How Long is a Marathon? Why the Marathon is 26.2 Miles
If you are an experienced runner it’s easy to sometimes forget that not everyone is up on the lingo of running. Often when runners talk about a marathon coming up, most people know it’s long-distance but don’t know how long a marathon is or how many miles it actually is.
Like most other sports, if you are not familiar with it, the distance means nothing. You could be talking about a recent 5k or a past 10k or half marathon. Either way to the non-runner all they know is that the distance is far.
So, how long is a Marathon? The full distance of the even is 26.2 miles long. Which equates to 42.2 kilometers. Depending on where you complete it, it will be either measured in miles or kilometers.
To give you an idea of how long a marathon is, you would need to run around a standard 400m running track 105.5 times to reach the 42.2k distance.
Or if you are a football fan, you would need to run the length of the field 17.6 times. And that’s just to reach a mile. So to get the full distance of the marathon, you would need to run the length of the football field 461 times.
Seem’s like a long way doesn’t it? Well, that is why less than 1% of the population have completed one.
If you are still a little confused by the distance, the actual distance measures out at 26 miles 385 yards or 42.195 kilometers. Typically most people just round it to 42k or 26.2 miles, as it seems to roll easier of the tongue.
Because the distance of the Marathon is so long, it has become a goal of many beginner runners around the world.
Why the Marathon is 26.2 Miles
Often people ask the question – Why is the marathon 26.2 miles and not 26 miles? Well, it all starts with Phidippides, a Greek messenger. It has been said that he ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver a message about a recent battle victory. Rumour has it that he collapsed to death after reaching Athens. However, we are not 100% sure how true this story is.
From this story, we know that the Marathon comes from a part of that story. And during the first Olympic games held in Athens, Greece imitated Phidippides run (40 km which is about 1.5 miles less than the full distance today). Oddly enough, that distance was the same as the first Boston Marathon.
It wasn’t until 1908 at the London Olympics that the distance was moved to 26 miles, 385 yards (42.195k). According to the New York Times the reason for the change in the distance was mainly because they wanted the Marathon to begin at Windsor Castle and end at the Olympic Stadium, thus making the route more spectator-friendly and easier viewed by the Queen.
After the London Olympic Games in 1908, the distance ended up sticking and the 26.22-mile (42.2 km) distance became official in Paris, at the 1924 Games.
How Long Does it take to Run a Marathon?
Usually, once the non-runner finds out how long a marathon is, they often ask how long does it take to run a marathon.
The truth is, the time it takes someone to complete a marathon varies a lot. However, in general, most people take between 4 and 5 hours to run a marathon. With the average time to finish a marathon being around 4 hours 21 minutes.
The slower runners tend to take 5-6 hours, while the faster runners usually run below 2 hours 10 minutes. With the fastest marathon time recorded by Eliud Kipchoge, who ran 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon in 2018.
Then you have the Olympic Marathon record of 2:06:32, which was set in 2008 by Samuel Kamau Wanjiru of Kenya.
According to Marastats and their statistics. The average age of the male marathon finisher is 40 years old. And their average time is around 4:10:10. Whereas the average age of the female marathon runner is 36 and their average finishing time of a marathon is 4:39:09. But in general, many of the runners will take over 5 hours to complete the 26.2-mile distance.
Since the marathon is such a long distance the average finishing times vary based on the difficulty of the course. Many people like to walk the marathon distance instead of running it. For these people, walking typically takes around 7 hours to complete. That is based of a 16-minute mile pace.
Running faster over the distance requires the quality of the training. The structure and volume are important as well as the intensity. If you are looking for a customized training plan to help you set a new personal best of the marathon distance, check out our marathon training plans here.
How long is a half marathon? As the question implies, a half marathon is exactly half the length of a marathon. That means the actual distance of a half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21.1km.
How long is an ultramarathon? Unlike a full marathon, there is no fixed length for an Ultramarathon event. However, typically anything longer than a marathon carries the title of an ultramarathon event. Some more common distances though are 50k, 80k, 100k, and 50 miles. You also see more and more 100mile (160k) events popping up on the calendar now.
How long does it take to train for a marathon? On average most runners take between 16 and 22 weeks to prepare for a marathon. This duration allows for adequate periods of mileage, speed work, and recovery up to the event.
How long should your longest run be when you train for a marathon? Everyone is different. While some people thrive off doing long runs, others need to keep the long run short. But in general, the longest run you need to do to complete a marathon is around 20 to 22 miles.
How long does it take to go from couch to marathon? To complete the full couch to marathon plan you should expect to take around 6 months if you are an active person.
Will I lose weight if I train for a marathon? In general, most beginners and intermediate runners training for a marathon lose weight. While the more experienced runners tend to shed less weight than their counterparts, as they have less fat and muscle mass to lose.
Can I run a marathon without training? While it is 100% possible, it is not recommended. Running a marathon without training can cause muscle strains, fractures, and long-term damage to joints and tendons.
What is the hardest part of running a marathon? The hardest part of the marathon is between miles 18 and 23. Although it’s not always the case for every runner, most runners, however, do fade during those miles of a marathon.