What is the average marathon time?
What is a good marathon time? Average times by age and gender
When it comes to running a marathon, it can be hard to know what ‘good’ looks like, especially if you’re running your first ever 42.2K. Of course, many of us run for fun and the sheer sense of achievement that comes with finishing such an epic distance matters more than the time we completed it in.
But maybe you still want something to measure your own time against. Or maybe you’re just curious and want to know what good marathon times look like. Either way, we’re here with everything you need to know about average marathon times.
What is the current average time to finish a marathon?
Data compiled by RunRepeat shows that, globally, the average time to run a marathon is 4:32:49.
They also found that the marathon average time has increased over the years, quite significantly. Back in 1986, the average time to run 42.2 kilometres was 3:52:35 – an increase of nearly 42 minutes. That’s quite a significant chunk of time – so what’s going on?
Well, it means that more people than ever before are entering marathons, regardless of their pace. While previously, people might only enter a marathon if they were capable of running typically ‘good’ times, now it’s a much wider playing field and runners of all abilities are lacing up their running shoes, getting out there and taking on this big challenge.
More people running their own path to happiness? We think that’s a great thing!
What is the average women’s marathon time?
The average time for a marathon, of course, simply looks at everyone who has completed 42.2K in an event. In reality, it’s more useful to look at average marathon time by age and gender, to get a more realistic representation of how fast people in your specific category are running.
So, then, what’s the women’s marathon time? According to the RunRepeat data, it’s 4:48:45. Women have actually become faster over the last few years, with times increasing by 0.08%, from 4:48:31 in 2008
That means that the average pace for women, over marathon distance, is 6'51 minutes per kilometre.
What is the average men’s marathon time?
When it comes to the guys, the men’s marathon time averages 4:21:03. That’s a slight increase from 2008, when the average finishing time for men was 4:14:45.
What is the average time to run a marathon by age?
As well as gender, age can have an impact on the average times for marathon finishers. It’ll be no surprise that older runners tend to be slower runners – although there are, of course, always exceptions to the rule!
We’ve broken down the average marathon times by age categories below:
It seems that 30-50 is the sweet spot when it comes to running faster marathon times – but we’re delighted to see a wide range of ages running marathons. It’s also particularly exciting that the data shows the number of older participants is increasing, with more runners in the age 40-50 age bracket than ever before.
Here’s to long, healthy and happy running careers!
What is a good marathon time?
Ah, the million-dollar question. A good marathon time is subjective: what may be good for one person might seem slow to another. That’s why it’s important to focus on your own run, and not get too distracted by how fast other people are going. After all, a marathon is a huge achievement, no matter how quickly you get to the finish line!
However, there are some standards we can look at to help us answer the question around good times.
One such standard is marathon world records. The world’s fastest marathon time currently stands at an incredible 2:01:09. This was set by Eliud Kipchoge at the 2022 Berlin Marathon, when he broke his own previous record of 2:01:39, set at the same race in 2018.
There are two officially recognised women’s world records: one women’s only record, and one in which men and women are racing together. The women only record is 2:17:01, set by Mary Keitany in the 2017 London Marathon, and the other is 2:14:04, set by Brigid Kosgei in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. There’s no denying that these are incredible times – but they’re not achievable for most runners!
Amateur athletes, then, often look to the Boston Marathon qualifying times as ‘good’ marathon times. If you can run a Boston qualifying time (or BQ, as it’s usually known), then it’s safe to say that you’re a pretty good runner.
For many of us, the real satisfaction in running comes not from being faster than others, but from beating our own personal bests.
Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, especially if you’re running your first marathon. Once you’ve ran your first marathon, you’ll know how to nail your marathon preparation process, what to expect on race day and – of course – you’ll have a time to beat!
Which factors influence the average marathon pace?
That being said, there are a few things that can impact your marathon time. Some of these are things that are within your control (like your choice of race) and others you can do nothing about (like your age).
- Age: As we saw above, your age can have an impact on your marathon average pace. Runners aged between 30 and 50 tend to run faster marathon times, while those younger than 30 and older than 50 tend to run slightly slower. But there’s nothing you can do about your age, so just focus on choosing the right training plan to ensure you’re preparing as well as you possibly can.
- Experience: If this is your first marathon, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to smash it out of the park, time-wise. Most people improve their marathon times as they do more marathons and learn from the experience.
- Training: Your training also has a lot to answer for. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail, as the old saying goes!
- Course and terrain: Flat routes are much more likely to produce fast and good marathon times than hilly or off-road courses. If you’re looking for a PB, then choose your race wisely!
- Weather: Too hot. Too cold. Too windy. Too rainy. The weather can have a surprisingly big effect on how fast you run, so be sure to check out what the weather is typically like when signing up for a race.
- Cadence: Your running cadence may have an impact on how fast you can get through 42.2 kilometres. Cadence isn’t the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to fast running, but typically, faster runners do have a higher cadence.
- Fuelling: Taking on adequate fuel is important when you’re running long distances. If you don’t get your nutrition quite right, it could have a big impact on your marathon times.
How to estimate your marathon finishing time
It’s all very well knowing about average times and good times running a marathon – but how do you work out what time you should be aiming for?
There are lots of calculators out there that can help you to work out what time you could run a marathon, based on your time from a previous race, like a half marathon, and how many miles you run per week.
Alternatively, you could take a recent half marathon time, and add time to it in order to work out a realistic marathon pace. Most coaches suggest adding 20-25 seconds per 1600 meters to your half marathon time to estimate your goal marathon pace. So, if you ran a half marathon in exactly two hours, that means you were running 5'43 minutes per kilometre. Add 20 seconds to that, and you’re aiming to run 5'56 minutes per kilometre, which gives you a marathon time of 4:08:54.
Adding around 10 minutes to your half marathon time is also usually a pretty good estimate. So if you ran a 1:50 half marathon, it’d be reasonable to aim for a 4 hour marathon finish.
If you have a goal in mind – like you really want to run a sub-4 hour marathon – but you’re not sure what pace you need to hit, you can use our marathon pace chart. It shows what pace you need to run in order to smash your goal time.
So there you have it – everything you need to know about marathon times. If you’re training for your first marathon, fiftieth marathon, or are just getting into running, you’ll discover all the tips, advice and inspiration you need on our Run Happy Blog.