How Long Does It Take To Run A Marathon?

Running a marathon is a test of strength, endurance, and mental capacity. It takes a lot of training to run the 42.195 kilometer race. So finishing it—regardless of the time—is a huge achievement. On average, elite runners only take two hours to run a marathon. Regular runners finish it between four and a half to five hours, with some taking up to eight hours.

Why Is A Marathon 42.195km?

The modern marathon was inspired by the story of Pheidippides, an ancient Greek messenger, who ran 40 kilometers from Marathon to Athens to deliver the news of their victory over the Persians. As soon as he made the announcement, he collapsed and died from exhaustion. The race is to commemorate his run. The first marathon was held in the 1896 Olympics.


Between 1896 and 1920, marathons ranged between 38 to 40 kilometers. In 1921, however, the distance was standardized to 42.125 kilometers which was the marathon’s length in the 1908 Olympics. That year, the length of the race was tweaked to accommodate the request of Queen Alexandra to have it start at Windsor Castle and end at the front of the royal box at the Olympic Stadium.

What Is The Average Time It Takes To Run A Marathon?

On average, it takes men four and a half hours to finish a marathon. Women typically run the race in around five hours. Elite athletes can cover the 42.125-kilometer distance in just over two hours. But other runners may take up to 8 hours to run the race.

Factors That Affect How Long It Takes To Run A Marathon

How long it takes to run a marathon depends on several internal and external factors. 

The most significant factor is a person’s physical and mental capacity. But environmental conditions during the race also matter. For example, if it’s a hot day then the run will be more taxing than if the weather was more mild. 


A person’s age and gender influence the time it takes to run the race. Generally, men have a biological advantage over women, which helps them finish marathons faster. Men and women are separated into different running categories to address this prejudice.

Health and nutrition also affect a person’s ability to run a marathon. Being free from respiratory problems, having good joints, and being in shape to run can help you finish the race faster.


It takes at least six months to train for a marathon. And each kilometer you log while training helps condition your body to be in the proper state to run the race. That said, it’s important to go through a training program that fits your time, biology, and goals. There are lots of apps these days which can help you form a training plan, and joining a running club in your area could also be beneficial.


The mind is the first thing that gives up when fatigue hits during the race. So, sometimes, even if your body can finish the marathon, your mind will make you quit mid-way through the race. Just as you physically train for a race, you should do mental exercises and prepare your mind for the mental battle of long-distance running.

Course Conditions

The weather during the race and conditions of the course (slopes, elevation, etc.) are important factors to consider when running and can impact your race time. If the weather conditions are bad or it is a challenging course, you will likely have a slower finish time. Knowing the conditions of the course before the race can help you prepare for it. For example, if you know that there will be slopes in the course, you can practice training uphill.


To be able to run the 42.195-kilometer marathon in a good race time requires a lot of preparation. If finishing a marathon is on your bucket list, train physically and mentally to accomplish your goal.

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