If you’re an avid runner and enjoy competing in races, you might set your sights on running the 26.2 miles of a marathon.

Training for and running a marathon is a notable achievement. Be pleased with your performance regardless of your time.

However, it’s natural to want to know the average times to see how you stack up against other runners.

You can use marathon averages to see where you fit in or get a feel for where you want to be based on your age, sex, and fitness level.

Across the board, most people finish a marathon in 4 to 5 hours, with an average mile time of 9 to 11.5 minutes.

A finishing time that’s under 4 hours is a real accomplishment for everyone other than elite runners, who can finish in around 2 hours. Many participants take their time and walk portions of the race, finishing in 6 to 7 hours.

Training for a marathon is something you can feel positive about no matter what the clock says. Along with boosting your fitness levels and overall health, you may develop determination, self-discipline, and confidence, which can extend into other areas of your life.

Read on to learn more about your expected finishing time for a marathon as well as training tips.

If you finish a marathon in under 5 hours, you’ve done well. Most men finish a marathon in under 4.5 hours. Most women finish in just under 5 hours. If your time is around this mark, be satisfied with your results.

You can compare your goal or actual marathon time to the averages for your age and sex. Your fitness level will also contribute to your time, along with race-day considerations, such as weather and overall health.

Use the chart below to see how your time compares to other people in your category. The data was compiled from 21,000 marathon runners who competed in 2010.

Marathon time by age and sex

0–15 4:53:53 6:04:11
16–19 4:16:19 4:50:23
20–24 4:01:55 4:28:59
25–29 4:06:43 4:27:14
30–34 4:07:35 4:28:07
35–39 4:10:39 4:33:47
40–44 4:09:36 4:34:13
45–49 4:11:32 4:39:02
50–54 4:19:49 4:55:37
55–59 4:31:10 5:00:52
60–64 4:53:26 5:12:26
65–99 5:06:59 5:20:57

If you’re a beginner, aim to run a minimum of 12 to 15 miles per week for at least 6 months before you begin your marathon training program.

While it’s natural to want to progress, it’s important to take a slow, steady approach to avoid injury and burnout.

At a speed of 12 to 15 minutes per mile, beginners can expect to finish a marathon in around 5 to 6.5 hours.

Determine an appropriate pace so you’re able to maintain that speed for the entire 26.2 miles.

Once you establish your goal time, figure out an average mile time to set an appropriate pace. Most marathon runners finish a mile every 10 minutes. The average mile time for men is between 9 and 11 minutes. Women average a mile every 10 to 12 minutes.

Slow down your pace on most training days. You can add on 30 seconds to 2 minutes per mile. On any given day, your pace may depend on your energy and stress levels, the weather, and the terrain.

Other issues that may pop up include joint pain, headaches, and digestive issues. Take all of these into consideration, and adjust your speed accordingly.

While marathons are more about stamina than speed, there are a few ways to improve your pace.

Vary your workouts

Preparation is the most important part of a marathon. It involves more than simply running long distances.

In addition to following a marathon training plan, include moderate aerobic activities, such as water aerobics, cycling, and brisk walking.

Develop strength and power

Build muscular strength with weightlifting, resistance band exercises, and bodyweight training.

To increase your flexibility, add in some gentle stretching, yoga, or tai chi. Aerobic exercises that build strength include circuit training, dancing, and martial arts.

Take note of progress

Record your activity in a journal to keep track of your improvement. Include daily notes, and record your running times every 6 weeks. Adjust your goals accordingly.

If it’s possible, get feedback from your doctor, personal trainer, or friend in the know.

Run for endurance

To build endurance, include one longer run each week. Have a recovery week every so often with a run that’s a few miles shorter than your longest run. Include at least one full day of rest each week to allow your body to recover.

Find a group

Talk to friends or search online for a running group, or create your own. Get together for a running session at least once per week. This builds motivation and camaraderie. Plus, you can share tips and feedback.

Incorporate mindfulness and relaxation

Learn to be more mindful and relaxed in all of your activities. Make techniques such as progressive muscular relaxation, yoga nidra, and centering meditation a part of your daily schedule. Allow for plenty of sleep each night.

Take time to have a massage, get acupuncture, or simply take a relaxing bath. These habits may help you release muscle tension and lower your heart and breathing rate, which can improve your overall performance.

Have a healthy body weight and eat well

If you need to lose weight, now is the time. Less weight makes it easier for you to carry your body as you run. Plus, you’ll have higher energy levels and feel better overall.

Stay hydrated. Include fresh vegetables, fruit, and healthy fats in your diet. Eat complex carbs and lean protein. Limit or completely ditch processed, sugary foods.

If you’re looking for specific workouts to help you train for a marathon, check these out:

Train for speed

Use high-intensity training techniques to boost your performance. Do speed training a maximum of once per week, since these types of workouts have the potential to cause injury.

Talk to your doctor before starting any speed workouts if you’re new to running or have any health concerns.

Interval training

A sample interval workout consists of a warmup jog for 10 minutes, followed by 2 to 5 minutes of high-intensity running.

Follow this with an equal time of low- to moderate-intensity running. Repeat this interval 4 to 6 times, followed by a 10-minute cooldown.

Tabata training

This high-intensity workout alternates between 20-second bursts of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat for a minimum of 8 rounds.

Tempo training

This is a less intense option that’s ideal for beginners.

Run at a tempo pace, which is a bit slower than your race pace, for a few minutes. Then run at an easy pace for the same amount of time.

Repeat several times, gradually increasing the time of each tempo pace cycle to at least 20 minutes.

Hill runs

Train using hills that have the same length and incline as those in the racecourse. Run as hard as you can while going up hills, and slowly jog back down.

Running hills in your training will build speed, develop lower body strength, and boost cardiorespiratory endurance.

Track your steps

Improve your stride frequency to build speed. Use a pedometer or stride tracking device to increase your steps per minute, or consider a fitness app.

If you’re new to fitness or have any medical concerns, talk to your doctor before starting to train for a marathon. Allow yourself at least 12 weeks to train. Give yourself more time when possible.

Work hard and push yourself to your full potential while respecting your limitations. Adjust your goals and training schedule if you feel you need to alter the intensity.

Avoid burnout by giving yourself one full day of rest each week. Believe in yourself, and enjoy preparing for the marathon as much as the race itself.