How Many Miles in a Marathon

Are you wondering how many miles in a marathon? If so, welcome to I am happy that you have made it here to this site. I’ve been here creating content for runners since 2011. The marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.19 kilometers in length. The biggest hurdle for many runners is simply how to sustain their goal pace for the entire distance. So, lactate tolerance has to be improved. I assist runners with this either by written content or making videos at the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. There are many runners who can run easy for a number of miles or kilometers. That being said, it is an art form to race fast over the marathon distance. My goal with this post is to share some tips to help you in your own marathon quest.

A common mistake I see marathoners make is running far too many of their miles or kilometers too slow. There weekly volume is spent at too of an aerobic effort. Of course, running easy will build endurance and burn fat. That being said, to race fast over 26.2 miles you have to be able to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Faster running produces this physiological effect. So, it takes time and patience on the part of the athlete to achieve this. Remember, it takes about 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress you are placing on it. So, the benefits from the hard work you put in today will not be seen until several weeks from now.

Why is a Marathon Exactly 26.2 Miles?

The International Association Athlete Federation or IAAF adopted this as the distance for the marathon in 1921. One of the best ways to improve your time over this distance is to start conducting your long runs at faster paces. I was able to improve my personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 using this strategy. No, it is not easy. I get asked all the time how did I go from running 6:14 to 5:19 mile pace over 26.2 miles. Long runs is one of the main ways I was able to do this. No, I didn’t run every weekend long and fast. Again, recovery is just as important as training hard. So, one weekend I may run a varied pace long run but the following weekend I would jog, nice and easy.

There is only so many times you can push the body hard anaerobically. Runners also are running far too fast on their easy days too. The best middle to long distance runners know how vital rest is. Remember, the benefits of your hard work come within the rest, not from the hard workouts we do. In fact, your body is about 2 to 3 times weaker immediately after a hard, anaerobic workout. So, easy aerobic running is very important. So, have the same discipline you have to train hard to also back off and jog on your easy days. The runners seeking to know how many miles in a marathon are motivated individuals. They want to know what is the best way to race this distance.

What is the Average Time Per Mile in a Marathon?

The average pace per mile in marathon competitions is usually between 10 to 11 minute per mile pace. Of course, this will vary from competition to competition. There are runners who can hold under 5 minute mile pace for the marathon and some who may hold 14 minute mile pace in other races. Again, the key is to work on improving the body’s lactate tolerance. I am a big believer in faster long runs. An example of a varied pace, long runs may look something like this…

  • 2 mile warm-up, 8 miles@10seconds slower than goal marathon race pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile all out, 3 miles easy, 2 miles@goal marathon race pace
  • 2 mile warm-up, 12 miles@160BPM (85% of maximum heart rate), 4 mile cool-down
  • 1 mile warm-up, 4 miles@160BPM, 2 miles easy, 4 miles@170BPM, 1 mile JOG, 2 miles@20sec faster than goal marathon race pace, 1 mile JOG cool-down

Again, always ensure the following week’s long run is easy and relaxed. I used this tactic and it helped me break the sub 2 hour and 20 minute marathon barrier. You are more than welcome to visit the about page if you would like to know more about my background if you wish. The long run is the hardest workout that I do. Of course, speed development is essential and are hard workouts as well. That being said, doing faster long runs take time, mental and physical energy and longer to recover from. So, I always advice for my athletes to take 48 hours of easy, jogging after their harder long runs. How many miles in a marathon? 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers.

Why is a Marathon 26 Miles 385 Yards?

The marathon course of the 1908 London marathon went from the Windsor Castle to the White City stadium which was 26 miles. The reason why the additional .2 miles was added was the finish line needed to be in front of the royal family’s viewing box. The box was located an extra 385 yards which added inside of the stadium. So, the additional yardage was added into the marathon distance. Gotta love those “royals”. The first marathon was contested in the 1896 Olympic Games that were held in Athens, Greece in 2 hours and 58 minutes.

Remember, you should still focus on improving your speed also as a marathoner. I have my athletes do one, vo2max workout per week. In addition, we do longer tempo runs as well. The reason behind speed training is to get your goal marathon race pace to feel less demanding on the athlete. It should feel more like a tempo run rather than you are sprinting. Again, the end goal is to teach the body to burn fat at race pace and conserve carbohydrates. Also, to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the muscle tissue. So, the more efficient you can do this the better you are going to race. In addition, the less you are going to slow down versus your competition.

