There’s a joke that goes “How do you know if someone has run a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”
Sarcasm aside, it’s kind of true. Most runners, no matter the distance, want to share their love of the sport with everyone. Considering the amount of time a marathon runner invests in their training and preparing for race day, it’s no wonder. Sometimes it annoys people, and other times it inspires them.
Whether you’re annoyed or inspired, you likely have questions. How long is a marathon? What’s the marathon distance in miles? How many kilometers is a marathon? How long does it take someone to run a marathon?
Great questions. We have answers.
If you find yourself in the inspired group but you aren’t even sure how many miles are in a marathon or how you’d go about finding the right one for you, we’ve got you covered.
Learn about why the marathon is the exact distance it is and the different types of marathon races out there. We’ll point out some considerations before you decide to train for one, too.
If you’ve gotten into the world of running, you’ve possibly heard the story of how the marathon race came to be. If not, then here’s your ( super short) history lesson.
The marathon distance comes from ancient Greece. The story goes that a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, ran from the city of Marathon to the capital of Athens to declare a battle victory over the Persians. After covering the approximately 25-mile distance, Pheidippides shouted “Niki!” (victory!), then promptly fell over dead. Talk about making an entrance.
In 1896, the founders of the modern Olympics were searching for an event that would celebrate the ancient Greek culture. They landed on the idea of a marathon run. It would be held in Athens and cover 40 kilometers, or just under 25 miles. From that first event until 1908, the marathon distance varied slightly each year as the location changed. In 1921, the distance was officially standardized to 42.1 kilometers, or 26.2 miles, and hasn’t changed since.
In short, the answer to your question of how many miles (or kilometers) are in a full marathon:
If you’ve seen pictures of a marathon, chances are it was one of packed streets and runners elbow to elbow. While this is a common race scene, it’s not the only one. No matter what type of runner you are, you’re sure to find a marathon in the location, size, and time of year that you’re looking for.
Here are some common classifications of marathon races:
As you can see, there is a race for every runner. It’s probably fair to say that you can find a marathon race in every large city, or at least within a short drive.
But if your marathon dreams are bigger than your local scene, there’s a race series called the World Marathon Majors that is worthy of anyone’s bucket list. The series is consists of six of the biggest and most highly regarded marathons in the world, including:
Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City
Some of those races are particularly interesting, such as the Boston Marathon. This race is considered to be one of the most prestigious in the United States. Elite runners come here to shine and put on the speed, and regular runners step up the starting line to challenge themselves and set personal speed records. Even our very own Coach Morgan has a story to share about her road to Boston:
Other races, such as the Berlin Marathon, have courses that travel past culturally and historically significant locations. That can be great motivation not only through the weeks of your marathon training plan, but also on race day. Having spectated the Athens Marathon, I can say that there’s a special feeling when you’re at a race with historical significance, even if it’s not on the list for the Marathon Majors.
If you’re feeling inspired to become a marathoner, here are a few points to keep in mind before diving in:
Some runners live and breathe for the marathon distance. But it’s not the only race distance out there! From a speedy 5k to a multi-day 200-mile trek, there are plenty of other distances to check out.
By far one of the most popular race distances in the United States, the 5k is a doable race for any fitness level. From chasing speed records to having fun at a themed race, a 5k is a great way to get familiar with lining up at the starting line.
Though the 10k distance doesn’t get as much attention as the other race distances, this is a great opportunity to test your endurance. This is also usually the shortest distance you can find on a trail course, so you can see if off-roading is right for you.
Another popular distance, the half marathon is perfect to try out a longer distance without committing to a full marathon training program. Just like the 5k, there is a half marathon to suit every runner—beachside, through a vineyard, up a mountain, and more!
This umbrella category is for any race over the standard full marathon 26.2. Just how many miles you would run depends on which ultra you choose.
Just like the types of marathons, the types of races out there are diverse!
You already know the distance, so you’re probably curious about the timing. Well, it depends. Eliud Kipchoge broke the 2-hour marathon barrier in 2019, but he’s an anomaly. You’ll typically find competitive marathon runners finishing slightly above the 2-hour mark.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, sometimes it takes participants as long as 8 hours to complete a marathon—and that’s totally fine. Everyone is out there to run their own race, and you can set your own goals for what you want to accomplish.
Think the full marathon distance is too much to tackle? Start small. Consider completing a 10K or half marathon before committing to the marathon.
Now you know how many miles are in a marathon and how long a marathon is—it’s time to do something about it. The full marathon distance is there for you to conquer. You just need to set a goal and make it happen.
Lots to think about, right? Well, what if I told you that all of the planning and work had already been taken care of in our mobile app? I mean, you still have to work hard in your training, but we’ve got a full 16-week marathon training program ready for you.
Let us be your virtual running coach. Weekly mileage, strength training sessions, and mobility drills will set you up with balanced and effective training. You’ll also get an active online community with our coaches and other members, so you’re sure to find the support you need through your training. Maybe you’ll even see another member at a future marathon race!