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How do you know if you're ready for your first marathon?

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Hello MFP's.
Been running for about five years. Completed two HM about three years ago but I tend to stay in the 5k - 10k race distances. Probably my biggest problem is that I'm typically a three season runner, losing interest in the winter months and finding it difficult to run through the snow. Hoping to avoid that pitfall this year, signed up for a HM in May to keep me motivated. My weekly average is 16-20 miles, with long runs from 6-10 miles. My goals has always been to run a full marathon before my 50th birthday, I'm 48 and clock is ticking. How do you know if you’re ready? There is marathon in September 2018, basically giving me 12 months to prepare. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for reading my post.
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Replies

  • Pamshebamm181
    Pamshebamm181 Posts: 92 Member
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    If it's in September, you have plenty of time to train after the snow is done and through the summer.
    Find a good plan online and follow it. Don't skip your long runs and don't throw in extra runs that your plan doesn't call for.
  • tcaley4
    tcaley4 Posts: 416 Member
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    Maybe be a dumb question, but can you run for 26 miles yet?
  • stanmann571
    stanmann571 Posts: 5,727 Member
    edited October 2017
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    tcaley4 wrote: »
    Maybe be a dumb question, but can you run for 26 miles yet?

    What's that got to do with anything?

    Lot's of people finish a marathon without running 26 miles.
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,763 Member
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    tcaley4 wrote: »
    Maybe be a dumb question, but can you run for 26 miles yet?

    Most people doing their first marathon typically don't run 26 miles until the race itself. Many training plans limit long runs to 20 miles.

    When I ran my first marathon, I had never run more than 20 miles at a time before.
  • spiriteagle99
    spiriteagle99 Posts: 3,698 Member
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    Biggest question is are you willing and able to put in the time that marathon training takes? The training is much harder than the race itself. During the peak of marathon training, I do two one hour runs, two 1.5 hour runs and one run that is 3-3.5 hours every other week, and somewhat less on the alternate weeks. Some marathon programs have you running 6 or 7 days a week. Anything less than 5 is not likely to be enough mileage to do well at your marathon though you should be able to finish. Do you have 8 hours a week to train?

    If you do a race in September, do you live someplace cool enough that doing 3 hour runs in August isn't going to be a complete misery? Where I live, I wouldn't do a marathon before late October or November in the Fall. I prefer spring races because it's a lot easier for me to run long in the cold than in the heat.

    Your mileage now is low. You will do better if you have a base level of 35+ mpw before starting marathon training. I would spend the next six months gradually increasing your base. It will help a lot for your spring HM as well.
  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,865 Member
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    If it were me, I'd do the 1/2 and go from there...my wife is an avid runner and always thought she wanted to do a marathon...after her first 1/2, she decided that she was good with that and doesn't really have any interest in a full...but she enjoys doing 1/2s.

    I'm kind of the same with cycling. I kind of have it in my head that I want to do a full century just to say I did it...but every time I do a 1/2 century I'm over it...
  • Pamshebamm181
    Pamshebamm181 Posts: 92 Member
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    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    If it were me, I'd do the 1/2 and go from there...my wife is an avid runner and always thought she wanted to do a marathon...after her first 1/2, she decided that she was good with that and doesn't really have any interest in a full...but she enjoys doing 1/2s.

    I'm kind of the same with cycling. I kind of have it in my head that I want to do a full century just to say I did it...but every time I do a 1/2 century I'm over it...

    I'm the same way. I did a Full more because I felt like I should, and to say that I did it. I'll continue to run Half's but I'll never do another Full.
  • rodmelching
    rodmelching Posts: 67 Member
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    Biggest question is are you willing and able to put in the time that marathon training takes? The training is much harder than the race itself. During the peak of marathon training, I do two one hour runs, two 1.5 hour runs and one run that is 3-3.5 hours every other week, and somewhat less on the alternate weeks. Some marathon programs have you running 6 or 7 days a week. Anything less than 5 is not likely to be enough mileage to do well at your marathon though you should be able to finish. Do you have 8 hours a week to train?

    If you do a race in September, do you live someplace cool enough that doing 3 hour runs in August isn't going to be a complete misery? Where I live, I wouldn't do a marathon before late October or November in the Fall. I prefer spring races because it's a lot easier for me to run long in the cold than in the heat.

    Your mileage now is low. You will do better if you have a base level of 35+ mpw before starting marathon training. I would spend the next six months gradually increasing your base. It will help a lot for your spring HM as well.

