If you’re in marathon training mode and gearing up to run 26.2 miles, you might be curious about what the average marathon time is – in other words, how long does it take to run a marathon.
In this post, we’re going to do a deep dive into historical marathon finishing time data to check out what an average time to run a marathon looks like – by age, by gender, and by the race route you’re running.
Interested to see how your finishing time compares to others, wondering how long does it take to run a marathon, or what a good marathon finishing time is?
UPDATE: We’ve updated the article and have now included average half marathon time analysis – scroll down to check out what is considered a good half marathon time!
Let’s jump in!
Half Marathon Time Analysis
Average Half Marathon Times – Overall
A study of over 800,000 half marathon finishing times revealed an average half marathon time of 2 hours, zero minutes, and 55 seconds!
Just a whisker over that coveted 2 hour mark!
What’s interesting is that we’re getting slower: back in the 1980’s, the average half marathon finishing time was between 1 hour 30 minutes and 1 hour 40 minutes – for both men and women.
The reason for the slow-down is the boom in running we’ve experienced over the past 20-30 years, and the realisation that distances such as the half marathon are not only for seasoned runners.
What Is a Good Half Marathon Time?
If you’re looking up average half marathon times, it’s likely that it’s because you’re plotting your own race and trying to find out what a good half marathon time is.
The truth is that it depends on your running background, fitness level, and how much you can commit to a rigorous training plan.
For many first-time half marathon runners, simply finishing the race is a good result.
For others, beating the 2-hr mark (check out my training plan here) is their idea of a good half marathon time.
Experienced runners will set more ambitious goals – around 6% of runners finish their half marathons in under 90 minutes.
In prep mode for a half marathon? Check out some of our half marathon training resources:
Average Half Marathon Pace
Based on the above overall average half marathon finishing time of 2:00:55, this translates to an average half marathon pace of 9:13 min/mile, or 5:44 min/km.
Note that this is the average pace, smoothed out over 13.1 miles.
Average Half Marathon Time – By Gender
|Women’s Average |
Half Marathon Time
Half Marathon Time
Half Marathon Time
While we can see that, on average, women have a slightly slower half marathon finishing time than men, the gap is closing.
In fact, the current trends show that men are slowing down, and women are speeding up. If the trend continues, we should see the gap continue to close over the coming years.
Average Marathon Time Analysis – How Long Does It Take To Run a Marathon?
Average Marathon Times – Overall
The latest data shows that globally, the overall current average marathon finishing time is 4 hours, 32 minutes, and 49 seconds.
Much like half marathons, the data from 2001 shows that marathon runners used to be a little faster!
The average marathon time back then was 4 hours, 28 minutes, and 51 seconds. So we’ve gotten around 4 minutes, or 1.4% slower over time!
Going further back in time, the average time to finish a marathon was actually quite a bit quicker. Back in 1986, the overal average marathon finishing time was 3 hours, 52 minutes and 35 seconds – that’s over half an hour faster than our current average timings!
We can attribute this overall slowdown to the boom in distance running in the 1990’s and 2000’s, and more people adopting running as a healthy lifestyle choice.
Is a slower average marathon time a bad thing? hardly! It means more people willing to get up and run 26.2 miles, which is hard to argue with.
So how long does it take to run a marathon?
The majority of runners take between 3 and 6 hours to run a marathon, with the average marathon time being 4 hours and 32 minutes.
Average Marathon Pace – How Long Does It Take To Run a Marathon?
Based on the above overall average marathon finishing time of 4:21:39, this translates to an average marathon pace of 9:57 min/mile, or 6:12 min/km.
Note that this is the average pace, smoothed out over 26.2 miles.
But in reality, the average marathon runner gradually slows down over their race – in fact, on average the 2nd half of a marathon is run 11 minutes and 48 seconds slower than the first half (called the ‘marathon half split‘).
(Looking for marathon pace info? Check out our Marathon Pace Charts).
Average Marathon Time – By Gender
|Women’s Average |
Women’s Average Marathon Time
The current average women’s marathon finishing time is 4 hours, 39 minutes, and 9 seconds.
Some data shows that women have actually gotten faster by around 11 minutes in the past 20 years; this can be attributed to a boom in the number of women signing up for their first marathon in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The average age of a female marathon runner is 36 years old.
The average marathon half split by women is 11 minutes and 43 seconds; meaning this is how much slower they ran in the second half of their marathon, compared to the first half.
Men’s Average Marathon Time
The current average men’s marathon finishing time is 4 hours, 10 minutes, and 10 seconds.
This represents a gradual slowdown in men’s timings: in 1986, the average men’s marathon time was 3:48:15, and in 2001 it had increased to 4:15:13.
The average age of a male marathon runner is 40 years old.
The average marathon half split by men is 11 minutes and 51 seconds; meaning this is how much slower they ran in the second half of their marathon, compared to the first half.
Marathon Finishing Time: Distribution By Gender
The graph above, used with kind permission from study, shows the distribution of finishing times for both men and women from over 3 million marathon finishing times.
It’s interesting to note the peaks on each graph leading up to each major time horizon – for example, the biggest peak represents runners squeezing in under the four hour mark.
Average Marathon Time By Country
Which Country Has The Fastest Marathon Runners?
The following chart shows the average marathon time for 46 countries, ranked in order of speed!
How do you measure up to your local average?
Average Marathon Time By Age
The following data breaks down the average marathon finish time by age group and gender; it was based on a study of 21,000 marathon finishers in 2010.
Average Marathon Times For Popular Races
Here are average finishing times for some of the most popular U.S.-based marathons:
Average Boston Marathon Finishing Time: 3:54
Average Chicago Marathon Finishing Time: 4:34
Average San Francisco Marathon Finishing Time: 4:34
Average New York City Marathon Finishing Time: 4:37
Average Los Angeles Marathon Finishing Time: 5:32
Average Disney World Marathon Finishing Time: 5:48
How To Improve Your Marathon Finishing Time
Deciding to run a marathon is huge undertaking – it’s both exciting and intimidating at the same time!
I’ve developed Marathon Handbook to help people run far – regardless of their running background.
We offer a huge range of FREE resources for runners – including training plans, expert articles, pace charts, and more!
In prep mode for a marathon? Check out some of our marathon training resources:
To just get you starte …if you’re looking to improve your marathon finishing time, sign up for my FREE 5-Day Marathon Training Bootcamp and I’ll send you tips and expert advice on how to train smart and achieve your marathon goals!
This article uses data and analysis from the following sources: