How Long Does It Take to Run a Marathon or Half Marathon

Running a marathon is a great accomplishment. If you plan on running a marathon, it helps to know how long it takes. How long does it take to run a marathon? 

It takes about 4 to 5 hours for most people to run a marathon. There are 26.2 miles in a marathon. So, the average time per mile is about 9 to 11.5 minutes.

Elite runners can finish the marathon within 2 hours, with a pace of around 4.5 minutes per mile.

How long does a half marathon take? It takes about 2 hours for most people to run a half marathon. There are 13.1 miles in a marathon. So the average time per mile in a half marathon is about 4.5 minutes.

Read on to learn more about how long it takes to run a marathon and how to properly train for it.

How Long Does It Take to Run a Marathon?

The average time it takes to run a marathon is 4 to 5 hours. This means the average time per mile is about 9 to 11 minutes. Fast runners take only about 2 hours to run a marathon (about 4 minutes 30 seconds per mile).

According to Greek mythology, the marathon started in Athens, Greece, to honor the messenger Pheidippides. The runner conquered the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce Greek’s victory.

Eventually, the marathon-length was officially established at 42.195 km (26.2 miles), based on Queen Alexandra’s request.

The majority of people who run a marathon usually take around 4 to 5 hours to finish the race. You can perform better and achieve some milestones if you train correctly and persistently.

There are also certain factors affecting your performance. Be aware of them so that you can do better in the next marathon.

how long does it take to run a marathon

Factors Affecting the Length of Time to Run a Marathon

Below are some of the factors that determine how long it takes to run a marathon.

1. Experience

The more experience you have in running, the faster your race will be. The body adjusts according to your training.

If you have been running the same distance before, you will have an easier time meeting the marathon’s physical demands than a person who has had no experience at all.

So, if you want to finish the marathon successfully, you may want to practice running long distances. Consult a competent trainer to maximize your running ability.

2. Age

The older you get, the more you could tire quickly, especially if you don’t exercise. With age, your body’s physiology naturally slows down, and your muscles tend to lose some strength. Unless you exercise regularly, your physical stamina would gradually decrease.

During old age, your respiratory and cardiovascular functions are diminished, thus preventing you from running in a long race such as a marathon.

Nevertheless, if you have trained at an early age and have maintained your physical fitness up to your old age you’re most likely exempted from this rule.

3. Gender

There’s a scientific basis that most males perform better than females. Based on a survey, males have a higher VO2 max at 55 ml/kg/min (milliliter per kilogram per minute). Females have a lower value at 40 ml/ kg/min.

VO2 max is the person’s maximum capacity to transport oxygen during physical activities. When the VO2 max is increased, you can also perform better in athletic events.

Even though the VO2 max is also dependent on your body’s cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic function, training can significantly increase it.     

You can improve your VO2 max through workouts and consistent running. When your VO2 max is increased, your heart and respiratory system can work more effectively, and you would gain more incredible speed and endurance.

Your skeletal muscles would also become stronger, delaying the onset of fatigue.

4. Proper Training

You should do proper training under an expert trainer. You can gradually train yourself by running shorter distances and increasing the distance length as you get accustomed to the marathon pace. It’s crucial to consistent and persistent in achieving your goals after each training run. 

Typically, it takes 12 to 20 weeks to train for a full marathon. Training under a competent trainer is crucial to learn correctly.

Altitude training can contribute to your endurance due to increased endurance, muscle strength, and increased VO2 max. This process occurs when hemoglobin values increase due to the altitude.

Hemoglobin is responsible for supplying oxygen to the brain, muscles, and other parts of the body.

So, when you run a marathon against a person who trained at sea level, you would be performing better as you have more supply of oxygen that your muscles could use.

5. Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle increases your chances of enduring the long run. Eating a balanced diet, getting eight hours of sleep every day, exercising at least 30 minutes to one hour daily, drinking more than eight glasses a day, and avoiding substances of abuse are healthy practices.

When you are healthy, your stamina increases, allowing you to endure physical activities, like running a marathon. Naturally, if you want to participate in a marathon, you should train for more than 30 minutes.

6. Lactate Threshold

Lactate coming from lactic acid is one of the end products of muscle metabolism. When your body is not accustomed to eliminating lactate efficiently, the buildup of this substance in your body will cause rapid muscle fatigue.

how long does it take to run a half marathon

When you train correctly, your lactate threshold will increase, allowing more of the substance in your body without causing muscle fatigue. When this happens, you will not quickly get tired as your body can tolerate more lactate.

Your endurance would improve, allowing you to run a marathon race with better results.

Hence, you should take proper rest for about one week, out of four weeks of training. Within this rest week, the muscles decrease lactic acid production, reducing lactate formation. The muscle rest will allow the natural physiologic functions of your body to eliminate excess lactate.

7. Genetic Predisposition

Based on a study by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) on marathon runners’ genetics, genetics can influence endurance during marathon races and other physical activities. Some genes influence muscle damage during marathons and similar activities.

Some athletes complete the marathon with minimal muscle deterioration, while some have severe muscle pain despite having the same training. This effect was attributed to the genes present on each of the runners.   

