NEW!Incredible offer for our exclusive subscribers! Read More
Beginner Runner

How Long Is a Marathon? Unraveling the Distance of the Epic Race

12 Mins read

Have you ever wondered just how long a marathon really is? Or perhaps you’re curious about the captivating story behind this legendary race? Well, my friends, you’ve arrived at the perfect pit stop to quench your marathon curiosity.

In today’s post, we’re diving headfirst into the world of marathons, uncovering the secrets and shedding light on the burning questions that have been keeping you up at night.

I’ll explore the awe-inspiring distance of a marathon, how it’s meticulously measured, and the remarkable story that birthed this epic endurance race. I’ll even take a detour into the thrilling realm of marathons in the Olympics and delve into the lasting impact of the iconic London Marathon.

But wait, there’s more! If you’re a beginner dreaming of conquering the marathon challenge, fear not. I’ve got you covered with essential tips and insights on how to kick-start your marathon training journey like a pro.

Let the adventure begin!

How Long is A Marathon?

Picture this: a daunting journey that spans 26.2 miles (or 42.195 kilometers), pushing the limits of human potential and unleashing the warrior within. Yes, my friend, I’m talking about the hallowed grounds of the marathon—an endurance test of colossal proportions.

You might be wondering, “Who decides this distance? Is there some governing body overseeing this Herculean endeavor?” Well, fear not, for I bring you tidings from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the esteemed authority that has decreed 26.2 miles as the official marathon distance. This isn’t just a wild guess, mind you; it’s backed by meticulous research and the wisdom of countless running scholars.

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how these courses are measured. Imagine a scene straight out of an action movie: a group of dedicated individuals armed with bicycles and precision tools, accompanied by three assigned judges and even a police escort. They traverse the course not once, not twice, but thrice, ensuring the utmost accuracy in their measurements.

And here’s an interesting tidbit: while marathons in the United States are often measured in miles, the rest of the world favors the metric system, using kilometers to quantify this monumental feat. So, whether you’re chasing miles or kilometers, the essence of the marathon remains unyielding—a true testament to human perseverance.

Now, if your mind is still struggling to comprehend the enormity of a marathon, let me paint a vivid picture for you. Imagine your daily commute, that familiar journey of 16 miles. Running a marathon means traversing that distance 1.5 times..

Here’s another mind-boggling comparison: picture yourself running around a 400-meter track. Now, lace up your imagination and join me for an astonishing 105 laps. Yes, my friend, that’s the equivalent of completing a marathon. It’s like circling the track over a hundred times, a testament to the unyielding rhythm of your footsteps and the indomitable spirit that propels you forward.

And if you’re still not convinced of the magnitude of this feat, consider this: running a marathon is akin to covering the length of a football field a staggering 461 times! Each stride taking you closer to the finish line, leaving a trail of determination and sweat in your wake.

It’s no wonder that completing a marathon is an achievement that eludes all but a select few. Less than 1 percent of the population dares to undertake this monumental challenge, and for good reason. It requires dedication, perseverance, and an unwavering belief in your own capabilities.

How Long It Takes To Run A Marathon?

How long it’s going to take you to run a marathon depends on your speed.

On average, a marathon takes about four hours to complete—the world’s record is just over two hours.

As a beginner, you should focus on training fully for the entire 26.2 miles and make it to the finish line in one piece.

As your skill improves, you can try to beat your personal best for the marathon.

Here’s a simplified marathon pace chart:

  • At a 5-minute mile pace, it will take you 2:11:06 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At a 6-minute mile pace, it will take you 2:37:19 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At a 7-minute mile pace, it will take you 3:03:32 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At an 8-minute mile pace, it will take you 3:29:45 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At a 9-minute mile pace, it will take you 3:55:58 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At a 10-minute mile pace, it will take you 4:22:11 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At an 11-minute mile pace, it will take you 4:48:24 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At a 12-minute mile pace, it will take you 5:14:38 to run the whole marathon distance.
  • At a 13-minute mile pace, it will take you 5:40:51 to run the whole marathon distance.

What’s A Good Marathon Pace?

The concept of a good pace is as individual as your fingerprint, shaped by an intricate interplay of factors. Your fitness level, age, and even the whims of Mother Nature all contribute to this enigmatic equation. Picture it as a delicate dance where your unique attributes twirl with the elements around you, forging a pace that is uniquely yours.

