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How Long Is a Marathon & Other Interesting Facts

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The word “marathon” is often used for any long-lasting activity, but it primarily denotes a long-distance race. In fact, the standard marathon involves a very specific distance that has to do with ancient Greece.

Sounds interesting? Keep scrolling to learn about the origins of the marathon, important records, and more!

How Long Is a Marathon?

(HISTORY, 2014)

As of 1921, the Olympic marathon is 26.2 miles (42,195 meters) long, inspired by the legend of an ancient Greek messenger who ran from the plains of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. He announced a Greek victory in a crucial battle against Persians, collapsed, and died.

Exciting Facts and Stats About Marathons

Now that you know the key element regarding the length of a marathon let’s look at some additional info you might find interesting.

A half marathon is 13.1094 miles or 21.0975 kilometers.

(Marathon Handbook, 2021)

This piece of information is evident once you know the standard length, but we did the math, so you don’t have to. Applying the same logic, a quarter marathon is 6.55475 miles (cca. 10.55 kilometers).

There are also shorter races, like 5K, 10K, and 15K marathons.


“K” stands for kilometer. In miles, that would be 3.1, 6.2, and 9.3 miles, respectively.

Any run longer than 26.2 miles is an ultra-marathon.

(Half Marathon For Beginners, 2021)

For example, that would be a 30K race (18.64 miles), a 50K race (31.07 miles), and a 100K race (62.14 miles). Those distances are very extreme, so people running a 100K marathon can experience hallucinations, hypothermia, and other health-related issues.

Global data show that the average time for a marathon is 4:32:49.

(Marathon Handbook, 2021)

It means an average marathon pace of 9:57 minutes per mile (6:12 minutes per kilometer). In contrast, the world’s longest marathon race took nearly 55 years, and the story is a rather motivating one.

The fastest marathon time ever is 2:01:39, achieved by Eliud Kipchoge.

(Guinness World Records, 2019)

The Kenyan runner set the record in Berlin in 2018, running at approx. 2:53 minutes per kilometer. He thus surpassed the previous record-holder, Dennis Kimetto (a fellow Kenyan), by 1:18 minutes in terms of the total time.

A study shows that women are 18.61% better at marathon pacing compared to men.

(RunRepeat, 2021)

Data covers 1,815,091 results from 131 marathon races from 2008 to 2014. Speaking of gender-based differences, we also know that male marathon runners earn $10,000-$141,667 while female marathon runners earn $1,667-$200,000.


As you can see, running a marathon is no small challenge. To be able to run 26.2 miles in just a couple of hours, most runners need several months to prepare by following a strict training plan. It also takes a few weeks to recover, so we applaud anyone who does it!


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