How Many Laps is a Marathon: Understanding Race Distances & Laps


Marathons have gained popularity over the years, with many people pushing their physical limits to complete these long-distance races. But how many laps is a marathon exactly? Understanding the ins and outs of marathon laps may encourage and motivate you in your marathon journey. 

Throughout this article, you’ll learn the history, standardization, and terminology to excel in your marathon conquests.

Marathon History and Standardization

run of Pheidippides

The initial marathon distance was based on the legendary run of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier who ran from Marathon to Athens to announce the victory over the Persian army in 490 BC. However, the modern marathon distance of 42.195 km (26.2 miles) was standardized after the 1908 London Olympics when the race distance was adjusted to accommodate the royal family’s viewing preferences.

Popularity of Marathons

With over a thousand organized marathons across the globe, these races have increasingly become prominent as both professional athletes and casual runners participate. From the most prestigious events like the Boston and Chicago Marathons to the scenic off-road races, there is a marathon for every type of runner.

Understanding Marathon Distance

2 mens running in marathon

A marathon covers a set distance, measured in both kilometers and miles:

In Kilometers: 42.195 km

The standardized marathon distance is 42.195 kilometers, a measurement introduced during the 1908 London Olympic Games. Commonly rounded down to 42 kilometers for simplicity, this distance remains consistent across all marathons.

In Miles: 26.2 miles

Marathons are also measured in miles, which is an equally important distance marker. Thus, a marathon is 26.2 miles long.

Marathon Distance in Laps

Breaking down marathon distance into laps varies depending on the track size.

On a 400m Track

A standard track is 400 meters long. To run a marathon on a 400m track, you would need to complete 105.5 laps. The additional 195 meters, known as the “marathon bend,” would need adjustments to precisely equal the full marathon distance.

On a High School Track

High school tracks usually vary in length depending on the school but are commonly between 300-400 meters. If a high school track is, for instance, 350 meters long, an athlete would need to run around 120.56 laps to complete a marathon.

Other Related Race Distances

In addition to marathons, there are several other popular race distances that runners of all levels may enjoy, including:


A 5K race equals 3.1 miles or 5000 meters. This distance is an excellent starting point for novice runners or those looking for a shorter, challenging race.


A 10K race is 6.2 miles or 10,000 meters long. Representing double the 5K distance, this race offers intermediate runners an excellent challenge.

Half Marathon

A half marathon covers half the distance of a full marathon, equating to 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers. These races offer a manageable challenge for those looking to transition from shorter distances to full marathons half marathon distance.


An ultramarathon is any race that exceeds the standard marathon distance of 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles). These races can range from 50 kilometers to several hundred kilometers or miles and are popular among long-distance running enthusiasts.

Preparing for a Marathon

group of men in marathon

Training for a marathon requires time, dedication, and the right strategy. From developing a training plan to ensuring proper nutrition and hydration, here’s what you need to know:

Training Strategies

Effective marathon training usually spans 16-20 weeks, incorporating a mix of base mileage, long runs, speed work, and recovery days. Runners should follow a progressive plan that gradually increases mileage and intensity before tapering down in the final weeks leading up to the race. A well-designed plan will help prevent injury and enhance performance on race day marathon training.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid common marathon training mistakes such as increasing mileage too quickly, insufficient recovery, and neglecting strength training. These mistakes can lead to injury and hinder progress.

Nutrition and Hydration

Proper fueling is essential for marathon training. Consuming a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrates, proteins, and fats will support energy levels and muscle recovery. Staying hydrated and employing additional energy gels or chews during long runs will also enhance performance.

Comparing Distances in Kilometers and Miles

Race DistanceIn KilometersIn Miles
Marathon42.195 km26.2 miles
Half Marathon21.1 km13.1 miles
10K10 km6.2 miles
5K5 km3.1 miles

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to train for a marathon?

Training for a marathon typically takes 16-20 weeks. However, the duration can vary based on a runner’s fitness level, experience, and goals.

What’s the difference between a marathon, half marathon, and ultramarathon?

A marathon covers a distance of 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles). A half marathon is half that distance, 21.1 kilometers (13.1 miles). An ultramarathon is any race that exceeds the standard marathon distance marathon variations.

How many laps is a half marathon?

A half marathon on a standard 400m track would require 52.75 laps to complete the 21.1-kilometer distance.

How do I train for different types of marathons?

Training for varying types of marathons depends on the specific race distance, terrain, and personal running goals. Training plans should be tailored to address these factors and individual needs marathon vs half marathon.

Are there any important rules and regulations regarding marathon laps?

Each marathon has specific rules and regulations that athletes must adhere to. For track-based marathons, there might be guidelines for counting laps, the exchange zone, and pacing.


Understanding how many laps a marathon entails and learning about related race distances is crucial for novice and seasoned runners alike. By grasping the marathon’s historical significance and preparing with proper training, nutrition, and hydration practices, athletes can conquer the challenging distance of 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles) and achieve their marathon goals.