How Many Calories Does Running a Marathon Really Burn? Here Is What You Need To Know

As runners everywhere prepare for the upcoming marathon season, they may be wondering exactly how many calories they’ll burn during their 26.2-mile race. While the number of calories burned will vary from person to person, depending on running technique and body type, there are generally certain constants that can be used to calculate the approximate number of calories burned for a given distance.

The following article will discuss what factors affect calorie burning during a marathon in detail and provide an estimate of how many calories can be expected to be burned over the course of a full 26.2 miles.

With this information, runners of all skill levels can gauge their nutrition and hydration needs while also tracking any changes in body composition which can result from regular running at this intense level of exercise.

Calorie Burn Basics



Running a marathon is no easy feat, and as such, it takes a great deal of effort and energy to complete. Knowing how many calories are burned during a marathon is important because it helps us to understand the physical cost of such an event.

Understanding Energy Expenditure

Energy expenditure is the scientific term used to describe the amount of energy (or calories) burned during physical activity. This energy is used by your body for all sorts of tasks, including recharging muscles for movement, generating heat, and providing fuel for your day-to-day activities.

Each type of physical activity burns different amounts of energy, and it’s important to know this if you want to devise a plan for weight loss or exercise.

So, how many calories are actually burned during a marathon? Well, the number can vary significantly depending on a lot of factors – age, height, gender, and the effort level exerted.

Generally speaking though, someone training for their first marathon can expect to burn between 2-3 thousand kilo-calories on race day. Of course, there’s still a lot of preparation that goes into getting ready for a race like this – and that’s where understanding how much energy is burned in training comes in!

Calorie burning is not just specific to running marathons either; it’s relevant anytime you partake in physical activity – whether that’s locking out the gym or going on your daily jogging route – so you should always be mindful about education yourself regarding energy expenditure if you wish to understand how best to reach your fitness goals.

Calorie Burn During Exercise

Calorie Running a Marathon

Calorie burn during physical activity can vary greatly from person to person. Because we all have different physiology and metabolic rates, individual calorie expenditures depend largely on body type and fitness level. Generally speaking, however, the average person will burn between 400 and 700 calories per hour of aerobic exercise.

The number of calories burned during a marathon necessarily depends on the intensity of your training (i.e. how hard you run) and the length of your race (which could range anywhere from seven kilometers to a full marathon). Generally speaking, the majority of a runner’s calories will be expended during the first 3/4ths of their race — with most runners burning up to 4 thousand calories.

However, even those who are not running at full capacity can easily still expend 3-4 thousand calories over the course of a full marathon distance race.

Additionally, it is important to note that though running is primarily an aerobic activity, strength training and other forms of physical exercises such as weight lifting can also contribute significantly to calorie expenditure.

In fact, studies have shown that weight lifting may result in even greater calorie expenditures than those experienced whilst running or other forms of aerobics for an equal duration or effort level expended by the individual in question. It is therefore important to include strength training within your regular fitness routine to maximize your own personal calorie expenditure over time — helping you achieve long-term fitness goals more efficiently.

Marathon Training

It requires relentless dedication, hard work, and determination. A comprehensive training program should include a mix of cardiovascular and strength training exercises to help the body to become conditioned for the massive physical demands of running a marathon.

For those who are serious about their marathon journey, understanding how many calories are burned during training is essential. Let’s explore this topic further.

Training Intensity

The amount of calories burned during a marathon depends on your training intensity, training plan, and individual characteristics. The intensity of your marathon training is an important factor in determining the number of calories you will burn while running.

Generally, higher intensity levels such as interval and speed workouts require more calories to execute due to the increased effort that is necessary. On the other hand, lower-intensity training such as pace workouts requires fewer calories and relies more on aerobic efficiency over time in order to satisfy the energy demands of the workout.

The distance covered in each type of training session will also have an impact on calorie expenditure. Short sprints or interval sessions can be extremely energy taxing while longer endurance runs can provide more steady energy needs over time. Furthermore, cross-training activities such as cycling and swimming may also help to improve calorie expenditure and build strength at the same time. Ultimately, managing calories efficiently throughout your entire marathon preparation should result in greater success on race day.

Training Volume

Running a Marathon training

It’s important to build a base of fitness and gradually increase your training volume. This is important as it will allow you to build endurance and strength while reducing the risk of injury. The most successful runners tend to follow a typical pattern of progression when increasing their training volume:

-Start with easy runs, 2-3 times per week, usually over shorter distances (20-30 minutes)

-Slowly increase the distance every 1-2 weeks while also introducing longer intervals (60 minutes or more)

-Continue building endurance by adding 1-2 weekly runs that are 10K races or longer

-Finally, add one long run each week at least 16K (10 miles) in distance, if possible

Regardless of the number of days per week devoted to running, all runners need to pay careful attention to the intensity and total duration of their runs. Mileage and speed must be kept in check, otherwise overtraining and injury can occur.

To maximize your mileage without risking injury or burnout, try running an extra day each week at lower intensity levels than usual. For example, try running for 45 minutes at an easy pace at least once every seven days. This will give you some wiggle room if your schedule gets too busy for a full run twice per week.

Marathon Race Day

Running a marathon is an incredible achievement that requires commitment and preparation – both physical and mental. On race day, the hours of training and dedication will all come to fruition.

Understanding how many calories are burned during a marathon can be a helpful indicator of the total energy expenditure expected during the race. Let’s dive into what to expect from a marathon from a caloric perspective.

