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The Average Duration of a Marathon

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  • Post last modified:September 26, 2023

Running a marathon (26.2 miles to be precise!) is an impressive endeavor. It usually entails months of preparation and commitment. The duration of completing a marathon depends on various factors such as age, nutrition, experience, overall level of fitness, environmental conditions, and terrain.

Interested in comparing your marathon running time with others in your age group? Keep reading to discover the average marathon running times and race statistics.

Average Marathon Time for Casual Runners

The typical time for a female recreational marathon runner is 4:42:09, which is nearly double the time taken by an Olympic runner like Molly Seidel to finish the 2020 Olympic trials in Atlanta (2 hours 27 minutes and 31 seconds).

In a 2023 report on running data, RunRepeat analyzed over 35 million race results from around the world spanning 20 years and 28,000 races. The data exclusively included recreational runners and excluded results from elite athletes to ensure accurate statistics.

The findings? According to RunRepeat’s 2023 report, the average marathon time worldwide was 4:26:33. Breaking it down further, the average men’s marathon time was 4:14:29, and the average women’s marathon time was 4:42:09.

Surprisingly, despite these astonishing figures, runners have actually become slower, as indicated by the State of Running 2019 report. A line graph illustrates the upward trend in average marathon time since 1986, when it stood at 3:52:35.

For a more detailed perspective on the pace at which most people run, the report also compared average pace in terms of how long it takes to complete a mile. The average men’s pace for a full marathon was 6:43 per kilometer (approximately 10:48 per mile), and the average women’s pace was 7:26 per kilometer (11:57 per mile). Impressive!

According to Strava’s 2022 Year In Sport, the number of marathon runners worldwide has reached an all-time high. From 2021 to 2022, the number of runners using the Strava app nearly doubled.

Changes In Marathon Running Statistics Over the Years

RunRepeat’s State of Running report, which also included statistics from 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons, offers intriguing insights beyond average finishing times.

In 2018, there were a greater number of women than men participating in various race categories, marking the initial instance in history—precisely 50.24 percent of runners were female.

According to RunRepeat’s Ultimate State Comparison For Marathons, which examined 19.6 million marathon runners from 16,000 races across the United States, females participating in marathons are younger than their male counterparts. The mean age of female marathon runners in the United States is 37.91 years, while the mean age of male marathon runners is 41.05 years.

Another intriguing piece of information: People’s motives for enrolling in races might be changing. In the summary of the results, lead researcher Jens Jakob Andersen pointed out that while finishing times are becoming slower, there has been an increase in the number of individuals traveling to participate in races, and a decline in the number of people running races on significant birthdays. Together, these factors could indicate a shift from running for competition/achievement to running for the overall experience, as stated by Andersen.

Factors Impacting Marathon Times

There are numerous elements that can affect your marathon running time. Expertise and training rank highest on the list, along with your age and individual fitness level. The dietary choices you make during training and on the day of the marathon will also have an impact on your running time. However, it’s important to note that the course difficulty and weather conditions also contribute to your performance. Your average time will significantly vary from one marathon to another depending on these factors.

Completing a marathon (or even just training for one!) is commendable, no matter how you compare to the average marathon time. While the average marathon runner may complete the race in 4:26:33, the average person would never even consider taking on the challenge of running 26.2 miles at all — always keep that in mind when you feel disappointed by the numbers on your smartwatch.

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