How Long Does it Take to Run a Marathon

Are you wondering how long does it take to run a marathon? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I am glad you have made it here. The effort you put in this event will determine how successful you are going to be in it. The world record for the marathon is 2:01:39 set by Kenya’s Eluid Kipchoge. The fastest time ever run by a female is 2:14:01 set by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei. Kipchoge’s pace per mile was 4:38 (2:53 per kilometer). In comparison, Kosgei’s pace per mile was 5:06 (3:10 per kilometer).

RunRepeat recently did a study where they stated the average marathon time for most runners is 4:30. The pace needed to run a marathon under 4:30 is 10:18 per mile or 6:24 per kilometer. So, how long does it take to run a marathon? How fast are you aiming on running it in? Are you lacking talent? Do not worry. You can make up for that with your work ethic. I, too, didn’t have a great deal of talent. It took me from 1992 to 2007 to run 2:19:35 for the marathon distance.

What I did have, much like you, is determination. You wouldn’t be seeking answers to how long does it take to run a marathon if you weren’t seeking excellence. My hope is that these running tips will help you set your next personal best over the marathon distance.

How Long Does a Beginner Take to Run a Marathon?

Someone that has never run a marathon can expect to run around 5 to 6 hours. Of course, this will depend on the physical capability of the athlete. Yes, many start with times that are considerably faster. The key to being successful in this event is persistence and tenacity. Pace sustainment is key here. So, the only way to improve upon your goal marathon race pace pace is to practice it and often. What I see many runners doing is running too easy too often.

how to run a marathon
Coach Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35

Long, slow running will make you a superior long, slow runner. What is your goal? Is it to run a sub 4 hour marathon? Are you aiming for a Boston Marathon qualifying time? Do you aspire to earn a USATF Olympic Trials standard time? If so, you are going to have to do more than the average runner.

How Long Can the Average Person Run a Marathon?

Times will vary from athlete to athlete. That being said, the average runner will run anywhere from 4:21 to 5 hours for the distance. Again, the pace you hold will be determined by how well you condition your cardiovascular system. Pace sustainment is a major challenge for most runners. So, you have to train anaerobically and at paces that are significantly faster than your goal marathon race pace.

Easy running is still important too. Yes, you have to be able to recover from the hard training you are doing. That being said, fast running is essential to run a fast marathon time. There are many other factors that go into marathon success as well.

For example, proper pacing and heart rate monitor training. I am a big believer in heart rate monitor training. I use the Garmin 245 and highly recommend it. Heart rate monitors will ensure you stay in the correct heart rate zone. In addition, ensure that you don’t overtraining. Also, a longer base-building phase will help to ensure you succeed as well. I recommend a minimum of 16 and preferably 24 weeks to train properly for the marathon distance.

Can You Run a Marathon without Training?

Yes, but I would not recommend it. The marathon is unlike running a 5K or a 10K. It also takes much longer to recover from a race of this distance versus the shorter races. I would focus on a minimum of 4 to 8 weeks of easy, aerobic mileage first. You want to first strengthen the ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body.

I have marathon training plans that range in duration from 8 to 24 weeks here. So, you definitely have some resources here to help speed up your learning curve. In addition, have created running courses for marathoners seeking to break the 5, 4 and 3 hour marathon barriers. Also, a running course designed for runners seeking to break the 2:30 marathon barrier as well.

Are you seeking an online running coach? If so, I do work with a select few athletes who want to work with me one-on-one here at RunDreamAchieve as well. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new vlogs there weekly to help runners such as yourself make it to the next level in their training and racing.

How to Train to Run a Marathon

As mentioned above, a longer build up the better. I would recommend focusing on a minimum of 16 and preferably 24 weeks to get this race distance down right. Again, you don’t want to try to rush your first. Remember, it takes between 21 days to 4 weeks for your body to adapt to any stress you are placing on it. So, trying to prepare for a marathon in a matter of 8 to 12 weeks is less than optimal.

