross the finish line, and is one of the major reasons why somebody would put themselves through all the training and discipline.
But another popular reason to complete a marathon is the final time on the stopwatch at the end of the run.
From beginner runner to the experienced athlete; everyone will keep an eye on the time and a popular question we often get is how long does it take to run a marathon?
Should You Care About Your Marathon Time?
We know that it’s natural to want to know your completion time, or how you stack you perform against other runners you know or friends that have previously completed a marathon.
But does it matter how long it takes you to run 26.2 miles?
This is ultimately down to the individual runner and is not an easy question to answer. If you’re training for the Olympics then it’s probably very wise to know how fast you ran.
But if you’re just trying out and haven’t even run 5 k before, then putting pressure on yourself to run a sub-4-hour marathon is just going to create unnecessary stress.
The truth is that nobody can predict what their personal best will be until they’ve done some serious training.
The only way to find out is by doing it! Therefore try not to put so much pressure on yourself before you have even learned to run.
Why It’s Difficult To Predict Your Marathon Time
First up, it’s not possible to give you an exact time bracket of how long it will take, as there are too many factors that are going to come into play such as:
- How much experience you have
- Whether you are overweight or obese
- How long you have been training for
- How good your nutrition is
- Whether you are sleeping well and managing your stress levels
- What body type you have and whether your genetics favor long-distance running over shorter-intense exercises like resistance training or sprinting
- If you’re carrying an injury or just recovered from surgery
Based on these determining factors we can only give you a ballpark figure, and even then this shouldn’t be used as gospel, as it can also depend on certain factors like how difficult the marathon course is going to be (is it hilly or flat as a pancake?), and whether there is going to be weather factors that can slow a run down, such as wet weather or muddy terrain.
With that small disclaimer out of the way; we’ll give a basic rundown of how long you can expect to take to run a marathon.
Using a marathon average, we can roughly estimate your time to completion.
From a general standpoint, most people will finish a marathon in under 5 hours, with an average mile time of around 9 to 11.5-minute miles.
For more veteran runners, they can expect to complete a marathon closer to the 4-hour mark or a time of under 4 hours.
Elite runners can smash out a marathon in less than 3 hours, with the highest performers being able to complete a marathon closer to the 2-hour mark.
You can also use pace charts to calculate how long it will take to complete a marathon.
You can either use your previous time or use a previous from another event such as a 10k or half marathon to estimate a target finishing time.
This is a useful source to give you a good estimate:
How To Improve Your Marathon Time
Now that we have a rough ballpark figure of howling it will take you, here are a few tips to help improve your time.
It’s important to start slowly and build up your mileage gradually. This will allow your body to adjust to the demands of running without causing any injuries.
Nobody expects you to be able to run 26.2 miles in a week, so take your time and build up your slows methodically.
Learn How To Pace Yourself
Pacing is one of the biggest keys to improving your marathon time. Learning how to pace yourself correctly will allow you to keep your heart rate steady throughout the entire duration of the race.
Using a timer or keeping up with a pace runner can help to manage your time effectively and keep you on track for your target estimate.
Make sure you drink enough water during the race. Dehydration can cause fatigue and muscle cramps which could lead to slower times.
Take on enough hydration before your run, and feel free to bring a bottle of water with you during the race to ensure maximum hydration.
Eat plenty of carbohydrates before the race. Carbohydrates provide energy to your muscles and brain. They also aid recovery after exercise.
Just be wary of eating too close to your marathon as this can negatively impact performance.
We’ve written on the best meals to eat before a race, as well as how long to give your meals before running, so make sure to check out those resources.
Train For The Weather Conditions
If you’re planning on running in inclement weather, make sure to train accordingly. If it’s raining, mud, snow, etc., make sure to prepare for these conditions.
And with this, always wear the correct clothing. This means not overdressing in warm and humid conditions for fear of being too cold, and not underdressing during colder and harsher weather to maintain a healthy blood flow around the body.
Use A Training Plan
A training plan is a great way to stay motivated and focused while preparing for a marathon.
There are many different types of plans available online. Some are designed specifically for beginners, some are aimed at intermediate athletes, and others are geared towards more advanced runners.
The most effective plans are ones that include both speed work and endurance runs. These types of plans will help you develop the skills needed to compete at a high level over the distance.
Finally, don’t get into a rut where you only do long runs that take hours and no longer enjoy running. Make sure to mix things up by doing intervals, hill repeats, tempo runs, fartleks, etc.
These activities will help keep you on track and mean you don’t overtrain your body too much which can risk the likelihood of underperforming or injuring yourself.
Running a marathon takes dedication and hard work. But if you follow the tips above, you should be able to improve your time significantly.
Remember to listen to your body and avoid pushing too hard too early. As mentioned earlier, there’s nothing worse than getting injured and having to sit out a big race like this.
So try to stick to the advice given here and see what kind of improvements you can achieve. Good luck!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long, On Average, Does It Take To Walk A Marathon?
Walking 26.2 miles can take anywhere from six to nine hours. Walking at a brisk pace will yield a quicker time of around six to seven hours.