When Do I Know I’m Ready to Run a Marathon?

After you build your base, there’s a secret ‘a-ha’ moment that proves you have the mindset for 42K.

Sam asks: I’ve been running since November and am really enjoying it, so I’m considering doing my first marathon this fall. I’m wondering if I am ready to tackle this distance and how best to manage my training from now until I begin following a marathon training plan in June or July.

Good for you for challenging yourself! Thinking and planning ahead about building your base is a smart move because setting a solid foundation before embarking on marathon training is the key to success.

In general, before beginning marathon training, you should be averaging approximately 32 to 37 kilometres a week. This typically means running three or four days a week with weekday runs in the six to 13-kilometre range and a 16km run as your long weekend run.  Feeling comfortable with the 16K run is important because this distance is the foundation for marathon training, and the longer marathon mileage will build from there. When this type of weekly mileage starts to feel routine to you, you are ready to begin your training for the marathon.

As you increase to longer kilometres, that 16K run will become your “cut back” run distance when you have an “easy” or “recovery” week. My favourite moment in the marathon training cycle is when I hear runners remark, “I’m only running 16 kilometres this weekend!” And then they say, “I can’t believe I just said that!”

They are shocked that 16 kilometres has become their new ‘short’ run. That is their ‘a-ha’ moment and reveals that their perspective has shifted to one of a marathoner, even though they have yet to run the official distance. And yes, after running 16 or 18 miles, a 10-mile run does sound short and “easy”.

As you continue to lay your foundation over the next couple of months, consider adding some hill runs into your training regimen for an effective fitness boost. Hill running will help you build strength and increase your aerobic capacity at the same time – a real plus for marathon training.

Finding the right marathon to target can be challenging, so do your homework. Many popular races fill up fast, so be sure and register early.

Consider the location, geography, weather, race size, start time and other race parameters because they will all impact your training. The date of your chosen marathon will set the exact timeline for your training plan with regard to mileage, but also the type of terrain of the race (hills or trail) will be important too.

Simulating the conditions of your chosen race as best you can during training will help prepare you to meet the demands of your particular race.  If you do that, you will do well!

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