Think about it: a “good” pace for a seasoned athlete with bionic legs might be a breathtaking sprint for someone just starting their running journey. Meanwhile, a veteran of the marathon battlegrounds may find solace in a consistent rhythm that carries them through the miles, regardless of time. It’s all about perspective, my friend.

Moreover, the terrain on which you embark on your marathon odyssey can dramatically alter what’s considered a “good” pace. Imagine tackling a flat course with the grace of a gazelle, effortlessly gliding towards the finish line. Now, shift the scene to a treacherous mountainous terrain, where each step is a Herculean effort. In these contrasting landscapes, what once seemed like a good pace may require a profound adjustment.

paleo diet

What is The Average Marathon Finish Time?

The captivating world of marathon finish times! Brace yourself, my friend, for I come bearing intriguing tidbits of knowledge gathered from a meta-analysis of over 100 million race results spanning the globe from 1986 to 2018. These numbers reveal the symphony of accomplishments achieved by the wondrous realm of recreational runners.

As the clock ticks away, the average marathon finish time emerges, painting a vivid portrait of determination and endurance. Drumroll, please! The average recreational marathoner triumphantly crosses the finish line at the mark of 4 hours, 32 minutes, and 29 seconds. Quite an accomplishment, wouldn’t you say?

Now, let’s unveil the subtle nuances that differentiate the male and female counterparts in this grand marathon dance. On average, our valiant male runners conquer the marathon at a time of 4 hours, 52 minutes, and 18 seconds, showcasing their formidable spirit. Meanwhile, the remarkable women of the marathon world leave their mark with an average time of 4 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds, truly an awe-inspiring feat.

But wait, there’s more! The beauty of marathons lies in their tapestry of diversity. From the fleet-footed elite marathoners who defy time, crossing the finish line in just over two hours, to the spirited warriors who revel in the journey, their finish times stretching past the six-hour mark. Each participant weaves their unique tale, showcasing the resilience of the human spirit.

Why Is The Marathon 26.2 Miles?

Now that we have established that a marathon is 26.2 miles, let’s take a look at history.

The First Olympics

Let me transport you back in time to the majestic origins of the marathon, where history and myth intertwine to create a tale of triumph and sacrifice. Picture yourself in the ancient days of the first Olympics, where the distance of the marathon was but a fluid concept, waiting to be molded by the footsteps of heroes.

As the early Olympic Games unfolded, the marathon events spanned approximately 25 miles, a rough approximation that traced the path from the quaint village of Marathon to the grandeur of Athens along the longer, flatter route. It was a distance that encapsulated both challenge and spectacle, setting the stage for legends to be born.

The Myth

Now, let me regale you with a story that has echoed through the ages, a tale that has become the very essence of the marathon’s mystique. Cast your gaze back to the year 790 B.C., to the plains of Marathon, where an epic battle raged between Greek warriors and the invading Persian army. In the heart of this conflict, a courageous Greek general named Miltiades emerged as a beacon of hope.

With valor and strategic brilliance, General Miltiades led his troops to a momentous victory, striking a blow that resonated throughout history. However, news of this triumph needed to be swiftly carried to the people of Athens, who awaited word of their fate. Enter Pheidippides, the valiant messenger entrusted with this pivotal task.

Pheidippides, fueled by adrenaline and an unwavering sense of purpose, embarked on a daring journey. From the battlefield of Marathon, he embarked on a grueling run of approximately 25 miles, pushing his body to the limit. Without pause or respite, he sprinted towards Athens, his mission etched into his very being.

Finally, as he arrived in the assembly, his words rang out with sheer exhilaration, “nenikēkamen!”— “we have won!” in the timeless language of the Greeks. Exhausted and triumphant, Pheidippides collapsed, his body succumbing to the arduous journey he had undertaken. His sacrifice became etched in the annals of history, a testament to the indomitable spirit of the human race.

To commemorate this extraordinary feat, the distance of the 1896 Olympics, the revival of the ancient Games, was set at 25 miles. It was a homage to the endurance and courage displayed by Pheidippides, forever etching the marathon into the fabric of athletic lore.

The Marathon Nowadays

Fast forward to the present day, where the marathon has evolved into a global celebration of human endurance and athletic prowess. Let’s embark on a journey through time to explore the modern landscape of this iconic race, where passion, determination, and glory intertwine.

It was in the vibrant city of Athens, in the year 1896, that the first Olympic Marathon event captured the hearts and imaginations of spectators worldwide. The course, spanning 25 miles or approximately 40 kilometers, traced a path from the historic Marathon Bridge, steeped in tales of ancient triumph, all the way to the majestic Olympic Stadium in Athens.

