Cross Training For Runners

What’s The Fastest Marathon Time for Men and Women?

3 Mins read

Looking to learn more about the fastest marathon time?

Then you have come to the right place.

Marathons are the granddaddy of all foot races. These events garner attention from people of backgrounds and ages.

So what’ the current Fastest Marathon times?

The current world record for the marathon stands at 2:01:39. It is held by the legendary Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge, dominating the world marathon stage since winning the Chicago Marathon in 2014.

In the years thereafter, the Kenyan athlete has won every marathon he has participated in, including the gold in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Then, in the Berlin Marathon in 2018, Kipchoge made history when he won the Berlin marathon at 2:01:39. His finish time broke the previous world by one minute and 18 seconds, the biggest jump over a previous record since 1967.

Eliud has managed to finish a marathon in less than two hours, though, but his historical run wasn’t officially recognized as a world record (we’ll get into why later).

Eliud is also an Olympic legend, defending the men’s title he had won in Rio 2016 by crossing the finish line first at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Useful resource – Here’s the full guide to how long is a marathon.

The Fastest Women’s Marathon

The female world record for the marathon is at 2:14:04 and belonged to Brigid Koskey. The race took place during the Chicago Marathon on October 13, 2019, in a race completed by men and women.

The IAAF recognized another female world record of 2:17:01, set by Mary Keitany at the London Marathon for women only.

The Sub Two Hour Marathon Record Explained

In October 2019, Eliud Kipchoge became the first man to complete a marathon under two hours in a time of 1:59:40 in Austria in a feat dubbed the INEOS 1:59 Challenge.

The “race” was planned with military precision creating an environment that maximized the Kenyan runner’s performance over 26.2 miles.

The special event took place in the Prater Park course in Vienna, considering factors such as weather conditions, humidity, wind speed, and elevation gain.

Over 40 elite runners maintained Kipchoge’s pace. Running in a V-shaped formation and alternating teams of seven, the pacers also protected Eliud from the wind.

Although the sub-two-hour marathon time tested the upper limit of human performance but was not recognized as an official world record by the International Association of Athletics Federation, or IAAF, for several reasons.

For starters, the event wasn’t sanctioned by the IAAF and was also not open to other participants.

Secondly, Eliud hired a team of rotating pacemakers to help him keep up the pace. Unfortunately, the IAAF forbids the use of pacers.

What’s more?

Drinks can only be available at prefixed stations, not provided to the runner while competing.

Since we are on this subject, let’s dive a little deeper into what makes a marathon world record according to IAAF.

Note – learn more about the history of running here.

Additional resource – How to nail your sub 4 hour marathon pace

The Criteria For A World Record

The IAAF marathon rules were established in 1990 and require few factors for marathon time to be ratified as a world record.

Some of these rules include:

  • The racecourse must be an exact 26.21 mile (or 42.19 km) long, measured precisely using the calibrated bicycle method.
  • The course should be measured and verified as late as possible before the event, preferably on race day or as soon as possible after the race. The measurements are recommended to be performed by different “A” grade measurers from those who did the initial measurement.
  • The course start and finish points must be within 50 percent of the distance, measured along a theoretical straight line between them. The course should not be laid out in a point-to-point way.
  • The overall drop in elevation between the start and finish point should not exceed over one meter per kilometer so that the course is not aided from a net downhill.

For these reasons, for example, the Boston Marathon performances are not entitled to world record consideration, thanks to the elevation drop and point-to-points measurement of the current course.

Additional resource – How fast can Bolt Run

Putting Things In Context

To complete a fast marathon, you’ll need the right pacing, ideal weather conditions, and the proper physical and mental endurance and strength.

According to Running USA, the average marathon finish time for men is about four hours and 16 minutes. Eliud could have run the course twice and still beat the average time by roughly 10 minutes.

Want more?

The average finish time for a  5K is around 30 minutes. While pursuing the world record, Eliud hit the 5K mark in 14 minutes and 24 seconds. That’s not fast—that’s lightning fast.

10 Fastest Marathoners on Record-Eligible Course: Men

10 Fastest Marathoners on Record-Eligible Course: Women

10 Fastest American Marathoners on Record-Eligible Course: Men

10 Fastest American Marathoners on Record-Eligible Course: Women

Progression of World Record Since 1988: Men

Additional resources:

How to determine Marathon pace

Guide to Marathon Des Sables

How to qualify for the Boston Marathon

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