Don’t Decide to Run 26.2 Miles on a Whim

When you’ve been a runner for any amount of time at any point in your life, running a marathon may be your brass ring.

But unless you’re an experienced marathon runner, you shouldn’t just decide you can pull it off a month before the starter gun fires.

The duration of training for a marathon can vary based on several factors including your current fitness level, previous running experience and the specific marathon goals you have.

However, a typical marathon training plan ranges from 12 to 20 weeks, with many falling into the 16-week range. Here is a rough guide for how much time you should build into this process:

  • If you’ve been running consistently for a year or so, you should allow for 16 to 24 weeks (four to six months) of training to build your confidence and endurance.
  • With two to three years under your belt you can plan for 12 to 20 weeks, depending on your fitness level.
  • If you’ve been a committed runner for more than three years you likely can prepare in eight to 12 weeks, as you have a strong fitness base and may have run a few 10Ks or half-marathons.

Here’s a breakdown of how the training can be structured:

Long runs

These are a critical component of marathon training. These runs gradually increase in distance to prepare your body for the demands of the distance. Aim to complete your long runs at a comfortable, conversational pace, gradually increasing the distance each week.

Speed work

Incorporate speed work into your training plan to improve your running economy and anaerobic threshold. This can include tempo runs, interval training, fartlek runs or hill repeats. Speed work helps build strength, speed and mental toughness.

Rest and recovery

These are just as important as training. Incorporate rest days to allow your body to recover and adapt to the demands of training.

Listen to your body and take additional rest days as needed, especially if you’re feeling fatigued or experiencing any pain or injury.

Tapering

In the final two or three weeks leading up to the marathon, you’ll enter the tapering phase. This involves reducing your training volume and intensity to allow your body to recover fully before race day while maintaining fitness.

Nutrition and hydration

Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial. Fuel your body with a balanced diet rich in carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

Stay hydrated before, during and after your runs, and practice fueling strategies during long runs.