My first marathon took me 4:11:30 and gave me genuine excitement when I crossed the finish line. Since then, I've been running 26.2-mile races 1-2 times a year and improving my personal best in every running event.
Although, I kept questioning myself, was it a good marathon time, how I stand with the average marathon times, and how long should it take a runner of my age to run a marathon? In this article, we'll provide the answers backed by the data.
The average marathon time in 2023 is 4:19:23, regardless of age and gender. This result will bring you above 50% finishers of the most popular running events in the US.
In the article, we'll cover:
- Average marathon completion times by Age and Sex
- Average marathon completion times by Experience Level
- Effective world marathon records
- Average marathon time at Abbott World Marathon Majors
- How to predict your marathon finish time?
- Factors affecting marathon completion time
- Tips for improving marathon completion time
A marathon is a long-distance race of 42.195 kilometers or 26.2 miles. It has become increasingly popular, attracting both beginners and competitive runners worldwide.
26.2 miles is the severe yet fair challenge of the homework you have or haven't done. You will need more than your natural physical gifts to beat the average marathon time for your age. Preparation is critical—the more you train, the less time it will take to run the marathon.
Average marathon completion times by Age and Sex
The average marathon race finishing time for runners in different age groups and gender vary widely. The data states that younger runners run faster than older, and men outperform women.
Male runners reach peak performance is at the age of 35-39, and females at 25-29. This trend is found in average marathon times for genders, and world records too.
*The average marathon times from the table are based on the finishing times of the six biggest races in the world: Chicago, Boston, New York, Berlin, London, and Tokyo marathons of 2022.
The gap between the fastest and slowest runners in a given age/gender group can be substantial, so it is essential to remember that these averages are just that — averages.
Regardless of time, after crossing the finish line, runners get Custom Race Medals that they can engrave the finish time on and put on a wall.
Setting realistic goals and not comparing your finishing time with others is also essential, as everyone is unique and has different training experiences and abilities. Complete the race without switching to walking is an example of a worthy goal for your first marathon.
Average marathon completion times by experience
The primary determinant of the time it would take you to run a marathon race is your experience with running. Unlike short-distance running, your marathon time is less dependent on your natural capabilities and more on your training background.
What is a good marathon time for beginner runners?
The average marathon finishing time for beginner runners is 4:02:33-4:36:20. It's an excellent result for your first marathon. You will overtake 20% of the finishers and complete the race among 80% of the fastest runners. The necessary pace to make it is from 9:15 to 10:30 minutes per mile.
You must log at least 30 miles distance weekly for several months to run a marathon with the average beginner's time. Although, don't worry If the 26.2 miles would take you longer. Making your first race to the end, regardless of the time it takes, is a great achievement that not everybody can do.
Average marathon time for intermediate runners
The average marathon finishing time for intermediate runners is between 3:23:25 and 4:02:32. You will overtake approximately half of the participants with this marathon time. The pace you must keep during the race is 7:40-8:35 min/mile.
Experienced runners have been training consistently for several years and have completed multiple 26.2-mile races. A sub 4 hours is an excellent marathon time that any runner can be proud of. Logging at least 35-40 miles distance per week and following a comprehensive running program is a must to achieve this result.
Average marathon time for professional runners
The average marathon finishing time for professional runners (not elite runners) is 3:02:30-3:23:25. This result will bring you to the top 10% of fastest runners of an average public race. The necessary pace is between 6:58 and 7:45 minutes per mile.
With this result, professional runners can lead their age group. The runner should follow a dedicated training program and consistently improve their performance over the years.
Effective world marathon records
The effective world record for the men's marathon is 2:01:09, set by 37-year-old Eliud Kipchoge from Kenia on September 25, 2022, during the Berlin Marathon.
The current world record for women's marathon is 2:14:04, set by 25-year-old Brigid Kosgei from Kenia on October 13, 2019, during the Chicago Marathon.
So, the elite runners' marathon race time is under 2:30:00, which equals less than 5:44 minutes a mile pace.
Average marathon time at Abbott World Marathon Majors
The Marathon Majors are the six most prominent and respectful 26.2-mile races worldwide. The number of applicants exceeds the number of race slots available, which sold out within days after the previous running event. Part of the participants get a guaranteed entry by qualifying for time standards for their age, and another part wins in the ballot. The six most prominent marathon races are hosted in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and the US.
The Boston Marathon is the fastest because it has the most strict admission rules. The New York City Marathon is the most crowded race; thus, the average finish time is the longest.
How to predict your marathon finish time?
Predicting marathon finishing time is more complex and imprecise than shorter distance races. There are a lot of factors to consider, and anything can go wrong at any time. Although there are two approaches to calculate your marathon time that are based on your:
- Target marathon pace (best for experienced distance runners)
- Past half-marathon finish time (best for first-time marathoners)
Using a target marathon pace prediction table
If you are sure about your capabilities and the calculated pace you can keep for 26.2-mile race, find your estimated marathon finishing time in the table below. The mile splits will help you maintain on track.
