Running a marathon is not for the faint of heart. Marathon training is hard work and takes months of sacrifice and commitment. The actual marathon race is grueling. Your body will undergo so much stress that your stomach may feel sick, your muscles may cramp, and the tissue in everything from your muscles to your heart is damaged. Yet the benefits of running a marathon outweigh the costs—by a lot.
How can this be?
Well, running a marathon in essence is a metaphor for life. Training for and running a marathon teaches you that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. This lesson then ripples throughout the rest of your life.
Running a marathon also has positive impacts on the choices you make for your physical and mental health. It becomes a lifestyle, not just a hobby.
These are just a couple of benefits of running a marathon. There are so many more. Why else would so many people subject themselves to months of sacrifice and discomfort?
I don’t want to try to convince you to run a marathon—but if you are on the fence, this article may be what tips you in the direction of going 26.2.
In this article, I will answer general questions about running a marathon such as:
- What is the average time to run a marathon
- What does it take to run a marathon
- What happens to your body when you run a marathon
- How long does it take to recover from running a marathon
- Can a normal person run a marathon, and
- 6 benefits of running a marathon
So, let’s get going, shall we?
How many miles is a marathon?
A marathon is 26.21 miles in total. This is why it is imperative to train and be prepared to run a marathon prior to entering one. You will need at least 16 to 20 weeks to properly prepare your body and train if you want to successfully complete a marathon.
The length of time it takes to run a marathon will vary based on your running background, experience, and marathon goals.
What is the average time to run a marathon?
The average time it takes most people to run a marathon and that is roughly 4 hours and 21 minutes.
- It takes men roughly 4 hours and 13 minutes to complete a marathon.
- It takes women an average of 4 hours and 42 minutes to run a marathon.
That equals a pace of just over 10 minutes/per mile.
The time it takes to run a marathon of course varies from runner to runner depending on their training and ability. There is also a plethora of factors that can impact a marathon time including weather, nutrition, and bonking (hitting the wall).
What happens to your body after running a marathon?
Running a marathon takes a toll on your body and it will take your body time to recuperate from it. You can read more about what to expect after running a marathon in my article here. But here are some quick hits:
You will be sore.
Your body and muscles will be sore for several days after running a marathon. From my personal experience, you are the sorest the day after a marathon, and then that soreness dissipates. You may also be sore in strange areas. For instance, in my last marathon, my ribs were very sore. In my previous marathon, my biceps were super sore.
Honor your recovery. Even if you feel great three days after the marathon, recognize that significant damage has been done to your muscles and your organs such as your liver, heart, and kidneys. Be kind to yourself. Nourish your body and rest.
Related: Is it Ok to Run on Tired Legs?
You might get sick.
Sometimes after running a marathon, you may catch a cold or virus. This is because running at that duration and intensity can suppress your immune system. You are also near a lot of people when you are running a marathon and chances are that some of those people have a germ or two.
Related: 9 Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter
Your toenails might turn black and fall off.
Unfortunately, it is common for marathon runners to experience black toenails from bruising, or toenails that fall off entirely. This can happen for one of a few reasons. Black toenails are common in runners whose shoes were too tight, their toenails bumping the top of the shoe too often, or a runner who grips their toes too tightly when they are running.
If your toenail has turned black it means that blood vessels underneath the nail were busted during the run and the blood is trapped underneath the nail and the toe bed. After the skin beneath your toenail begins to heal the old nail will fall off and another one will grow back…eventually.
You will be tired.
Running a marathon is physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Make sure that you plan for plenty of time to rest and recover in the days after your marathon. Your body, mind, and spirit will need it.
You will be dehydrated.
Even though you drink before, during, and after the marathon, your body will be dehydrated and depleted of glycogen (which helps store water). This can leave you feeling nauseous, sluggish, and tired. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids, and consuming foods that also have carbs and water like leafy greens and fruits.
How long does it take your body to recover from running a marathon?
It can take up to four weeks for your body to recover fully after running a marathon. You should plan to take a break from running for one to two weeks after completing a marathon so that your body can fully recover.
If you don’t take this time off to let your body heal, you may do yourself more harm than good. You can injure yourself by getting back to running too soon after completing a marathon, and that can make it take even longer before you can get back to training.
Just because you can’t run doesn’t mean that you need to be inactive after running a marathon. You will want to give your sore muscles a few days to recover, but after that, you can start walking to keep fit and active. Walking promotes circulation and blood flow which can help any small tears in your muscles to heal more quickly.
Related: Why You Need to Take a Running Break
Is running a marathon a big deal?
