How Long is a Marathon | Marathon Training Tips

Are you wondering how long is a marathon? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I have run 2:19:35 for the marathon but I didn’t run this type of a time overnight. It took several years to build into this type of fitness. My goal with this post is to give you an overview of the distance. In addition, share with you some strategies that I know will help you run a new personal best over 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers.

Remember, succeeding in the marathon is not about high mileage. I got up to as high as 142 miles a week and it only left me tired and frustrated. 20+ miles a day also takes a great deal of time to do. I set my personal best of 2:19:35 off of 85 to 90 miles a week. So, make sure you are focusing on quality over quantity.

The best middle to long distance runners are focusing much more on anaerobic training. Of course, they run slow and easy too. The benefits of your hard training will come from the rest period after the workout is done. Google the word “Supercompensation”. The vast majority of runners out there have never heard of this term before. Thank me later.

How Long is a Marathon?

A marathon is 42.2 kilometers or 26.2 miles long. It is also one of the most popular events out there. You may want to also check out the posts I wrote over the 5K, 10K and 15K as well. I would highly recommend focusing on a 16 and preferably 24 week build up to prepare properly over the marathon distance. Fitness cannot be rushed.

So, a longer build up is always best. You won’t be in a rush to get into superior shape. Remember, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stressor you are placing on it. Yes, can still train for a marathon and compete in a matter of as little as 8 weeks. That being said, the faster you are aiming to run over the marathon distance the more specific you are going to have to train.

The exact distance in terms of the question of how long is a marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards. As mentioned above, it is 42.195 kilometers. 1 kilometer comes out to about 0.62 miles. 1 mile is 1.6 kilometers so it is very easy to convert your miles to kilometers or vice versa. Below is some additional information on other distances you can focus on leading up to your goal of running or racing your marathon.

How Far is 5k in Miles

The 5 kilometer race comes out 3.1 miles or 5,000 meters. The 5K through the half marathon are great races to focus on leading up to running a faster marathon. Again, the faster you can get at the shorter races the better. Speed development is very important regardless what race you are focused on racing. The reason is you recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers when you focus on speed workouts.

The more fast twitch muscle fibers you can recruit the more efficient and effective you are going to race. More importantly, the less demanding your goal marathon race pace is going to feel. The end goal is to sustain goal race pace longer than our competition. So, training for the 5K and slightly longer races will only help you run a faster marathon.

Athletes seeking “how long is a marathon” are taking their mindset and preparation to a new level. The 5K, unlike the marathon, is a highly anaerobic event. So, you definitely want to build your endurance, speed and stamina to run this race correctly.

How Far is 10K in Miles

The 10 kilometer race is 6.2 miles or 10,000 meters. It is twice the distance of the 5K and and much shorter in duration as compared with the marathon distance. The 10k still demands some speed development. In addition, you still want to work on a legitimate build up leading into running a 10K.

I recommend focusing on a 12 to 16 week 10K training plan to run fast over 6.2 miles. Remember, we have training plans, running courses as well as coaching available to you here at RunDreamAchieve. The 10K race on the track is 25 laps and is one of the most popular track and field races.

Again, the faster you can get over the 5K to half-marathon distances the better prepared you are going to be over the marathon. So, if you are wondering how long is a marathon you’ll be happy to know the 10k is much shorter. 6.2 miles versus 26.2 miles.

In fact, 20 miles less than the 10k distance. It is the last 10k of the marathon which usually is the most challenging section of the race. My goal in this post is to also share with you some tactics to sustain pace during this most critical part of the race.

How Far is a 15K?

A 15k is 9.32 miles or 15,000 meters. It is 3.1 miles further than 10 kilometer race. The 15K is a great preparatory race for athletes seeking to run their first 10 mile or half marathon race too. Of course, it is a great race distance to compete in even if you are a veteran of the sport. There are 15k races throughout this country (America) and around the world to compete in.

The same philosophy to run a fast 15k as is required to run faster over the marathon distance. I would recommend lengthening the duration of your tempo runs. What has been the farthest tempo run you have done preparing for your marathon races in the past? 5 miles? 6? I would focus on extending that distance out more toward 8 to 12 miles in length. No, it won’t happen quickly.

So, we have to focus on doing 2 to 3 mile tempo runs before we can get to a point where we can go 8 to 12 miles. Anaerobic threshold is the point where lactic acid begins to build up. The faster we run the higher the accumulation of lactic acid. The key tactic is to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Tempo runs are a great way to train the body to do this. We run between 85 to 88 percent of our maximum heart rate running at these paces.

