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Average Marathon Finish Times

Amanda Wendorff

Once you've started training for a marathon (26.2 miles, or 42 kilometers) running race, it's natural to start thinking about your goal finish time. A helpful way to begin setting a goal is to look at average marathon times for runners whose background and experience match your own.

In this article, you will find answers to the following questions:

  • What's the average marathon time?
  • What's a good marathon time for a beginner?
  • What are good marathon times by age or gender?
  • What's the world record marathon time?
  • What's a fast marathon time for elite runners?
  • How can you improve your marathon time?
MOTTIV app user Zsuzsanna Griffin celebrates with her medal after completing her race!

What is the Average Marathon Finish Time?

It isn't easy to determine the precise average time it takes to run a marathon among all runners and walkers who complete the distance worldwide. However, because millions of runners complete this popular race distance every year, we can make some conclusions by looking at an overview of race results and times across hundreds of marathons.

According to Running Level, the average marathon finishing time for an athlete running (as opposed to walking) a marathon across all ages and genders is 3 hours, 48 minutes, and 20 seconds.

Average Time to Finish a Marathon By Age and Gender

If you'd like to get even more specific, you can take a look at the typical marathon finish times based on age and gender by using our handy calculator below.

Just enter your gender and age, and you'll see the average time for your demographic and the benchmark times we'd expect for beginner and elite runners.

Average Women's Marathon Times By Age

By using this calculator, we can determine the average marathon time for women, as divided into age groups. Here are a couple of examples:

  • For a 40-year-old woman, the average marathon finish time is 4 hours, 14 minutes, 12 seconds, which equates to a running pace of:
    • 9 minutes, 42 seconds per mile, or
    • 6 minutes, 1 second per kilometer
  • An average marathon time for a 65-year-old woman is 5 hours, 44 minutes, 01 seconds, which equates to a running pace of:
    • 13 minutes, 7 seconds per mile, or
    • 8 minutes, 9 seconds per kilometer

Average Time to Run a Marathon for Men

Similarly, using the calculator above, we can determine, based on age, how long the average marathon finish time is for men.

  • The average men's marathon time for those who are 30 years old is 3 hours, 34 minutes, 56 seconds, which equates to a running pace of:
    • 8 minutes, 12 seconds per mile, or
    • 5 minutes, 5 seconds per kilometer
  • For men who are 70 years old, the average finishing time is 4 hours, 51 minutes, 47 seconds, which equates to a running pace of:
    • 11 minutes, 8 seconds per mile, or
    • 6 minutes, 55 seconds per kilometer

For both men and women, keep in mind that this calculator simply gives a hypothetical average runner. It looks at data for all finishers of many marathons and takes the average result, regardless of running level. Your actual race time will depend on many variables, including your distance running experience, fitness level, training program, genetics, weather, course profile, and even your running shoes. If you're running slower times than the calculator shows, do not despair—these are very simplified numbers.

What's a Good Marathon Pace For a Beginner?

While we've determined the average marathon run times for various groups of runners, it's important to remember that those averages include the race times of many experienced marathon runners. But what about a beginner runner? What would be a good first marathon result?

Here at MOTTIV, we believe that with the proper training and no significant physical limitations, a very good marathon goal time for a beginner runner would be under 4 hours and 30 minutes. To break that 4:30 barrier, your goal race paces would be:

  • Faster than 10 minutes, 18 seconds per mile running pace OR
  • Faster than 6 minutes, 24 seconds per kilometer

Now, if you're a beginning runner but have experience in other endurance sports or sports that involve a lot of running, like soccer, we'd set the goals a bit higher. For an experienced runner preparing for their first marathon, assuming you follow a well-designed training plan, anything under 4 hours would be an excellent time to run a marathon.

If you are hoping to reach the finish line in under four hours, your average pace per mile would need to be:

  • Faster than 9 minutes, 10 seconds per mile OR
  • Faster than 5 minutes, 42 seconds per kilometer

We base these goal times on the assumption that you'll run at least three times a week following a well-designed training program over several weeks or even months and are starting from a good place of fitness. If you'd like to know how long it takes to train, check out this calculator, which tells you the number of weeks you should plan to devote to a marathon training plan based on your background and goals.

Remember as well that these are very general suggestions as to what a good marathon time might be. A good time for a marathon for you might vary from these numbers quite a bit, depending on your age, how much you've run in the recent past, the course you select, the weather, and much more.

The Fastest Marathon Times

Having learned the average times for a marathon race among all runners and good time goals for beginner runners, let's turn our attention to the fastest marathon times: the world records.

