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Running races 101: Deciphering miles vs. kilometers

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Running may seem simple, but race lengths can be confusing. Some are measured in kilometers, while others are clocked in miles. Favorite races include the 5K, 10K, half marathon, and marathon. The last two stretch for miles, while the first two are set in kilometers.

The perennial debate runs on and on in running groups.

How can runners keep these numbers straight?

In the international running arena and for world record purposes, races are generally defined according to the metric system. However, the marathon (and the half marathon) may still use miles to determine their durations.

According to running lore, the marathon’s odd length traces back to ancient Greece, matching the distance from Marathon to Athens.

This makes running event distances somewhat tricky to track.

Check out this list of popular race lengths. Feel free to bookmark the page for future reference.

  • 200 meters = 1/8 mile
  • 400 meters = 1/4 mile
  • 800 meters = 1/2 mile
  • 1,600 meters = 1 mile
  • 5K (5 kilometers) = 3.1 miles
  • 10K (10 kilometers) = 6.2 miles
  • 15K (15 kilometers) = 9.3 miles
  • 20K (20 kilometers) = 12.4 miles
  • 21.08 kilometers = 13.1 miles = Half Marathon
  • 25K (25 kilometers) = 15.53 miles
  • 30K (30 kilometers) = 18.6 miles
  • 42.16 kilometers = 26.2 miles = Marathon

Standard running tracks, such as those found on high school and college campuses, are 1/4 mile around (one lap).

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For daily run trackers, here’s what the basic lineup looks like, mile by mile.

Kilometers Miles

0.5 0.310

1 0.62

2 1.24

3 1.86

4 1.48

5 3.10

6 3.72

7 4.34

8 4.97

9 5.59

10 6.21

11 6.83

12 7.45

13 8.07

14 8.69

15 9.32

20 12.42

25 15.53

30 18.64

35 21.74

40 24.85

45 27.96

50 31.06

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In miles or kilometers, going the distance may all that counts for persistent runners.

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