    Valid question on the time commitment. I’ve definitely thought about it. I typically run in the early mornings before work, so my workouts stay around an hour. I've ran consecutive days before without any issues, figured that would need to happen on a regular basis to increase my millage. Then usually a longer run on Saturday morning. Appreciate the input.
  • BrianSharpe
    BrianSharpe Posts: 9,248 Member
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    I'd probably break things up into 2 goals. A half-marathon next spring followed by the marathon in the fall.

    Your current mileage would probably get you to a HM right now (Hal Higdon's HM training plans are typically about 12 weeks so you could relax a bit over the winter guilt free.

    Hal's Marathon training plans typically run 18 weeks so there would be some overlap (coming off a HM no need to start right back at week 1 unless you needed some serious recovery).

    If you really want to run one and diligently follow the training plan you should be fine (FWIW outside of triathlons my longest road race has been HM distance which i find to be a very enjoyable one.......I keep thinking about signing up for a full....one of these years)
  • janejellyroll
    janejellyroll Posts: 25,763 Member
    Options
    Biggest question is are you willing and able to put in the time that marathon training takes? The training is much harder than the race itself. During the peak of marathon training, I do two one hour runs, two 1.5 hour runs and one run that is 3-3.5 hours every other week, and somewhat less on the alternate weeks. Some marathon programs have you running 6 or 7 days a week. Anything less than 5 is not likely to be enough mileage to do well at your marathon though you should be able to finish. Do you have 8 hours a week to train?

    If you do a race in September, do you live someplace cool enough that doing 3 hour runs in August isn't going to be a complete misery? Where I live, I wouldn't do a marathon before late October or November in the Fall. I prefer spring races because it's a lot easier for me to run long in the cold than in the heat.

    Your mileage now is low. You will do better if you have a base level of 35+ mpw before starting marathon training. I would spend the next six months gradually increasing your base. It will help a lot for your spring HM as well.

    Valid question on the time commitment. I’ve definitely thought about it. I typically run in the early mornings before work, so my workouts stay around an hour. I've ran consecutive days before without any issues, figured that would need to happen on a regular basis to increase my millage. Then usually a longer run on Saturday morning. Appreciate the input.

    I also typically run in the mornings and when I train for a marathon, I just wake up earlier some days of the week. If this is something you're willing to do, it could work out fine. I did an intermediate plan to prep this year and I never had a weekday run that was longer than 8 miles. I did usually have two longer runs on the weekends, so you'll be carving a far bit of time out on the weekend.
  • TavistockToad
    TavistockToad Posts: 35,719 Member
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    Hello MFP's.
    Been running for about five years. Completed two HM about three years ago but I tend to stay in the 5k - 10k race distances. Probably my biggest problem is that I'm typically a three season runner, losing interest in the winter months and finding it difficult to run through the snow. Hoping to avoid that pitfall this year, signed up for a HM in May to keep me motivated. My weekly average is 16-20 miles, with long runs from 6-10 miles. My goals has always been to run a full marathon before my 50th birthday, I'm 48 and clock is ticking. How do you know if you’re ready? There is marathon in September 2018, basically giving me 12 months to prepare. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks for reading my post.

    In 12 months you can get ready if you're committed to it.

    The furthest I run is half marathons, because I have no desire to commit that much of my life to running... at the moment anyway!
  • rodmelching
    rodmelching Posts: 67 Member
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    I'd probably break things up into 2 goals. A half-marathon next spring followed by the marathon in the fall.

    Your current mileage would probably get you to a HM right now (Hal Higdon's HM training plans are typically about 12 weeks so you could relax a bit over the winter guilt free.

    Hal's Marathon training plans typically run 18 weeks so there would be some overlap (coming off a HM no need to start right back at week 1 unless you needed some serious recovery).

    If you really want to run one and diligently follow the training plan you should be fine (FWIW outside of triathlons my longest road race has been HM distance which i find to be a very enjoyable one.......I keep thinking about signing up for a full....one of these years)

    My main goal is to stay active through the winter months so that I'll be in a good position for next year. I don't have any doubts about covering the HM distance. I ran a 10k race this weekend and felt really strong, the second half of the race was my fastest 5k which was a good feeling. Appreciate your input.