How Long Would it Take to Run 26 Miles?

It really depends on the level of fitness of the athletes. There are runners who can run a sub 3 hour marathon without much issue. Also, other runners who may take 8 hours or longer to run a marathon. So, the key is to focus more on quality versus on the volume of mileage you are putting in. The best long distance runners run around 40 percent of their weekly mileage running at or far below their goal marathon race pace. A common mistake runners make is simply running too many of their miles or kilometers each week, too slow. Again, this is something you have the power to change. I created training plans and running courses here where I help athletes to correct this mistake.

Again, quality is the most important over how much mileage you are putting in. For example, if your goal is to run a sub 4 hour marathon then you need to hold 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer. So, if 85 to 95 percent of your weekly mileage is spent running at 12 minute mile pace it is going to be difficult to race at sub 4 marathon pace. So, you have to practice your goal race pace more often. In addition, you also have to slow down on recovery days. Again, the key tactic here is to ensure you recover from the harder, anaerobic training you are doing.

Can You Run a Marathon without Training?

I would advise against attempting to run a marathon without training. Of course, you can walk and jog a marathon with little to no training. No, it is not going to be fun and is a great way to get injured as well. Remember, you need to condition your muscles, ligaments and joints to handle racing this far. So, it is not a wise decision to try to run 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers without training at all. I have never tried this myself and I am thankful that I didn’t. It is much more fun to attempt to race a marathon when you are properly conditioned for it. The marathon will demand a lot out of you both physically as well as mentally.

So, take the time to prepare properly for one. An additional way to get faster over the marathon is to do longer tempo runs. The reason is the fact that we run our tempo runs at our anaerobic threshold. Your anaerobic threshold is the point where lactic acid begins to build up in the muscle tissue. The hydrogen ion, a component of lactic acid, is what shuts down muscle functioning and causes us to slow down. So, the longer you can spend training at this intensity, the better. You will be running around 88 to 92 percent of your maximum heart rate at this effort. It takes time to adapt to running longer distances at this effort. We can spend several minutes to even over an hour running this fast.

What is an Elite Marathon Time?

“Elite” has a different meaning for all runners. My definition of an elite marathoner is anyone who can go under 3 hours for the marathon. Of course, others may say men who can run between 2:02 to 2:10 are elite. Also, 2:14 to 2:25 for women is considered “elite”. Again, these are the very best runners in the world we are talking about here. There are only about 2 to 4 percent of marathoners who compete in marathons world-wide who break the 3 hour barrier. I created a course called the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro which helps athletes to achieve this goal. I also created the Sub 2:30 Marathon Mastermind course as well for athletes seeking to break 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Are you someone who is seeking to break the 4 hour marathon barrier? You may want to check out the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Pace Mastery course. There are smarter ways to properly prepare for marathons and it doesn’t necessarily demand you have to run higher mileage. Yes, volume is still important. That being said, if you are running too much of your mileage too slow you are only going to be a superior long, slow runner. Again, we are going for a specific time goal here. So, you have to think and work like a world-class runner. We have three choices in this life and that is to be average, good or great. Greatness demands more out of us than most of us realize. So, you really have to be patient and have a belief in delayed gratification if you are going to be successful.

Closing Thoughts

It is also important to stay as relaxed and calm as you can while racing. Remember, you are always in control of your thoughts and muscle tension. So, if you feel yourself getting too tense consciously tell yourself to relax. In addition, say positive statements to yourself such as “I am in control” “I am strong” etc. So, let your competition be nervous the morning of the race, not you. Training should always be the most difficult process when it comes to preparing for your marathon. Race day should be the celebration of all your hard work. Of course, it is normal to be somewhat nervous the morning of the race. That being said, it should not rule over you. Remember, the less mental or physical energy wasted, the better the performance.

Also, focus on hydrating well in training. A major mistake marathoners make is they do not drink enough or ingest enough calories during their races. Again, how many miles in a marathon is 26.2 miles. So, this is not a 5K or 10K that you can get away with not drinking in. It is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers. Do you want to run a fast time over the marathon distance? If so, you need to follow all of the fundamentals that go into running a new personal best. Get plenty of sleep, hydrate well before, during and after your workouts and pay attention to your nutrition. I hope this post has been helpful. Make sure to click on any of the green buttons to check out our resources.

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