If you have been running for some time you might be getting to the point where your sights are set on training for a marathon.
The natural questions become, “Am I ready to run a marathon?”, “Can I run a marathon?” or even “Should I run a marathon?“
In other words, how do you know when you are ready to run a marathon?
In this article, we will discuss signs that indicate you are ready to run a marathon and points to think about to help you answer the question: “Can I run a marathon?”
We will cover:
- Should I Run a Marathon?
- Can I Run a Marathon?
- Am I Ready to Run a Marathon?
Let’s jump in!
Should I Run a Marathon?
Before we look into how to tell if you are ready to run a marathon, it’s helpful to answer the common question that a lot of runners have: Should I run a marathon?
With “should“ being the operative word, it is important to establish that there isn’t any law or rule that says every runner needs to run a marathon or that you have to have run a marathon to be considered a serious runner or “real“ runner.
Whether you choose to run shorter races or never sign up for a single race in your life, or you aspire to qualify for the Boston marathon or run all six Marathon Majors, any approach to running or not running marathons is completely valid and says nothing about your merit or worthiness as a valued member of the running community.
However, if you want to run a marathon, then by all means, you can begin to assess whether or not you are ready to run a marathon.
Can I Run a Marathon?
The questions: “Can I run a marathon?“ and “Am I ready to run a marathon?“ are seemingly similar, although the nuanced differences between them can actually yield different answers.
Can I run a marathon is akin to Can anyone run a marathon?
Answering this question involves assessing whether you physically and logistically will be able to run a marathon at some point.
Am I ready to run a marathon speaks to your ability to currently begin marathon training in preparation to run a marathon in the relatively near future.
Let’s start with “Can anyone run a marathon?”
Beginners might be unsure whether you have to be at a certain level or be able to run a certain speed in order to run a marathon.
Except for certain marathons that require a qualifying time, almost any marathon is open to anyone who wants to run, and about 1.1 million runners finished a marathon in 2019.
Note that some marathons do have cut-off times, so you may not be considered an official marathon finisher if you are slower than the cut-off finish time.
However, for all intents and purposes, theoretically, anyone can find a marathon that they can enter and run based on their ability level.
Now, on to: “Can I run a marathon?”
The majority of runners can run a marathon at some point in their running journey with proper training and the motivation and desire to do so.
With that said, if you have a chronic health condition or a history of running injuries, a diagnosis of osteoporosis, or have some other physical limitation that may make the grueling demands of running 26.2 miles not optimal or safe for your body or mind, running a marathon may not be in the cards for your journey as a runner.
If you aspire to run a marathon but are not sure whether your body is up to it or if you have other potential contraindications, you should speak with your doctor about your goals of training for a marathon and see if that would at all be possible down the line, and how you can get there.
Aside from the physical considerations of whether you will ever be able to run a marathon, you also need to consider the logistics in terms of the time you have available to train.
Am I Ready to Run a Marathon?
There is no official rule book or flowchart that will definitively determine whether you are ready to run a marathon or not.
Different running coaches and experts suggest that runners are able to satisfy a different set of criteria before they are physically ready to take on marathon training.
However, here are some suggested guidelines for determining if you are ready to run a marathon:
You Have Been Running For At Least Six Months
Running a marathon is extremely demanding on the body. Covering 26.2 miles by foot takes even the fastest runners a minimum of two hours and takes most runners closer to 4 to 5 hours.
Marathon training is also very taxing on the body, so it is best to have at least six months of consistent running under your belt, if not a year, before you even begin marathon training.
You Can Already Run 8-10 Miles
In general, it’s best to wait to start training for a marathon until you can run about 8 to 10 miles continuously without stopping.
A marathon is 26.2 miles, and almost all marathon training plans will build up to a long run of at least 20 miles if not 22 miles or so.
This means that you need to be able to build up from your current long run distance to the 20-mile long run and then taper for several weeks before race day.
If you have run a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles, you are absolutely ready to begin marathon training.
It will still take quite a number of weeks to build up to the marathon distance, but you can probably follow a 16-week marathon training plan or an even shorter 12-week marathon training plan depending on your goals and how much running you have been doing in preparation for the half marathon.
You Are Running At Least 20 Miles Per Week
You should be currently running at least 20 to 25 miles per week, or 32 to 40 kilometers per week, on a consistent basis before beginning marathon training.
Again, if you are not yet hitting this average weekly mileage, take a couple of weeks or more, depending on your current training volume, to build up to this level before beginning a marathon training program.
You Have the Time
This one comes back to the question: Can I run a marathon?
Training for a marathon takes time, both in terms of a weekly investment for all of your running workouts and auxiliary workouts and also in terms of the number of weeks or months before the slated marathon date.
When deciding if it is a good time to begin marathon training, look at your schedule moving forward for the next several months and ask yourself the following questions.
Is your job and living situation going to be relatively stable, or do you anticipate moving or switching positions?
Will you have the necessary childcare, or are you expecting a new baby?
Do you have a big trip planned or a lot of work conferences coming up that will make it difficult to fit in your training on the road?
Thinking through these logistics and the number of weeks you have available to train for your marathon will help you determine whether it is a good time to start marathon training.
You also need to have the time in your daily schedule to accommodate marathon training.
You Have the Desire
Last but certainly not least, you should have a desire and motivation to run a marathon.
Marathon training is very physically and mentally demanding, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it. Rather, it should be an exciting adventure that stokes your desire to get out there and train every day.
Of course, there will be days that even the most enthusiastic marathon runners will struggle to feel motivated to train, but you definitely should assess whether your heart and head are saying, “I WANT to run a marathon!”
Ultimately, you know your own body and your own life best. If you feel ready to run a marathon and you want to run a marathon, and there are no glaring red flags as to why you shouldn’t run a marathon, by all means, begin training.
Just be honest about your current fitness level and choose an appropriate marathon training plan.
If you are ready to get started, check out our free marathon training plans here.