Of course, if your goal is to run a marathon and not concerned with time then you can still succeed in this amount of time. That being said, if you have a goal marathon time in mind then a longer build up is better. Below are the four areas we focus on with RunDreamAchieve marathon training plans.

  • Base building phase (easy aerobic running with strides twice per week)
  • Marathon specific training phase (introductory workouts at or or close to marathon race pace)
  • Speed development phase (training at paces considerably faster than goal marathon race pace)
  • Taper phase (volume/intensity drops with focus on a 10-day rather than a 3 week taper)

Focus on Longer Long Runs

What has been the longest long run you have done in the past for your previous marathons? 15 miles? 16? Think longer for greatest success. I would focus on gradually extending the distance out closer to 20 to 23 miles in length. Remember, be patient as this won’t happen quickly. You need to first adapt to a 10 mile long run before you can ever think about a 20 miler or longer.

Faster Long Runs

Too many runners run long and slow every single weekend. I was able to lower my marathon best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 doing faster, varied paced long runs. Of course, I was focused on easy, long runs in the base building phase of my training first. Yes, it will take time to build up to these types of long runs. That being said, I am certain that if you start doing your long runs like this you will start setting new personal bests.

Below are some examples of the type of long runs I was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon.

  • 2 mile jog, 6 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 4 miles@6:00 mile pace, 3 miles@5:45 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 1 mile jog (22 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 10 miles@5:20 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 5 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 1 mile jog (23 miles)

Remember, always run your following week’s long run nice and easy. Recovery is essential to run a fast marathon. These types of long runs are extremely demanding on the body. So, make sure you are hydrating well before, during and after these efforts. In addition, pay attention to your nutrition and get plenty of sleep.

Longer Tempo Runs

What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past? 5 miles? 7? I would focus on getting that tempo run out toward 10 miles (16 kilometers) or slightly longer. Tempo runs teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. We are running between 85 to 88 percent of our maximum heart rate running at our anaerobic threshold. Your anaerobic threshold is the point where lactic acid starts to rise.

Remember, we race right around this effort. So, it is essential to lengthen the amount of time you are training at your anaerobic threshold. As mentioned above, heart rate monitor use is a good way to conduct a tempo run. The reason being is you can focus on staying in the correct heart rate zone. In addition, focus less on what mile or kilometer splits you are hitting. Of course, the fitter you get your paces per mile or kilometer will get faster.

Focus on Speed Development

The key here is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these you can recruit the most efficient (economical) you are going to run in the marathon. Again, the focus training at your vo2 max is to run considerably faster than your goal marathon race pace. We are running between 95 to 100 percent at this effort.

There is nothing fun about doing speed workouts. That being said, training at these paces will make your goal marathon race pace feel that much easier. Also, to help you sustain race pace longer than your competition.

So, the goal is to better handle higher amounts of lactic acid build up. Easy running will not teach you to do this. Of course, you will build endurance by way of running easy. In addition, easier running is essential to recover. You should do, 1, vo2 max workout per week.

Closing Thoughts

How long does it take to run a marathon? As mentioned above, I would focus on anywhere from 16 to 24 weeks to plan accordingly for this race distance. The marathon is one of the world’s most popular race distances. You can drop considerable amounts of time off of your current best in this event. I coached a guy who went from a 3:46 to 2:58 marathon in a matter of 16 weeks.

So, it can certainly be done. How well you plan and train for your next marathon will determine your overall success. Have you focused on mental training in the past? If not, I would start spending 10 minutes per day visualizing yourself crossing the finish line in your goal marathon time. Also, see yourself running confident, relaxed and in control during the race.

The world’s best middle to long distance runners train both mentally as well as physically for their races. I hope this brief post has been helpful. Have a question about training, racing or any of our products or services here at RunDreamAchieve? Reach out to me at nathanpennington [at] protonmail [dot] com.

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