Marathon World Record Times

Elite times for the marathon are mind-boggling -- the fastest professional runners out there can cover 26.2 miles in around two hours. That's less than 5 minutes per mile!

If you want to get a sense of exactly how fast the fastest runners are, here are the current men's and women's records for the marathon.

  • The current men's marathon world record, set by Kelvin Kiptum of Kenya on October 8, 2023, is 2 hours, 35 seconds. He set this record in Chicago, Illinois, USA, at the Chicago Marathon.
  • The current world record for women is held by Tigst Assefa of Ethiopia, who ran a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes, and 53 seconds at the Berlin Marathon on September 24, 2023.

Marathon Run Times for Local Elite Runners

For male local elite runners, such as those trying to qualify for their country's Olympic Trials races, a good marathon time is in the 2 hours and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes range. Of course, many professional runners may be faster than that.

Local elite female runners will likely be able to finish a marathon in 2 hours and 35 minutes to 2 hours and 50 minutes.

What Does it Take to Qualify for the Boston Marathon?

Among the major marathons around the world, none is as well-known as the Boston Marathon, which takes place every April.

Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a big challenge and a major accomplishment. For many runners, it may take multiple marathons over several years to hit a qualifying time. However, most will say that the sense of achievement they feel by participating in that legendary event is worth the effort.

You can find the Boston Marathon qualifying times here. To give you an idea of the types of marathon times that are required, here are a few examples:

  • The qualifying time for men in the 18- to 34-age group is 3 hours. The qualifying time for men in the 50- to 54-age group is a bit slower but still very fast: three hours and 25 minutes.
  • The women's qualifying time for the 18 to 34 age group is 3 hours, 30 minutes. For women between 45 and 49, the time is 3 hours, 50 minutes.

As you can see, it takes a lot of speed to qualify for Boston! But allow your body the time it needs to develop speed and endurance, work hard to maximize your training, and just keep showing up. You may find yourself on the start line someday.

How to Improve Your Marathon Time

Many beginner runners enjoy the process of training for and finishing their first marathon so much that they soon decide to enter more races with the hope of improving their finish time with a new personal best. Although for many new runners, a faster pace will come from simply running more miles, there are some ways you can structure your training to maximize its benefit and improve your running speed.

If you're looking for tips to run faster on race day, first make sure that your training program includes all of these essential pieces:

  • Long, low-intensity runs. The foundation of any endurance running event's training is plenty of easy running, including a weekly low-intensity long run. Long, slow distance has numerous physiological benefits, including teaching the body to become more metabolically efficient, increasing the mitochondrial density in the cells, and improving the durability of the muscles.
  • Speed runs. To improve running speed, you should also include some interval and tempo runs. Interval runs typically include multiple repeats of shorter distances at faster speeds, with periods of walking or very easy running in between. For example, an interval workout may be six repeats of 400-meter runs at your 10k pace, with short recoveries of 200 meters of walking or jogging. Tempo runs, which are great marathon-specific sessions, are longer intervals at a slower average pace than interval runs. An example would be 45 minutes completed at your marathon goal pace.
  • Proper training zones. To effectively incorporate speed runs, long, slow runs, and other workouts in your marathon plan, you need to know how fast or hard to run. You can do this by creating training zones based on your heart rate and then using those zones to guide the intensity of your training. You can read our suggested method for creating individualized heart rate zones.
  • Strength training. In addition to your running, basic strength training is crucial for preparing the body for the physical exertion of training for and racing a marathon and preventing injury.

The best way to ensure you incorporate all of these important features is to find a reliable marathon training program. A good training program will include all of these sessions (as well as rest days), lay them out logically to maximize their benefits, and progressively increase the training load and mileage to reduce the risk of overuse injuries and keep you healthy.

You can find excellent marathon training programs in the MOTTIV training app.

For more tips on improving your marathon time, read this article.


Having a good goal for your marathon is a great way to motivate yourself through your training and preparation. This article has shown you the following:

  • The average marathon run times for the overall population, as well as the average times we may expect for an individual, taking into account age, gender, and athletic background:
  • Just how fast the world's best runners can cover the marathon distance
  • Some tips to improve your marathon run time

Now that you've got a good sense of some reasonable goals, it's time to get running!

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Amanda Wendorff

| Author

Amanda Wendorff is a professional triathlete, focusing on the 70.3 and 140.6 Ironman distances. In the last several years she’s competed in multiple gravel bike races. Top Achievements: Top 3 Ironman Ireland and Ironman 70.3 Coquimbo, Multiple time top-5 finisher, 3rd Overall at Moran 166 Gravel Race in Michigan, Age group podium at Gravel Worlds, Big Sugar, and Ned Gravel in first year of gravel racing.

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