Yes, running a marathon is a big deal! It is a huge accomplishment and you should feel very proud of yourself for running a marathon. Preparing to run a marathon is also a big deal, you must build up your body and your mind before you can reach your goal of completing a marathon.
Can running a marathon change your life?
Yes, running a marathon can change your life and your perspective on life.
As one of my athletes who just finished her marathon put it:
“These last 20 weeks have been life-changing. I discovered a capacity within myself to dig deeper, and go harder… a capacity that honestly I didn’t know I possessed.”
Running and training for a marathon takes a lot of dedication, grit, and physical and mental fortitude. Throughout the process, you are faced with decision after decision in which you must choose the hard way out.
You make these choices because you know they are better for you in the long run. You’re choosing to take care of yourself and better your mental and physical health.
For many people, running a marathon becomes not just a hobby but spurs an entire shift that becomes a lifestyle.
Related: Can Running Make You Happy?
Can a normal person run a marathon?
Absolutely! A normal person can certainly run a marathon with the proper training. You don’t have to be an Olympic-level athlete to participate in a marathon. If you did, there wouldn’t be more than a million people each year who run a marathon.
With that being said, training before you run a marathon is also important. A normal person can certainly achieve this goal, but you will have to work towards it.
Why would someone run a marathon?
People run marathons for a variety of reasons. Some people run to raise money for charity, some people run marathons to feel a sense of accomplishment, and others run in a marathon to improve their health.
How do I know if I am ready to train for running a marathon?
Marathon training typically takes 16 to 20 weeks to complete, but before you begin that training you need to have a few things under your belt.
You are healthy.
Marathon training is no joke, and you need to be healthy before you start.
You have run a shorter race.
If your goal is to run a marathon, you should start by running in smaller races such as a 5K, or a half marathon.
You have time to train.
If you don’t have enough time in your schedule to properly train for a marathon then you should skip this one and wait until you do have the time to train properly. Running a marathon without the proper training can lead to injury.
You can already run 8 to 10 miles in a single run.
If you want to run a marathon, then starting with some 8 to 10-mile runs is a good starting point. If you are running less than 20 miles per week you will need at least 16 weeks to train for a marathon.
You want to run a marathon
Marathon training is hard work and takes a lot of devotion and sacrifice, so you really need to want to run a marathon for it to happen.
What are the benefits of running a marathon?
Here are 6 Reasons to Run a Marathon This Year:
There are so many benefits for your mind, body, and soul running a marathon. Here are six of them.
Mental clarity and calm.
Ask so many runners, and they will tell you that some of their best ideas come from running. Indeed, running, especially longer distances, allows you the space to clear your head, turn down the noise, and just be. For many, including moms, running long distances provide a form of meditation so that when you return home you are calm and patient. And a plethora of research shows that running actually releases chemicals that make you happy.
The consistent habit of running that marathon training demands will have positive impacts on your overall health from your stress levels to cholesterol levels to your sleep quality.
Related: How to Make Running a Habit in 2023
Talk to most people who have decided to run a marathon—and they’ll like you to name someone in their life that inspired them. You can be that person for someone else—including your children who watch you set goals and go after them. Your decision to run a marathon truly sets off a ripple effect of health, wellness, and confidence in others.
There is no way to walk away from running and training for a marathon with less confidence. Your self-confidence will increase greatly because you have just proven how strong you are. Let this newfound self-confidence spread to all areas of your life.
You are sure to meet a lot of new friends with at least one common interest (running) while you are training for and participating in a marathon. Lots of best friends, lifelong friends, and even partners have been met through running clubs. Having friends who also run can help you to stay encouraged and motivated, it also gives you someone to commiserate with if you have a rough training day.
Some of my best friends are people I run with. There’s something about running with someone that is therapeutic. You can be open and vulnerable, and the bonds made are accelerated with each mile. It’s magical.
An excuse to treat yourself.
Whether it’s a massage, a pedicure, or new running clothes, training for a marathon gives you a sense of accomplishment. And accomplishments must be rewarded, right?! Many marathoners set little goals (process goals) that they celebrate by treating themselves to something tangible.
Related: Benefits of Massage for Runners
Personally, I love a good massage and so when I schedule them regularly through my marathon training cycles!
Training for and running a marathon takes a lot of time, determination, and hard work, but it is worth it. The accomplishment, confidence, and pride you will feel are well deserved, and you might even decide that you want to do it again. Just make sure that you give your body plenty of time to recover first!
If you want guidance with your running goals including marathon training, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
- Postpartum Training Plan
- After a Break Training Plan
- 5k Training Plans
- 10k Training Plans
- Half Marathon Training Plans
- Marathon Training Plans
- Strength Training Plan