    This might be off topic . . any first time triathlon advice? I was going to do a sprint race in the spring for fun. Started swimming laps at the high school pool one night a week. Wow . . talk about being sore after swimming some laps. I thought this will be easy, swim for an hour, piece a cake . . I was wrong! Got a whole lot more appreciate for you swimmers out there.
  • mirthfuldragon
    mirthfuldragon Posts: 124 Member
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    My suggestions:
    (1) You don't like running in winter - so don't. Or rather, keep it short as a warmup/cooldown, and spend the rest of the time in the gym focusing on strength training and flexibility, especially things like your hamstrings, glutes, IT bands, and core strength. Marathon training will expose every little weakness in the linkages, so spending a few months focusing on strengthening those will pay spades in injury prevention later. Plantar facitis or ITB syndrome in July or August will wreck your training; where running 30mpw now isn't going to give you a lot of gain.

    (2) Be reasonable about your goals. Your first marathon has only one: to finish. If you are hitting 16-20mpw now, you could probably go out and finish a marathon tomorrow. It would not be pretty or fast, but you would cross the finish line within the cutoff. Put all time goals out of your mind as best you can.

    (3) Pick a plan and stick with it. It really doesn't matter which plan - just follow it. Don't change it halfway through, don't make adjustments, just do what it tells you. If you can spare the $$, hiring a coach is a good idea, for the feedback, personalization, and letting someone else make the decisions and adjustments for you.

    A little about me: I'm a two-time Ironman finisher (140.6 distance), three time marathoner, and 30x+ triathlete, currently in my pudgy offseason. Have fun and enjoy the run. People either hate long-distance endurance sports or love it, but everybody should try to do a marathon.
  • rodmelching
    rodmelching Posts: 67 Member
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    My suggestions:
    (1) You don't like running in winter - so don't. Or rather, keep it short as a warmup/cooldown, and spend the rest of the time in the gym focusing on strength training and flexibility, especially things like your hamstrings, glutes, IT bands, and core strength. Marathon training will expose every little weakness in the linkages, so spending a few months focusing on strengthening those will pay spades in injury prevention later. Plantar facitis or ITB syndrome in July or August will wreck your training; where running 30mpw now isn't going to give you a lot of gain.

    (2) Be reasonable about your goals. Your first marathon has only one: to finish. If you are hitting 16-20mpw now, you could probably go out and finish a marathon tomorrow. It would not be pretty or fast, but you would cross the finish line within the cutoff. Put all time goals out of your mind as best you can.

    (3) Pick a plan and stick with it. It really doesn't matter which plan - just follow it. Don't change it halfway through, don't make adjustments, just do what it tells you. If you can spare the $$, hiring a coach is a good idea, for the feedback, personalization, and letting someone else make the decisions and adjustments for you.

    A little about me: I'm a two-time Ironman finisher (140.6 distance), three time marathoner, and 30x+ triathlete, currently in my pudgy offseason. Have fun and enjoy the run. People either hate long-distance endurance sports or love it, but everybody should try to do a marathon.

    Thanks for the advice. Major respect for your two-time Ironman finishes. I can't even begin to wrap my mind around running a marathon after swimming and biking those distances. I have a really good friend that done about ten races, think he's done Kona 3 or 4 times. I see him on my morning runs all the time, goes around me like I'm standing still . . lol . . swear I hear the roadrunner sound as he goes past.
  • DX2JX2
    DX2JX2 Posts: 1,921 Member
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    You definitely have the time to do it but would have to up your weekly mileage before starting a training plan in earnest.

    That said, make sure you ask yourself why you want to do it. The commitment required for marathon training can be pretty intense and it's at that longer mileage that you might start to see increased injuries, niggling issues, or other things that you'll have to gut out. What would your goals be for the marathon?

    Personally, I consider anything up to a half a pretty casual race. You can train pretty loosely and still run a reasonable race since the distances aren't that bad (that is, there's a relatively low likelihood that you absolutely won't be able to finish a half). A full marathon definitely requires a bit more planning and dedication.
  • MeanderingMammal
    MeanderingMammal Posts: 7,866 Member
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    Hello MFP's.
    Been running for about five years. Completed two HM about three years ago but I tend to stay in the 5k - 10k race distances. Probably my biggest problem is that I'm typically a three season runner, losing interest in the winter months and finding it difficult to run through the snow. Hoping to avoid that pitfall this year, signed up for a HM in May to keep me motivated. My weekly average is 16-20 miles, with long runs from 6-10 miles. My goals has always been to run a full marathon before my 50th birthday, I'm 48 and clock is ticking. How do you know if you’re ready? There is marathon in September 2018, basically giving me 12 months to prepare. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks for reading my post.