Race Distance

Running is an incredible athletic accomplishment and requires time, training, and dedication. Whether you’re running your first marathon or your twentieth, understanding the race distance for a marathon can help boost performance. The standard course for a marathon is 26 miles, 385 yards long, and is made up of two loops around a fixed central point.

These runners must complete the race in 6 hours or less in order to receive an official finisher time. Knowing the exact distance of the race can help runners plan their nutrition and hydration strategies leading up to race day as well as prepare them mentally to endure 26 miles recreationally and professionally.

The course measurement process has two components: an accurately measured out-and-back section that constitutes 25.21 percent of the entire course followed by one large loop comprised of 74.79 percent of the total mileage. The out-and-back section ensures that all marathons can be accurately compared to each other and may help reduce cheating among competitors by preventing variations in route distance that could potentially give some athletes an advantage over others who are running steeper courses with more elevation gain/loss or terrain changes involved within those sections.

Every certified marathon must display mile markers along its route so that athletes can track their progress throughout their event and make sure they don’t get too far off course before completing their challenge! With all these elements combined, runners have very precise data on which to train, practice pacing strategies, adjust nutritional plans accordingly leading up to (or during) the event, and manage hydration needs adequately throughout it; ultimately resulting in better performances for all participants on race day!

Race Pace

Race Pace marathon

The rate at which you burn calories depends on your race pacing. For recreational runners, the goal is to reach the finish line healthily and satisfactorily; therefore, your pace should reflect your overall fitness level. Competitive runners typically use interval training and target a specific time goal and need to practice interval speed training over distance.

If speed is your focus, plan on running at easy and hard intervals while focusing on an overall race pace that will lead to your ideal finishing time.

Your race pace can vary depending on weather conditions, such as wind or rain, but you should strive for a consistent effort level throughout the race. This means keeping the same heart rate throughout the contest or a standard cadence while running hills or flats. You can also account for gradual changes in intensity as well as walking breaks if needed during an event of this distance.

Monitor your speed with a GPS watch so that you indicate when it is time to adjust either slow down or speed up based upon times for different miles along your course.

Calorie Burn During a Marathon


You will burn a significant amount of calories during your race and the number of calories burned can vary depending on the length, speed, and terrain of the race.

In this section, we will look at the calories burned during a marathon and see how these factors affect the number of calories you burn.

Factors That Affect Calorie Burn

The number of calories burned during a marathon can vary greatly depending on the individual, as well as on a variety of factors that affect the calorie burn. Whether running an organized or informal race, the length and terrain of the event can significantly influence the intensity of exercise and how many calories are burned. Other factors include weather conditions, body weight, pace, and running style.

Body weight is an important factor for runners when it comes to calculating expected marathon calorie burn. Since heavier runners expend more energy to move their body weight along a standard course, they will typically burn more calories than lighter runners completing the same distance in a similar time frame. In addition to body weight, other physical characteristics such as muscle mass can also affect calorie burn while running a marathon.

Pace is another major factor that influences marathon calorie burn since it directly affects speed and the total duration of running activity. Similarly, changes in running style—such as incorporating intervals or hill repeats at various speeds—can also affect the number of calories burned over different areas of terrain throughout the course.

Finally, environmental conditions such as temperature and wind can make large differences when completing long-distance races due to their effects on runners’ levels of exertion and total energy expenditure over time. All these variables combine to form an individualized caloric output for each individual participant which will vary greatly even with similar inputs from person to person.

It’s important to remember that different events will require different levels of exertion so consult with your doctor if you have any questions before attempting any type of distance race!

Estimating Calorie Burn

Estimating Calorie Burn

It is hard to estimate the exact number of calories burned during a marathon as there are so many variables, such as running speed, terrain, and body weight that can affect it. However, Marathoners typically burn around 100 calories per mile, so an average 26.219-mile marathon could burn up to 2,621 calories.

It’s important to remember that these numbers are estimates and they can vary depending on personal factors such as body weight and performance level. To get a bespoke calorie burn estimate for yourself during a marathon it may be worth investing in a fitness tracker or heart rate monitor that you can wear throughout the race. These devices will provide more accurate data on your calorie expenditure while running.


Running Marathon faq

Does running experience affect calorie burn during a marathon?

Yes, more experienced runners may have a more efficient stride and therefore burn fewer calories during a marathon.

Can nutrition during a marathon impact calorie burn?

Yes, proper nutrition and hydration during it can impact calorie burn and overall performance.

Is calorie burn during a marathon the same for men and women?

Calorie burn can vary for men and women depending on body weight, pace, and other factors.

Can a marathon cause a significant calorie deficit?

Yes, it can cause a significant calorie deficit, but it’s important to replenish with proper nutrition and hydration post-race.

Can the temperature and weather impact calorie burn during a marathon?

Yes, running in hot or cold weather can impact calorie burn during the race.

Can a marathon lead to muscle loss?

It can lead to muscle breakdown, but proper nutrition and strength training can help prevent muscle loss.


To sum up, caloric expenditure during a marathon depends on several factors, including the runner’s size, weight, gender, and pace. A general estimate is that an average 170-pound runner will burn approximately 1,150 calories per hour of marathon running. But it’s important to note that this number will vary slightly depending on the individual.

Additionally, because a marathon is a prolonged form of exercise, runners should also take into account the extra-caloric cost of staying physically active for hours at a time. It’s important to plan ahead and make sure that you are consuming the recommended levels of carbohydrates and fluids before and during your marathon run in order to avoid fatigue or dehydration.