What is a good marathon time and the average time

What is a good marathon time ? Average time

Running a marathon is already an incredible achievement for many people, even regular runners. The question of timing often comes up: what is a good marathon time?

For many runners, just finishing a marathon is an accomplishment in itself. Every marathoner has a personal reason for embarking on this adventure. Often, it is a challenge: for a birthday, to prove something to oneself, for self-improvement, sometimes after a significant event in their life. However, for some, the goal goes beyond just finishing; it is about achieving a specific time. For these runners, the marathon time becomes an additional motivation, pushing them to fine-tune their marathon preparation and push themselves even further.

Timing is also very personal. Running is a school of humility. There is always someone better than you! We all start with different potentials, and professional and family life sometimes limits our training capacities. A good time is therefore one that is sufficiently ambitious but within reach.

Marathon time statistics

The median marathon time is 4h17, according to a study by the University of Chicago and California, covering 10 million finishers. This means that half of the finishers run their marathon in less than 4h17, and the other half takes longer.

The distribution curve shows that you are more likely to run in 3h59 than in 4h01, thanks to the power of the mind.

P.S.: A personalized training plan can help you run your marathon in 4h15, making you faster than half of the finishers 😉

Average Marathon Times by Country

Another statistical study highlights differences by country. The study shows an average time of 4h29 (4h21 for men and 4h48 for women). The fastest country is Switzerland (3h50), followed by the Netherlands (3h52) and Spain (3h52). In France, the average time is 4h13.

What is a Good Marathon Time?

A good marathon time depends on many factors, including the runner’s experience, age, and race conditions. For an experienced marathoner, a time under 3 hours is often considered excellent, while for an amateur runner, finishing in under 4 hours can already represent a great performance. The key is to set realistic goals and train accordingly to achieve them.

In France, the French Athletics Federation has a points scale that ranks performances. This scale allows comparisons of performances in 100m, 800m, 1500m, 10km, half-marathon, and marathon. There are even equivalences with high jump or javelin throw! Like any scale, it can be subject to discussion.

For men, the levels are:

  • International time: under 2h12
  • National time: under 2h28
  • Interregional level: under 2h44
  • Regional level: under 3h14
  • Departmental level: under 4h10

For women, the levels are:

  • International time: under 2h32
  • National time: under 3h04
  • Interregional level: under 3h32
  • Regional level: under 4h08
  • Departmental level: under 5h00

Can you estimate your marathon time from a 10km or Half-Marathon time?

Running performance depends on two parameters: the runner’s MAS and their endurance. It is possible, based on one or several race results over distances like 10km, 20km, or half-marathon, to estimate future marathon performance.

The first marathon one completes is not always optimized, particularly regarding in-race nutrition. The estimated marathon time through this prediction is often the one achieved during the third or fourth marathon. Check out our marathon performance calculator.

Achieve your next marathon

Everyone can find their place concerning these times. Regardless of your experience and ambition, it is crucial to follow a suitable preparation plan. We believe everyone deserves personalized training, regardless of their level.

That’s why we created RunMotion Coach. A good marathon time is the one you will soon achieve with a personalized marathon training plan on the RunMotion Coach app.

Candice Davagnier
CandicePassionate about mountains and their landscapes, Candice grew up in the Alps and loves nature walks. She creates relevant content to provide you with the best advice!