For amateur runners, some people use the Boston Marathon qualifying times as a measure of a "good" marathon time. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, men ages 18-34 must run 3:05 or faster, women in that age group must run 3:35 or faster. After that, additional time is given to older age groups. (See exact Boston Marathon qualifying times here.)
In terms of average marathon times, in the U.S., the average finishing time for marathons in 2011 was 4:37 (10:34/mile pace), according to MarathonGuide.com. The average marathon finishing time for men in U.S. marathons was 4:26 (10:09/mile pace) and the average finishing time for women was 4:52 (11:08/mile pace).
For most first-time marathoners, the goal is usually to finish, rather than worrying about their finishing time. Runners who run multiple marathons usually find that their results improve as they gain more experience and confidence. So don't put too much pressure on yourself to run a fast time in your first marathon. Once you have a marathon under your belt, then it's fun to compete against yourself and try to beat your personal record (PR) rather than worrying about what other runners are doing.
If you're curious about the range of typical finishing times in a marathon you're running, take a look at the race's previous results, which should be listed on the marathon's website. You can see the times of the age group winners, those who finished in the middle of the pack, and those who finished in the back of the pack.
Of course, comparing men to women, and people in their 20s to people in their 50s is not exactly fair. Your performance really depends on numerous factors, such as your level of experience, age, and gender.
One way to put all marathon participants on a level playing field, regardless of their age and gender, is by age-grading. Age-graded results let you compare your race times to those of other runners in the race, as well as to the standard for your age and gender. You can use this age-grading calculator to figure out your age-graded race time to get a comparison of how your finishing time compares with others.
More About Marathon Times
If you're really curious about what time you might be able to run in your marathon, here's how you can estimate your marathon race time.
Marathon Training Schedules:
If you're planning to run a marathon, here are some training schedules to choose from:
Beginner Marathon Training Schedule : The schedule is designed for beginner runners whose goal is to simply finish the marathon. You should have a running base at least 15 miles a week to start this program.
Run/Walk Marathon Training Schedule: This schedule is geared towards beginners who want to use run/walk strategy for training and completing your marathon.
Advanced Beginner Marathon Training Schedule: This 20-week marathon training schedule is geared toward advanced beginner runners.
22 Week Marathon Training Schedule for Beginners: This simple marathon training schedule will get beginner runners marathon-ready in 22 weeks.
Intermediate Marathon Training Schedule: This 18-week marathon training schedule is geared toward intermediate runners.
Also see: Celebrity Marathon Times
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