Using your best half-marathon time
You can't calculate your marathon time by just multiplying your best 13.1-mile distance time by two. The marathon race demands much more training; thus, you must discount your ambitions. The table below is based on Jack Daniel's VDOT methodology for marathon finishing time prediction. Find your best half-marathon time in the left column and get an estimated marathon time and pace on the right.
In my experience, you should discount the calculated marathon time even more. For instance, if you run 13.1 miles in 1:40:00, set a 3:40:00 time goal for your next marathon race.
Prediction of your finish time is not an exact science, but by trying these approaches, you can get a good idea of what to expect and how to distribute your effort. Regardless of your targeted marathon time, listen to your body, train consistently, and be realistic about your goals.
Factors affecting marathon completion time
The time taken to complete a marathon depends not just on physical ability but also on fitness level, training regimen, course terrain, and weather conditions.
#1 Fitness level. A runner's fitness level is a significant factor that affects the time it takes to complete a marathon. The fitter you are, the faster you can run and the less time it will take to finish the race.
#2 Preparation. A proper training regimen that includes long-distance runs and strength training can help improve your marathon finishing time. The more you train, the better your body will handle the demands of a 26.2-mile race, and the faster you can run.
If you have been consistently training and exercising, your body will be better equipped to handle the physical demands of a marathon.
#3 Course terrain and weather conditions. The course terrain and weather conditions can also affect marathon race completion time. Running on a hilly course is generally slower than on a flat course. Hot weather conditions can slow runners as they must expend more energy to regulate their body temperature. Training in the conditions similar to your race adapts your body and make you less dependent on conditions.
#4 Age and gender. Unlike other factors, age and sex aren't something we can affect, although average marathon finishing time depends on them. So, consider them when setting your race goals.
Tips for improving marathon completion time
These tips can improve your marathon completion time and ensure an enjoyable race experience. Preparation and consistency are critical; you must set realistic goals and listen to your body.
Train consistently. Comprehensive preparetion is crucial to improving your marathon finishing time. A proper training regimen that includes reasonable weekly mileage, strength exercises, and versatile training can improve your endurance and running form. So you can complete the 26.2-mile race faster and easier.
Incorporate long run and speed work. Including weekly long-distance runs and interval training in preparation help improve your running speed and overall race performance. These types of exercise are especially helpful for marathons as they strengthen your muscles, improve cardiovascular fitness, and increase endurance.
Stay hydrated and fuel your body correctly. Proper hydration and nutrition are essential in keeping your body fueled and performing at its best during a marathon race. There is no rule of thumb; each runner should discover what amount is "proper" for their body during training. Make sure to drink plenty of water and consume carb-rich foods leading up to and during the race.
Adjust your pace to the course terrain and weather conditions. When training for a 26.2-mile race, it is vital to consider the course terrain and weather conditions. If the course is hilly or the weather is hot, discount your pace to reach peak performance and decrease your marathon finish time.
Get adequate rest. Adequate rest allows your body to recover quicker and perform at its best, eliminating fatigue and injuries. Make sure to get at least 7 hours of sleep and take enough rest days during training. Stretching and sauna can also fast-track your recovery.
Set realistic goals. A too-fast start will drain your energy and tire your muscles too early. Pace yourself from the start and resist the temptation to speed up when other runners overtake you. Marathon race is not only about physical fitness and training but also about finding your energy-efficient mode and reasonably distributing your effort on the distance..
Completing a marathon is a significant accomplishment that requires dedication, preparation, and hard work. The time it takes to complete a marathon race can vary significantly based on your running background, fitness level, age, preparation, course, weather, and many other individual factors.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the experience. By setting achievable goals, training consistently, and listening to your body, you can complete a marathon race with pride, regardless of the time it takes.
This article is a part of our “Average Running Time” series. For more information about the average time it takes to run different distances, see the other articles from the series:
Average Time to Run a Mile
Average Time to Run 3 Miles
Average Time to Run 10K
Average Time to Run Half-Marathon
FAQ about the average marathon time
What's a respectable marathon time?
A respectable marathon finishing time is considered under 4 hours. However, not all people can make it to the finish line. So, completing the marathon race itself is a respectful achievement, despite the time it takes you.
Is 3 hours a good marathon time?
3 hours for a marathon race is a very good time and can be achieved by less than 2% of runners. It requires years of practice and consistent training.
Is a 7-hour marathon good?
A 7-hour marathon finishing time is comparable to walking 26.2 miles. It is a decent starting point for a beginner. With proper training and preparation, you can improve your result—way to go.
Is 3 hours 30 minutes a good marathon time?
3 hours and 30 minutes for a marathon race is a very good time achieved by about 13% of the fastest runners.
Are 2 hours fast for a marathon?
2 hours for a marathon is faster than the current world record (2:01:09). Only once in history the current world record holder (Eliud Kipchoge) ran a marathon in under 2 hours (1:59:40). However, this result wasn't recognized as the world record, due to multiple reasons.