Fastest Marathon World Records

1. Eliud Kipchoge

Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge ran the fastest marathon time recorded in 2018 at 2:01:39. In 2019, the 34-year old broke his record for running the marathon in less than 2 hours with 1:59:40, which means he ran each kilometer (0.621371 miles) in two minutes and 52 seconds only.

2. Brigid Kosgei

Another Kenyan runner, Brigid Kosgei, smashed the fastest female marathon record with an impressive time of 2:14:04.

3. Dennis Kipruto Kimetto and Wilson Kipsang

The fastest marathoners in the Chicago Marathon are mostly from Kenya, with Dennis Kipruto Kimetto winning the marathon in 2014 with his best time at 2:02:57, and Wilson Kipsang winning the race in 2013 with 2:03:23. Patrick Makau won in 2011 with 2:03:38.

These wins could prove the fact that genetics and training could be factors when running a marathon. Kenyans are trained during early childhood, as they usually run errands on foot.

Their hemoglobin levels could be slightly elevated, and their VO2 max increased as their bodies have to adjust to their physically strenuous lifestyle and environment.

How Long Does It Take to Run a Half Marathon?

How long does a half marathon take? It takes about 2 hours for most people to run a half marathon. The average time per mile in a half marathon is about 4.5 minutes.

To be more exact, the average half marathon time for females is 2:11:57, while for men, it is 1:55:26. If you run it for two hours, you would be pacing your run at about 9 minutes per mile. [1]

Well-seasoned runners could run a half marathon in 1 hour and 30 minutes or even less than an hour.

Some trainers usually aim for a pace of 11:25 per mile and then go faster as the trainee’s body adjusts to the pace. Talk to the trainer about your goals for the marathon, whether you want to train rigidly or just doing it for fun.

How long does a marathon take? Specifically, how long does it take to run a marathon? An average runner can complete a marathon in four to five hours, while an experienced or elite runner can finish this same marathon in two hours.

Tips for Running Faster in a Marathon

There’s a smart way to run faster in a marathon. Don’t just rely on your physical capabilities. A wise strategy could give you the win you have been aspiring for.

1. Train Harder but Pace Your Running Time

Most trainers emphasize that a marathon is a race of endurance and not the quickest sprinter race, so the answer to this question matters less. In a sprint, you give all you can in one burst of energy.

However, in marathons, you have to set a regular pace that would allow you to finish the race.

Some marathoners often fall by the wayside because they may be good sprinters, but they lack the stamina to complete the long race.

You could train gradually by starting with less strenuous workouts and then increasing your pace through time. In this case, you can take note of how your body responds and adjust your training accordingly.

You can strive to achieve a 13-minute pace to finish the marathon ahead of the closure time (6 hours).

2. Familiarize Yourself with the Course

You could familiarize yourself with the marathon course by using it as a training ground whenever you can. When you are not allowed inside the racecourse, you can research online about the course’s terrain type. Simulate your training by searching for a landscape that is similar to the course.

Run the course one to three miles initially, then increase gradually as recommended below.   

how long does a marathon take

3. Gradually Increase Weekly Runs

You can run in increments of 30 minutes daily or one to three miles daily, increasing the time as your body adjusts to the activity and the terrain. Level up by running one to three miles per run. Increase your miles until you reach 26.2 miles.

Through your course of training, you should acquire a faster pace and a regular rhythm.

4. Get Enough Break Time

In between training, give yourself a much-needed break. Take time to allow your muscles to rest and rejuvenate. Muscles are not machines; they become fatigued too.

Hence, take a rest for a week after training for three weeks. With ample rest, the lactate buildup would decrease, and you are ready to start anew.

5. Develop a Healthy Lifestyle

All your training will not be fruitful you take in abused substances, such as drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. Your muscles will not become strong if you do not eat enough protein. So, you have to comply with healthy living standards.

6. Establish a Steady Running Pace

Running a marathon requires endurance, and regularly setting your run is the key to success. Throughout your training, aim for a pace of 11:25 per mile. Therefore, you should not run fast and then slow down and then pick up speed again. The length of time you will run the marathon would be around two hours.

Your pace must be regular.  There must be a tempo to your footsteps. Maintain this tempo, don’t speed up until you finish the race – unless you’re within a few distances from the finish line and you want to overtake another marathoner.

7. Be Positive

The time you run a marathon depends on how well you trained for it and your correct strategies. A marathon is not only a test of your physical endurance but is also a battle of wills.

The athletes with a positive frame of mind, who approaches the race with an optimistic mind, have better chances of finishing the race than one who thinks negatively.

As the cliché goes, “What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.”

Conclusion – How Long Does It Take to Run a Marathon

Most runners take about four to five hours to run a marathon. This pace is about 9 to 11.5 minutes per mile.

Elite runners can finish the marathon, though, within 2 hours. This pace is about 4 minutes and 50 seconds per mile.

The maximum time you are allowed to finish the marathon is six hours. So, don’t get discouraged if you fail the first time. You can always keep training to build your muscles and physical endurance.

How long does a half marathon take? The average half marathon time for females is 2:11:57, while for men, it is 1:55:26. If you run it for two hours, you would be pacing your run at about 9 minutes per mile.

How long does it take to run a half marathon? By following the tips listed earlier, you will be able to run faster and finish the race in a shorter amount of time. You can then challenge yourself to improve your time each race you run.