Is a marathon simply twice as hard as a half marathon?
The best estimate I’ve seen is that the marathon is roughly 3.5 times as hard.
Working closely with my 26 Strong cadet Jodi a few years ago, helped me remember all the little things that go in to making the jump from running 13.1 to 26.2 and the right beginner marathon training. If you’ve already been running half marathons, then here’s what you need to know about how to train for a marathon.Since I know many of you are considering this leap, I wanted to pull out a few key lessons and hope they help you understand how to train for a marathon when you’re ready.
Marathon training for beginners focuses on how to transition from running half marathons to 26.2. There is SO MUCH that I want to share with you, you’ll find links to more details on most of these tips. That way you can find the one’s where you need to work the most and go deeper.
Focus Less On Pace
Worry less about speed and more about time on your feet.
During the middle to peak phase of training, you are helping your body get used to the stress of moving for extended periods of time and turning on your fat burners so you won’t need to rely on too many gels.
- You don’t need to be a certain pace to go from the half to the full
- You do need to have a sold amount of running under your belt; rule of thumb is at least a year
- Recognize the value of walking as part of training
- Learn how to pace yourself while running outside
I love this shirt! “My name is Debbie, but most people call me on your left.”
Break Up the Training Plan
How long do you need to train for a marathon? A first time marathon plan can easily be 18 to 24 weeks, which is a VERY long time to stay motivated for something in the distant future.
This makes it far too easy to skip runs here and there. Instead focus the first part of your training on a half marathon around the mid-way point, this will allow you to increase miles and still enjoy some speed work for a new goal.
I didn’t dive in to any specific marathon training plan here because I’ve outlined all the major one’s to help you decide which method is going to best work with your life, goals and running preferences. — >> How to pick the right marathon planFind out what it really takes to go from training for a half marathon to a full! #runchat #fitness Click To Tweet
Test Out One the Run Fuel
Technically the body can store enough glycogen to get you through a 20 mile run, which is why you’re far less likely to bonk in a half marathon.
The marathon represents a new challenge of maintaining steady energy throughout to beat the dreaded wall, which is a result of your body switching from fat burning to carbohydrates and well…because it’s a big task you’re asking of your body.
Stop over fueling
You don’t need a gel every 30 minutes. This is often what leads to gastric distress and of course turns off your fat burning which is the long term energy we want to rely on over carbs.
Gel, food or blocks
It’s time to figure out which kind of fuel works for you. Many runners find a specific brand doesn’t upset their stomach, while others lead straight to the nearest porta-potty. You must test and don’t be afraid to use whole foods!Hydrate Beyond Water
Figure out how you’ll carry water on your long runs and then practice sipping it along the way, not guzzling. Putting electrolytes in your water while running will provide the immediate taste of sweetness in the mouth which can trick the body in to believing it’s received carbs. This alone helped Jodi stop using gels on runs during the week and need far less on long runs.
Remember what you eat around workouts is also important for energy and reducing inflammation. Checkout specific tips for ideal pre-workout foods and post workout recovery meals.
Don’t Neglect Long Runs
Don’t look too far ahead in the training plan or work with a coach who only gives you a few weeks at a time. When your longest run ever has been 13.1 miles it can and should be mildly terrifying to realize that many weeks your long run will be longer!
- Just deal with the current long run, not next week
- Do NOT skip your long runs – they take the most time and thus are often the first to be ditched when life gets busy…but that will hurt you in the end (injury, race day DNF and so much more)
- Celebrate every new personal distance record, it makes those miles more exciting
- Remember this is a mental game and that pain might be all in your head
- Learn the difference between discomfort and pain — it’s a big difference between injury and quitting
If you want to know how long it takes to run a marathon, you’ll get a much better idea of that answer as you keep doing the long runs. Many of us are surprised to find that 17 miles feels not so bad and then 20 suddenly feels like we need to slow way down to keep going.
Try Sharing the Experience
While I do love the benefits of solo long runs, having someone at your side during those new personal distance records training runs. That’s right suddenly your weekend long run is longer than your previous race distance…it’s mentally scary to realize that!
If you can’t find some one crazy enough to also train for a marathon, ask friends to meet you for portions of the run or get a friend to bike along with you.