A throng of eager participants, their hearts pounding with anticipation, ready to push their physical and mental limits to the edge. Among them, a mere 25 brave souls stood at the starting line, their eyes fixed on the challenge that lay ahead. As the starting gun resounded through the air, their quest for greatness commenced.

With each stride, the competitors navigated the undulating terrain, their bodies pushed to the brink of exhaustion. The unforgiving distance tested their endurance, calling upon reserves of strength they never knew existed. But through the pain and fatigue, they pressed on, fueled by an unwavering desire to conquer the course and etch their names in history.

As the finish line loomed in the distance, the air crackled with anticipation. The cheers of the crowd grew louder, a symphony of encouragement urging the weary runners to push beyond their limits. And when the dust settled, when the echoes of their footsteps faded, only nine triumphant souls had conquered the grueling marathon.

Among them, a local hero emerged—Spyridon Louis, a humble Greek water-carrier who transcended the realms of ordinary mortals. Clad in sheer determination and the spirit of his ancestors, he crossed the finish line, his body bathed in sweat and his heart ablaze with victory. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause, their admiration transforming him into a legend overnight.

Spyridon Louis became a symbol of triumph, not just for Greece, but for the world of marathon running itself. His golden laurel wreath adorned his brow, a testament to his unwavering spirit and the indomitable human will. In that moment, the marathon transcended its physical boundaries and became a beacon of hope, inspiring generations to embrace challenges and chase their dreams.

The Changing Distance of The Marathon

Following 1896, the next few Olympic marathon events varied in length quite a bit, but the principle was that as long as all the participants run the same course, there’s no need to keep the distance exactly the same.

Check the following table.

City Year Kilometers Miles

Athens 1896 40 24.85
Paris 1900 40.26 25.02
St Louis 1904 40 24.85
Athens 1906 41.86 26.01
London 1908 42.195 26.22
Stockholm 1912 40.2 24.98
Antwerp 1920 42.75 26.56
Paris 1924 42.195 26.22

The Birth Of The Official Distance

Picture this: the year is 1908, and the stage is set for the marathon of a lifetime. The course, meticulously crafted to showcase the grandeur of England, stretched from the majestic Windsor Castle to the iconic White City Stadium—a formidable journey spanning 26 miles. As the runners gathered at the starting line, anticipation crackled in the air, for this was no ordinary marathon.

Now, here’s where the plot thickens. The organizers, with a stroke of brilliance, crafted a unique finale fit for royalty. As the runners neared the culmination of their arduous journey, the finish line was cunningly extended an extra 385 yards. Why, you ask? Well, dear friend, it was all for the pleasure of the British royal family.

Yes, you read that right. The finish line was strategically moved so that it aligned perfectly in front of the esteemed viewing box of the royal family. It was a spectacle meant to captivate and honor the regal spectators, adding an extra touch of grandeur to the race. And thus, a tradition was born.

As the runners approached the final stretch, their bodies pushed to their limits, a resounding cry filled the air. “God Save The Queen!” echoed through the streets, a tribute to the monarch and an expression of admiration in the last mile. This tradition, rooted in the pages of history, still lingers in the hearts of marathoners today, an ode to the unforgettable 1908 London Olympics.

Marathons Nowadays

Nowadays, marathon events take place virtually everywhere on the planet, from the North Pole, the Amazon, the Sahara to the Great Wall of China.

There are 100’s of organized marathons around the globe each year, with roughly 400,000 marathon finishers in the US alone.

Beginner Marathon Training Tips

Now that we’ve quenched your curiosity about the length of a marathon, it’s time to delve into the practical side of things. So, you’ve set your sights on conquering a marathon? Well, my friend, buckle up because we’re about to embark on a journey of preparation and perseverance.

Before you dive headfirst into marathon training, there’s a crucial step you must take: building a solid base. Think of it as laying the foundation for your marathon dreams. You wouldn’t construct a magnificent skyscraper without a sturdy base, would you? The same principle applies to your running journey.

To ensure you’re well-prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, it’s recommended to have been hitting the pavement for at least six months prior to starting marathon training. This means consistently logging miles, lacing up your running shoes at least three times a week. You see, running is not just a one-time sprint; it’s a marathon in itself—pun intended.

Now, if you find yourself in the camp of those who have yet to experience the thrill of pounding the pavement, fear not! There’s a sensible approach for beginners like you. Instead of diving straight into the deep end of marathon training, it’s wise to begin with shorter distances, such as the 5K or the 10K. Think of these races as stepping stones, gradually building your endurance, strength, and confidence.

