Average Time to Complete a Marathon


What is the average time to complete a marathon? It is going to vary from athlete to athlete and isn’t the easiest question to answer. Average means different things to different people. According to wellfit.com the average time to run a marathon is approximately 4:22.07. A marathon time under 4 hours and 30 minutes takes commitment and solid fitness in order to achieve.

I am a big believer in quality over quantity. You want to practice your goal pace and often. In addition, spend some time training 30 seconds to 1 minute faster than you are aiming to race at. Why? This increases your lactate threshold and lactate tolerance. The key is to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the blood stream.

This is why the Kenyans and other top marathoners in your area make it look so easy. Yes, some of them have a lot of talent but they also train smart. Do you lack talent like me? Well, you can make up for it with hard work. There are a lot of athletes that think to break a sub-2:20 marathon time you need talent. Perhaps a little but you can make up for it with persistent and consistent.

How To Improve Your Marathon Time

Remember, quality over quantity. There are a lot of athletes who think more mileage is the answer. I tried that as I thought the reason I wasn’t improving was that I wasn’t running enough mileage. The real problem was I as running too many miles too slow. I had a personal best of 2.43.36 and yet I was seeking to run under 2.22.00 for the marathon. I eventually ran 2.19.35 but not before many setbacks and failed attempts. Yes, the desire to run fast was there but I wasn’t training properly in order to make it a reality.

So, the changes I made was to start varying the paces of my long run. Here is an example of just one type of long run I would do.

20 miles – first 4 miles easy@140-50BPM(6.15-35 pace), 4 miles@160BPM (when fit this would come out to around 5.25-35 mile pace, 4 miles easy@140-50BPM, 1 mile in 4.50, 4 miles@160BPM, 2 miles easy@140-50BPM, 1 mile in 4.50

This was a massive change in the way that I conducted my long runs in the past. In addition, I lowered my volume from over 130 miles a week to 85 to 90. The result? I dropped 21 minutes off my marathon time. You have to always be mindful of what your goal pace is. In addition, spending adequate time running at, near or far below your goal pace. It certainly wasn’t easy dropping a 4.50 mile at 6,000 ft altitude during a 20 mile run.

Do Strides

That being said, this extremely challenging long run strategy was how I ended up running 2.19.35. Also, focus on doing strides at least twice a week during your build up. These short workouts are 50 to 100 meters in length and will not build up any significant lactic acid. In addition, they hep you to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these you can recruit the more efficient you will run. You cannot get this physiological effect from running slow. Slow running builds endurance and is still very important. That being said, to improve your marathon time you need to be better at sustaining pace. One, spend some additional time throughout the week running 30 seconds to a minute faster than your goal race pace. Two, vary the paces of your long run.

So, do one long run at a harder, faster pace and the next week relaxed and easy. Remember, there is still a place for easy jogging in your training. It isn’t all about fast intervals on the track, hill repeats or tempo runs.

Additional Thoughts Regarding the Long Run

You also don’t want to run every long run fast. This is quick way to burn out. Remember, the benefits of your hard work come in the rest, not from the workout itself. Yes, you need to do the workout but the workout will break down your body immediately after you complete it.

What you do the other hours of your day is what counts. We all are very good at doing the workout and physical training. That being said, we often neglect the other little details that make the big difference in the end. Furthermore, another way to improve your current marathon time is a 10-day taper. I am a big believer in a 10-day rather than a 3-week taper. If you haven’t tried one I strongly encourage you to do so in 2020.

Why? Often times dropping your mileage and starting your taper 3 weeks out will leave you feeling lethargic. A 10-day taper will ensure you keep your mileage at a somewhat higher level and start significantly dropping your mileage and intensity 10 days out. You will remind your body to stay fit and energized up until only a few days from your big marathon.

Closing Thoughts

So, the average time to complete a marathon may be 4.22.07 but it can be much faster. It all depends on what strategy you are currently using. I hope some of these tips have been helpful. Make sure you visit the RunDreamAchieve Academy. If you are ready to take your running to the next level I have created courses there to help get you to the next level. Lastly, I also have training programs that you may be interested in as well.

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