How Long is a Half Marathon

A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers. Half marathons are one of the most popular race distances throughout the world. The world record for men in this distance is 57:31. The world record for women is an astounding 1:02.52. Again, these runners have spent a great deal of time training far below their goal race paces.

Yes, they are genetically talented but talent that doesn’t work will get beat by the less talented athlete that does. The half-marathon is a great preparatory race to get ready to race over the full marathon event. How long is a marathon? Twice the distance of a half marathon. So, 26.2 miles versus 13.1 miles for the half marathon.

How far is an Ultramarathon?

An ultramarathon is any distance that is over 26.2 miles. So, you could consider yourself an ultramarathoner if you go out and run a 26.3 mile run. The longest I ever ran while training for the marathon was 30 miles. No, you don’t have to do 30-mile long runs to prepare properly for the marathon. I think 16 to 22 milers are adequate length to run a great marathon time.

Ultramarathoners compete in many different duration races throughout the year. For example, 50 kilometer races(31 miles), 50 milers and 100-mile races. In addition, they also compete in 62 milers (100k races) and even 24 and 48-hour races. So, respect to all of you who may be interested in these length of races.

How Many Miles is a Marathon?

A marathon is 26.2 miles or 105 laps on the track if you were crazy enough to do that. 4 laps or 1600 meters equals 1 mile. Here is another wild way of looking at the distance. A marathon is basically 421 and half, 100-meter long sprints back-to-back. The world record for men is 2:01.38 set my Kenya’s Eluid Kipchoge. Kipchoge also broke the 2-hour marathon barrier as a time trialed event.

The reason why it didn’t count as the world record was he had pacers, a pace car and was handed drinks during the event. Of course, the man still held 4:34 mile pace for 26.2 miles. I think it should be considered the world record.

The world record for females was set in 2019 by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei who ran a superior time of 2:14:03 set at the Chicago marathon. The world record for a “women’s only” marathon was set by Kenya’s Mary Keitany who ran a time of 2:17:01.

Marathon History

The first Olympic games were held around 776 BCE through 393 AD in Olympia, Greece. There were numerous endurance races and sprint competitions that were held during these early years. The Greeks employed runners who worked as messengers at that time. A major reason for this is the shady conditions of the roads and difficult terrain. Horses couldn’t always be used. So, human athletes were employed to get messages sent.

The first Olympic marathon was held in 1896. The race distance at that time was 25 miles. So, 1.2 miles or 2000 meters shorter than today’s marathon distance of 26.2 miles. So, if you were wondering how long is a marathon back before the turn of the century it was 25 miles in length. Pheidippides was stated to be the Greek messengers who ran from Marathon to Athens in 490 BCE. His mission was to relay the message that the Greek Soldiers won over the the Persians who invaded them.

The Boston marathon was the world’s first big marathon race. It is the first edition was contested in 1897. It is now the oldest continually running marathon race in the world. Also, one of the most prestigious. Sadly, women didn’t compete in marathons until 1984. The first marathon where women competed was the LA marathon in the US state of California. 50 women total competed in that first event.

Why is a Marathon 26.2 miles?

As mentioned above, the first marathon was 25 miles in length. The first 26.2 mile marathon as we know it today was not run until the 1908 London Olympics. The story of the lengthening of the race was due to Queen Alexandra of Great Britain. She wanted the marathon race to start on the lawn of her Windsor Castle. The reason was she wanted her children to be able to view the race from their nursery.

The Queen also wanted the race to finish in front of the royal box located the London Olympic stadium. The distances between the start and finish that she requested was 26 miles, 385 yards. So, the distances has remained the same ever since it was standardized officially in 1921. How long is a marathon now? 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers in length.

How Long Does It Take to Run a Marathon?

The average marathon time is around 4:30 to 6 hours. Of course, there are runners around the world who can run much faster or slower. So, it just depends on the level of fitness of the runner and his or her experience in the event. A good marathon time is anything below a sub 4 hour marathon. Athletes seeking to run a 3:59.59 marathon time need to hold 9:09 per mile.

Are you outside of the united States of America? You will need to sustain 5:41 per kilometer for the 42.2 kilometer marathon race distance. One of the key tactics to run a faster marathon is to start running your long runs faster. One of the biggest mistakes runners make is running long and slow every weekend. I suggest doing faster, varied paced long runs. Below are some examples of the types of long run I was doing prior to breaking the sub 2:20 marathon barrier.

  • 2 mile jog, 6 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 4:55, 5 miles@5:55 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 3 miles@5:25 mile pace, 1 mile jog (22 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 10 miles@5:30 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 4 miles@6:05 mile pace, 1 mile easy, 2 miles@5:20 mile pace, 1 mile jog (23 miles)

Long runs should be anywhere from 15 to 23 miles.