Preparing For A Marathon

So, how do you go about preparing for this epic race? Well, the answer lies in following a well-crafted training plan. Picture it as your roadmap to success, guiding you every step of the way towards race day glory. Trust me, having a plan in place will do wonders for your confidence, injury prevention, and overall motivation throughout the grueling months of preparation that lie ahead.

Now, you might be wondering, what makes a training plan so important? Well, let’s take a peek at the science behind it. Research studies have shown that individuals who follow structured training programs experience greater improvements in performance compared to those who simply wing it. It’s like having a secret weapon in your arsenal, ensuring you’re fully equipped to conquer the challenges that come your way.

Think of your training plan as a meticulously crafted masterpiece, tailored specifically to your needs and goals. It’s your personal trainer, mentor, and cheerleader all rolled into one. By following a plan, you’ll gradually increase your mileage, incorporate speed work, engage in cross-training, and strategically schedule rest days to allow your body to recover and grow stronger.

Remember, my friend, the marathon is not a walk in the park. It’s a monumental undertaking that demands dedication, perseverance, and a touch of grit. But fear not, for your training plan will serve as your guiding light, illuminating the path to success and helping you navigate the ups and downs of the marathon journey.

Marathon Training Plans

Let’s dive into the realm of marathon training plans! Allow me to present you with a curated selection of my favorite plans that cater to every runner out there, from the first-time finisher to the seasoned speedster. The choice is yours, and it all depends on your goals and aspirations. After all, only you can truly know what resonates with your running spirit. So, without further ado, let’s explore these fantastic training options:

The Walking Marathon Schedule: Are you planning to conquer the marathon distance at a walking pace? Fear not, for this plan is designed especially for you. It recognizes the unique challenges and triumphs of walking the entire distance, ensuring that you have a structured and achievable roadmap to guide you on your incredible journey.

The Couch to Marathon Plan: Ah, the classic transformation tale! If you’re a complete beginner, lacing up those running shoes for the first time, this 26-week training schedule is your ticket to the marathon world. Step by step, it will take you from the couch to crossing that illustrious finish line. No previous running experience required—just a dash of determination and a sprinkle of commitment.

The Intermediate Runner Plan: So, you’ve already dipped your toes into the running waters. Perhaps you can comfortably run for an hour or have conquered a few 5Ks and 10Ks. Well, my friend, this plan is tailored precisely for your level of expertise. It will elevate your training, helping you build endurance, speed, and confidence as you progress towards the marathon distance. Prepare to take your running prowess to the next level.

The Advanced Marathon Plan: Ah, the seasoned marathoner, with a collection of race bibs and finisher medals to prove your mettle. This plan is for the experienced runners out there who have already conquered numerous marathons and are hungry for a new personal record. It will challenge you, push your boundaries, and fine-tune your performance to unlock your true potential.

Additional resource – How long is a 100-mile race?

How long is a marathon  – The Conclusion

There you have it!

If you’re looking for answers to how long is a marathon distance as well as some of the history and random tidbits about it, then today’s article should get you started with the basics.

The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep Training Strong.

David D.

Related posts
Beginner RunnerRunning Workouts

Get Fit Indoors: 6 Fun and Effective Workouts for Beginner Runners

15 Mins read
In today’s post, I’m sharing with you the essential beginner treadmill workout guidelines you need to get started with indoor running the right and safe way. By the end of this beginner guide to treadmill running, you’ll learn: How to use the treadmill The benefits of treadmill running The exact treadmill training gear you need How to take your first steps on the machine How to stay motivated when treadmill running The Treadmill workout apps you need
Beginner RunnerRunning InjuryRunning Workouts

Run, Recover, Repeat: How to Supercharge Your Training with Recovery Runs

8 Mins read
Quality workouts, think interval sessions and long runs, get the majority of attention in most runners’ training plans,  but recovery runs are usually ignored. In fact, the recovery run has been the often-than-not forgotten workout. That said, recovery runs are one of the most valuable runs. As we are going to see, recovery runs are essential. Running at a relaxed pace can help you develop proper form, build endurance, establish base mileage, and might even, as the name implies, speed up recovery. As a result, in today’s post, I’m sharing with some training guidelines on how to do the recovery run right.
Beginner Runner

How to Prevent Running Injury

8 Mins read
Looking for the best advice on what to do to prevent running injury? Then you’ve come to the right place. Here’s the…