    A marathon plan will be 16 weeks or so, and personally I'd be recommending entering that at about 30 miles per week. In part that's about building the physical resilience for marathon training, and in part it's about giving yourself a solid aerobic base to start with. As you've already got a few HMs under your belt you've got the capacity for completion, it's about making that a comfortable completion more than anything else. With that in mind you don't need to worry about much over the winter, except keeping yourself ticking along and cross training.

    Personally in terms of knowing I was ready, I'd done a few HMs and just felt ready to step up. I've now done 5 full marathons and three ultras. I don't really have an off-season as my last race of the season is in December, and then the next one is in March.

    For your HM, pick a plan that will get you to decent mileage, potentially an improver plan that has longs out to about 16 miles, and you'll be well placed for marathon training. Wen you're identifying your marathon plan it's worth looking at those that have long back to back runs, giving you up to perhaps 30-40 miles over two days at peak. That helps prepare you for the mental aspect of a marathon.

    I'm conscious that for a half you don't need to worry too much about race nutrition, as you can do a half fasted. For a marathon you'll need to plan your feeding strategy, so you can use the back to backs to simulate the need for that.
  • collectingblues
    collectingblues Posts: 2,541 Member
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    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    If it were me, I'd do the 1/2 and go from there...my wife is an avid runner and always thought she wanted to do a marathon...after her first 1/2, she decided that she was good with that and doesn't really have any interest in a full...but she enjoys doing 1/2s.

    I'm kind of the same with cycling. I kind of have it in my head that I want to do a full century just to say I did it...but every time I do a 1/2 century I'm over it...

    That's how I am. I know I'd be bored out of my skull with a 20-mile training run -- never mind the fact that I don't have the time during the week to add in much beyond an hour run a few days a week, so I'd never get a good MPW -- and I simply don't have the *time* to dedicate to it. I'm quite happy sticking to 10Ks and half marathons. There's plenty of those races around, and the training is manageable.
  • pzarnosky
    pzarnosky Posts: 256 Member
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    Hello MFP's.
    Been running for about five years. Completed two HM about three years ago but I tend to stay in the 5k - 10k race distances. Probably my biggest problem is that I'm typically a three season runner, losing interest in the winter months and finding it difficult to run through the snow. Hoping to avoid that pitfall this year, signed up for a HM in May to keep me motivated. My weekly average is 16-20 miles, with long runs from 6-10 miles. My goals has always been to run a full marathon before my 50th birthday, I'm 48 and clock is ticking. How do you know if you’re ready? There is marathon in September 2018, basically giving me 12 months to prepare. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks for reading my post.

    When the switch in your brain flips and you make it your resolve that you must cross that finish line. That's pretty much how I decided.

    After that, the most important thing you need to consider is the time it will take. When you are at peak mileage running 40-50ish miles per week (varies per person for their plan), try to decide if you have 16-20 weeks to devote several hours per week to running AND RECOVERING. You'll need extra sleep, food, stretching, showers... etc.
  • MobyCarp
    MobyCarp Posts: 2,927 Member
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    Hello MFP's.
    Been running for about five years. Completed two HM about three years ago but I tend to stay in the 5k - 10k race distances. Probably my biggest problem is that I'm typically a three season runner, losing interest in the winter months and finding it difficult to run through the snow. Hoping to avoid that pitfall this year, signed up for a HM in May to keep me motivated. My weekly average is 16-20 miles, with long runs from 6-10 miles. My goals has always been to run a full marathon before my 50th birthday, I'm 48 and clock is ticking. How do you know if you’re ready? There is marathon in September 2018, basically giving me 12 months to prepare. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks for reading my post.

    Start making your long runs longer. Along about this time of year in 2014, I did that with the plan of running 4 half marathons in 2015 and my first marathon in September 2016. Along about March 2015, after I ran 20 miles to keep a buddy company (he was training for the Pittsburgh Marathon), my running buddies told me I was ready and I should run Buffalo. (Memorial Day weekend, a bit over an hour drive away.) When I found a hotel with one room left a mile from the finish line, I made the decision. Went and ran the 2015 Buffalo Marathon on less than 2 months' notice, with a peak weekly running distance of 41 miles. My peak long run before Buffalo was 22 miles.

    There are better ways to train for a marathon than I did for my first one, but the key to all marathon training is the long run. You want to be in a position where a 16 mile long run is no big deal, and anything less than 12 miles doesn't really feel like a long run. Once you get to that point, you only need a little fine tuning to be ready for a marathon.