Scared to join a running group? I’ve got you covered with all the tips you need >>
Remember It’s a Journey
After a particularly difficult or disappointing run, which happens to everyone, it can feel like the end of the world/your running life at the time.
Remember one bad run doesn’t meant you’re going up in flames! In fact, maybe that bad run was actually your body saying it needed a rest day or jet lag or a cold coming on. Checkout my tips on dealing with bad runs.
And more importantly, remember to ENJOY the run and to focus on why you choose to tackle a marathon to begin with. Let go of all your mental expectations about how you should be doing or how it should feel and just embrace the entire journey!
Other questions about marathon training, let me know in the comments!
Road to a PR Series
There’s SOOOOO much to learn in this process that I created a complete training series:
Choosing your race pace >>
Picking the right race for your goal >>
Creating your training plan >>
Why you need a base building phase>>
Safely adding speed work >>
Understanding peak week training >>
10 marathon training secrets every new runner should know>>
Have you made the leap to 26.2?
What’s something you learned during training?
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Three years ago I made the commitment to run the Michelson Trail Marathon in The Black Hills of SD my only other previous marathon experience was The Duke City in Albuquerque NM in 1989. I have finally after three years had the time to train for the run and am running my first half marathon in 2 days – Spearfish Canyon in Spearfish SD. I Just wanted to say that you helped me to make up my mind about the transition to the full marathon for I was planning on running Run Crazy Horse marathon in October. I didn’t feel confident about making this transition and your website showed me that I was not wrong on making this assumption. I am instead going to run The Sioux Falls 1/2, the Omaha 1/2 and possibly the Run Crazy Horse 1/2 this year and spend the winter training for The Michelson Trail Marathon in June 2016.
Thanks for the tips. I am training for my 1st marathon…and its tough once i started pass the 21K …(13mile mark.).my brain and body start to “fight against each other”…finding tine to run is also difficult..i get out at least once a week for a 20K + run…
i found ur info very helpful. i am 50 and i’ve done 2 half marathons . The full marathon is on my bucket list . i’m on week 12 of training just ran my first 16 miler . After i was done mentally was exhausted now two days later looking ahead at my next long run. I am nervous excited & little doubtful about myself. My non running friends are very supportive, but it’s my inner mind that freaks me out . Can you give me any advice yo over come this ? i am running solo which i’m ok with but just found out this race No music or earbuds allowed & that was my saving grace.
Thanks for ur help!!!!!
Hey Colette! A great trick is to dedicate each mile to someone, so during that mile you a spending time thinking about them in gratitude. I also spend time doing weird mental calculations to pass the miles, like balancing a checkbook :)
Was trying to google more about doing a full marathon as I’ve been contemplating on whether I should do it this coming July (Gold Coast Airport Marathon). I’ve been doing half marathons for for more than 3 years but was always too chicken to push doing a full marathon. I just finished doing a half marathon run via a community running event about 3 weeks ago and still doing my usual long distance runs of 13-18K, and clocking in 35K weekly mileage. With these stats that I’m currently doing, do you reckon I should be alright if I push myself to do my first ever full marathon? The event is in 7weeks time.
Thanks in advance.
This is hard to say without being your coach, I don’t know all the details. BUT I would say that 7 weeks isn’t a lot of time to get your body used to the extra miles. I’d give yourself at least 3 months minimum to train up enough that you won’t hate the experience :)
I just found your blog from this Pinterest post and I am so happy I did! I just registered for my first full marathon on July 23 and am learning how to take myself from many half marathons to the full. I like your approach of not looking too far ahead and totally agree that the long runs definitely matter the most! I will be checking out the rest of your blog posts :) Thanks so much for all the great information!
wohoo!!! Good luck!!! It’s not always going to be easy, but enjoy the process and take pride in doing the hard work!
Great tips thanks, have been running for a couple of years (to lose weight & lower cholesterol) after being more a weights/gym person. Completed my local half marathon in April 2017 and have decided to move up to my first full marathon in next years local event in April 2018. can you point me in the right direction for nutrition advice? I am trying to balance eating right to lose weight with fuelling my body right for running.
Super helpful tips, thank you! Have my first marathon (wooo) coming up in June :) (and never was much of a racer- have done one half and a few 5k-10k charity runs)
good luck!!! remember to just enjoy that huge milestone, no pressure!