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. Since I know many of you are considering this leap, I wanted to pull out a few key lessons and hope they help you make the leap when ready. Marathon training for beginners focuses on how to transition from running half marathons to 26.2:
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! STLrunnergirl instagram – “My name is Debbie, but most people call me on your left.”
BREAK UP THE PLAN
A first time marathon plan can easily be 18 to 24 weeks, which is a VERY long time to stay motivated for something that’s 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.
— >> How to pick the right marathon plan
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.
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
FIND A BUDDY
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 >>
FIRST TIME MARATHONER THOUGHTS
I loved watching all the cadets and wanted to get their thoughts as well to help provide more tips on marathon training for beginners.
Best thing about having a coach?
After a particularly difficult or disappointing run, which happens to everyone but seems like the end of the world/your running life at the time, Lora convinces me that it’s just a run and shouldn’t be taken too seriously (although, of course, one should try to determine any particular cause of said bad run, which should then be avoided in the future). She also reminds me to remember to ENJOY the run and to focus on why I’m choosing to run to begin with. Because she inspires me to focus on the beauty in the everyday, seemingly mundane things, I’m able to stay positive and have been winning the mental game thus far.
Biggest mental hurdle?
Allison – So far the biggest mental hurdle has been is getting back on track after a small injury. I strained my hip flexor (not running) and have not been running as much for the past 2 weeks. I had a half marathon warm up run today and I was kind of hesitant to run it.
I talked with Sarah (my coach) and my orthopedic and we decided for me to just run at a comfortable pace and not race the half. I was happy that I completed it (not a great time, but oh well). I ran the whole thing and had minimal discomfort. I am ready to start increasing my miles again now that I know I can do it!
Amy – My biggest mental hurdle during training has been myself.
Training for a marathon is no joke: it takes a lot of time, discipline, mental and physical energy. But I have found that I am my biggest hurdle. I am a hurdle to myself when I doubt my physical ability, my body and my training. I am a hurdle to myself when I feel that I am not fast enough or not strong enough. I am a hurdle to myself when I do not rest or cross-train or fuel properly.
But when I let go of most of my performance expectations, trust my body and my training… I know I can (and will) cross that finish line.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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