Remember, always follow a faster long run with an easy, relaxed long run the following week. Again, the benefits if your hard training are going to come from the rest period. Your body will be 2 to 3 times weaker immediately after a hard workout. So, give yourself 48 to 72 hours of recovery after harder long runs like this.

Tips to Improve Upon an Average marathon time

Athletes vary in terms of their ability to run at varying speeds. That being said, there are other variables which can affect their marathon time. The good news is you can control many of these factors.

  • Mileage – it is always best to focus on a longer build up. In addition, focus on quality versus the amount of volume you are putting in. Remember, use leverage. Leverage simply means doing more with less. Stress the body but allot sufficient time in order to recover.
  • Drink, Don’t Sip – I recommend placing water bottles out every 3 miles (or 5k) along your long run course. So, practice taking in more fluid. You want to make mistakes in training, not in the race. Don’t think you can run a fast marathon time by sipping a dixie cup or 2 in a race of this length.
  • Run Longer – What has been the longest long run you have done in the past? 12 miles? 15? You need to gradually work your way closer to 17 to 22 miles in length. The longer you can spend on your feet the better you are going to handle racing over 26.2 miles. I don’t think running further than 23 miles for a long run is needed. There is a point where diminished returns do come about.

Additional Tips

  • Focus on a flat course Columbus, Rotterdam, London, Berlin, Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, are some examples of flat course. No course is “fast”. It is the athlete that is in superior shape that makes a course “fast”. How long is a marathon? 26.2 miles and it is a long race if you go out too fast. So, be smart about your pacing. Don’t try to win this race in the first half-marathon
  • Weather – It is always best to find a marathon where the weather conditions will be optimal to run a fast time at. I know you may have qualifying for the Boston marathon as your goal. Also, earning an Olympic Trials standard. Perhaps, you are training for your first marathon. If so, focus on cooler temperatures. Fall and spring are the best times of the year to race in marathons.

Marathon Training Plan

I recommend a minimum of 16 and preferably 24 weeks to fully prepare for the marathon distance. Remember, the less of a rush you are in the better you are going to race in this distance. I see far too many runners trying to accomplish in 8 weeks when they really need 5 months to get it right. Yes, you should focus first on a couch to 5k before a couch to marathon mindset.

Work as the best you can at improving your overall leg speed. Of course, the marathon is a highly aerobic event. That being said, you still need to have strength, stamina and speed. The only way to build upon this is doing 1, vo2 max workout per week. We are running between 95 to 100 percent of our maximum heart rate running at vo2 max. So, we can only run anywhere from a few seconds to minutes at this intensity.

Below are examples of vo2 max workouts you will most likely see in RunDreamAchieve running plans.

  • Track and road intervals i.e. 6x1mile, 12-20x400m, 3x2mile, 10x1K, 5-8x800m etc.
  • Hill repetitions ranging from 50 to 300 meters in length
  • Fartlek running i.e. 5x2minutes hard/1 min easy, 30 minutes of 1 min hard/1 min easy etc.

You should focus on doing strides twice per week during marathon training build up. In fact, Strides can be done twice a week regardless what race distance you are focused on. They are great for practicing acceleration and working on your form. In addition, are perfect for warming up and getting your heart rate up.

Closing Thoughts

So, again, how long is a marathon can best be answered as 26.2 miles or 26 miles, 385 yards. It is the longest and most popular race there is aside from ultramarathons. There are many resources available to you here at RunDreamAchieve. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. My focus there is to create new video content each week to help runners such as yourself get that next personal best.

Focus on the following other variables to get the best out of yourself when it comes to racing the marathon

  • Study the term “Supercompensation” (many runners have never heard about it)
  • Invest in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 and highly recommend it. Heart rate monitor training will ensure you are not overtraining and running at the proper heart rate zones.
  • Focus on what you can control yourself. Weather bad race morning? Guess what, everyone else will have to deal with it as well. How YOU deal with it matters most. So, stay focused, relaxed and confident.

Hydrate Well in the Race

  • Make training the most difficult part of your preparation. The race itself should be the celebration of all of your hard work
  • Watch your pacing. Again, don’t try to win this race in the first half. Do your best to do a negative split. So, run the second half faster than you run the first.
  • Mentally rehearse. Mental training is a key component of running success. Spend 10 to 15 minutes daily during your build up seeing yourself succeeding. In addition, getting across the finish line in your goal race time.

Have any further questions about any of our products here at RunDreamAchieve? E-mail me at nathanpennington [at] protonmail [dot] com. I look forward to hearing about your next personal best and that the running courses, coaching and/or training plans helped.

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