Understanding the Average Speed of a Marathon Runner

The importance of understanding average speed in marathons is crucial for runners to set realistic goals and enhance their performance. This article explores the average speed of a marathon runner, delves into the factors that impact their speed, and provides strategies to boost your marathon running pace.

The Basics of Marathon Speed

Different marathon distances and their impact on speed play a significant role in how runners prepare for and perform in races. The terrain and weather also have noteworthy effects on a marathon runner’s speed.

Different Marathon Distances

The term “marathon” usually refers to races around 26.2 miles in length, but there are other types of marathons, such as half marathons (13.1 miles) and ultramarathons (100 miles or more). These different distances impact how a runner paces themselves, as well as the average speed for each type of race. To learn more about race pace comparisons, consider comparing race speeds to understand the differences between marathon and half marathon performances.

The Impact of Terrain and Weather on Average Speed

The terrain and weather conditions during a marathon can considerably influence a runner’s pace. Factors like elevation, surface type, temperature, humidity, and wind can all affect performance. Runners often need to adjust their expectations and strategies depending on these external factors, as their average speed may differ from race to race.

Average Speed for Different Skill Levels


Different skill levels, from beginner to elite marathon runners, will have varying capabilities in terms of marathon speed. Understanding your skill level can help you set goals and tailor your training plan to improve your pace.

Beginner Marathon Runners

For those new to distance running or participating in their first marathon, the average speed typically ranges from 11 to 15 minutes per mile. New runners are advised to focus on consistent pacing and building endurance. To aid in this process, consider beginner pacing tips specifically designed for new marathon runners.

Intermediate Marathon Runners

Intermediate marathon runners, who may have participated in multiple marathons, can aim for an average pace of 8 to 11 minutes per mile. This skill level sees a lot of improvement with consistent training, including focused speed workouts and quality long runs.

Advanced Marathon Runners

Advanced marathon runners can average speeds of 6 to 8 minutes per mile, with significant experience and rigorous training under their belts. These athletes rely on tailored training plans, dedicated support teams, and advanced strategies to optimize their performance, often aiming for personal bests or qualifying times for major races.

Elite Marathon Runners

Elite marathon runners showcase exceptional speed and performance, with men averaging around 2:05:00 and women running close to 2:22:00 for a marathon. These times translate to average speeds of around 4.5 to 5 minutes per mile. This level of performance requires an immense amount of dedication, talent, and hard work.

Comparing Male and Female Marathon Runners

There are differences in average speeds between male and female marathon runners, though both genders have achieved impressive performances in races worldwide.

Differences in Average Speeds

On average, male marathon runners’ speeds range from 6.43 minutes per kilometer and up, while female runners may take around 7 minutes per kilometer. Various biological factors contribute to these differences, such as muscle mass, hormone levels, and metabolic efficiency.

Top Performances from Both Genders

Elite male and female marathon runners continuously push the limits of human endurance and speed. Their accomplishments inspire runners everywhere to strive for personal improvement, regardless of their skill level or gender.

World Record Marathon Speeds

Examining historical trends in marathon records and current world record holders can offer insights into average marathon speeds and how they have evolved over time.

Historical Trends in Marathon Records

Marathon world records have continuously improved due to advancements in training, nutrition, running gear, and race organizing. These developments have contributed to increased average speeds for marathon runners, featuring more impressive personal bests and world records.

Current World Record Holders

The current men’s marathon world record holder is Eliud Kipchoge, with a time of 2:01:39 set in 2018. The women’s world record is held by Brigid Kosgei, who completed a marathon in 2:14:04 in 2019. These times are a testament to human potential and the power of dedicated training and passion for the sport.

Marathon Running Apps and Tracking Speed

Technology plays a vital role in tracking pace and progress for marathon runners. Popular running apps can provide valuable insights into how a runner’s speed compares to the average marathoner in their demographic.

Role of Technology in Tracking Pace

Modern technology helps marathon runners track their progress, analyze their performance, and adjust their training plans. Devices such as GPS watches, heart rate monitors, and even smartphones are commonly used to monitor distance, pace, and other essential metrics.

Popular Running Apps and Their Insights

Running apps like Strava enable runners to gather data and insights on their performance. For example, the average mile pace for runners using Strava’s app in 2018 was 9:48, with a 10:40 average. This information can help runners contextualize their own pace and come to a better understanding of their time to complete a marathon.

Strategies to Improve Marathon Speed

Improving marathon speed requires a holistic approach that incorporates training plans, rest and recovery, and proper nutrition and hydration.

Training Plans and Techniques

To improve marathon speed, athletes should follow a well-structured training plan that includes a variety of workout types such as long runs, interval training, and hill workouts. These varied workouts challenge the body, promote adaptations, and ultimately lead to an increase in speed and endurance.

Rest and Recovery

Sufficient rest and recovery are essential in preventing injury and allowing the body to repair itself. Marathon runners should schedule rest days and lighter workout weeks to avoid overtraining and maintain progress and motivation in their training.

Nutrition and Hydration

Fueling the body properly is vital for optimal performance. Marathon runners should focus on consuming a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats to support their energy needs. In addition, staying hydrated and properly fueling during training runs and races is crucial for maintaining speed and preventing fatigue.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I calculate my average marathon speed?

Your average marathon speed can be calculated by dividing the total distance (26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers) by your finish time in hours. This will give you miles per hour or kilometers per hour, depending on your preferred unit of measurement.

Is there an ideal marathon speed?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all “ideal” marathon speed, as every runner’s goals and abilities are unique. It’s essential to focus on your personal improvement, set realistic goals, and adjust your training accordingly to enhance your performance.

How can I improve my marathon speed?

Improving your marathon speed requires a combination of consistent training, proper rest and recovery, and good nutrition and hydration practices. Additionally, consider seeking advice from experienced runners or hiring a running coach to help you develop a tailored training plan.


Understanding the average speed of a marathon runner and factors that influence their performance is critical for setting goals and optimizing your marathon experience.

 By taking into account individual skill levels, differences between male and female runners, and the role of technology and strategy in improving speed, you can set realistic targets and structure a training plan aligned with your goals. Embrace the marathon journey and continually strive for personal improvement by exploring untrained race pace and adjusting your training methods as needed.