From Half Marathon to Marathon: Cross the Finish Line in Triumph

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Looking to make the leap from half marathon to marathon? In this post, I walk you through the strategies and training modalities I recommend to adapt your training for a full marathon.

First thing first . . . take a step back and appreciate your achievements. 

You just completed another huge step in your running journey: the half marathon. 

That’s amazing. It’s incredible! Remember when you first started running?

Remember how you could barely run a mile without stopping, gasping for breath, wishing you were back in the safe arms of your comfortable couch?

Well, now you’ve run 13.1 miles. And you did it on your own. That deserves a hearty pat on the back. 

But you can’t stop there. You’ve got to keep going. You’ve got to reach for your dreams and work until you have them firmly in your grasp.

Once you’ve completed your half marathon recovery, it’s time to focus on that next goal: 26.2 miles!

Why Everyone Should Run a Marathon

Very few people in the world have actually run a marathon. So we have to change that! Running a marathon has so many benefits for your physical and mental health.

It’s a shame not to take advantage of them.  

A marathon forges determination. 

When I say ‘determination,’ I don’t use that word lightly. Going from a half marathon to a marathon will require sacrifice. It will affect your whole life

You’ll find yourself choosing rest over going out. Friday nights will mean an early bedtime instead of Netflix and snacks. 

You’ll make changes to your routine. And you’ll have to stick to them, no matter what. But when the sacrifice is great, the reward is also great. 

It’ll change your life habits for the better. Changing those little habits is certainly difficult. At times, it will feel like it’s not worth it. But here’s what you need to have in mind: 

Each successful day of change will move your life in a better direction. Even after a tiring run, you’ll feel more energetic. 

Your mental health will skyrocket. Running produces endorphins in the brain for a natural high that will give you the boost you need to face the day. 

If you have a condition that requires doctor-prescribed medications, it won’t replace them. But the runner’s high will give you a daily supplement to seriously perk up your mood and help that process along. 

You’ll build positive routines that last. If you want to fit your runs (especially the long ones) into your busy schedule, you’re going to develop excellent organizational skills. 

Once you see the benefits of that schedule and routine, you’ll never go back. You’ll be reaping that result for the rest of your life. 

Once you run a half marathon, your body is ready for more.

After finishing a big goal like a half marathon, it’s anti-climatic to sit down and quit. Not only does that have emotional consequences, your body doesn’t want to quit either. 

Don’t forget about the animalistic side of our natural order. Just like a horse or other animal that gets trained for sports, your body will grow accustomed to the daily training. 

There may be negative consequences of stopping after that first half marathon.

How Marathon Training Looks Different From the Half Marathon

Even though the transition from half marathon to marathon is natural, the training plans do look a bit different.

The Runs Are Longer

As you may have guessed, your weekly long runs are going to be much longer. But don’t worry – you’ll take them gradually. 

We won’t load you up with more than you can handle. But you will need to prepare and strategize for that bigger time and energy commitment.

Eating Right Will Make or Break It

Every runner has to be conscious of their diet. But a marathon runner has even more responsibility to feed their machine correctly. 

Some of your long runs will be a challenge. You’ll wonder if you can make it. If you’re eating well, it’s going to make all the difference. In fact, it could mean you can or can’t make the long run that day.

You’ll Be More Prone to Injuries

Training for a marathon increases that risk for injuries. It’s the number one reason most runners drop out. This is where you’ll start to really feel the difference in your knees, hip, ankle, or back. 

So right now stretching, wearing braces where necessary, and consulting your doctor or trainer are crucial. More than ever.

from half marathon to marathon

Ways to Overcome the Difficulties Marathon Training

Just because a marathon is difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With the right tools and techniques, you can not only cross the finish line but triumph in that race. 

The best way to make that happen is summarized in 2 points:

  • Plan Strategically
  • Prepare Mentally

1. Plan Strategically

Plan your runs. Taking your training one step at a time is important, but it only works on one condition: that you already have a solid, overall plan ahead of time.

If you approach your marathon training randomly (a long run here and a short run there), you won’t get the results you’re looking for. So make sure you map it out beforehand. 

Check out our free training plans at the bottom of this post!

Plan your diet. Protein. Carbs. Vegetables. Are you getting enough? 

There’s a sure-fire way to guarantee you’re getting the right nutrients you need: meal prep. 

Many people swear by preparing meals ahead of time and having them ready in the freezer or refrigerator. Ration out your necessary nutrients, then just grab them and go. 

If you’re not quite up to that amount of preparation, you can at least make a menu for the week. Decide what you’ll eat for every meal (including snacks) and buy all the ingredients you’ll need to make that happen. 

Read more: 10 Rules of Marathon Training Nutrition

Factor time for stretching and recovery. These important marathon training aspects get overlooked all too frequently. Stretching and recovery runs are the best way to avoid injuries and help your body get back to its optimum energy state for your next run. 

But you knew that already. 

Plan your nights out. Some of you work a 9-5 job so you generally know you’ll be going out with friends over the weekend. If you can plan that outing ahead of time, you can work your long run around that. 

Others who run a less consistent schedule find themselves planning fun events randomly. Is that you? If so, try to schedule that in advance, so you can make a weekly plan. 

Don’t go out and have drinks the night before a long run! You won’t be happy about that hangover side ache and your slow cadence.

2. Prepare Yourself Mentally

Have a motivational strategy. Now that you’ve gone from a couch to 5K, finished a 10K, and then graduated from 10K to half marathon, you’ve learned a lot about yourself…physically and emotionally

What are your biggest struggles when it comes to running? Is it getting up early to train instead of sleeping in? Is it fear that you can’t do it? Is it carrying on when you’re totally exhausted? 

Knowing these challenges will help you overcome them. How? Just being aware of them makes you identify the behavior and consciously change it, instead of getting caught up in the moment and giving up. 

Don’t forget why you’re doing it. There are so many reasons people go from half marathon to marathon. Here are some of the reasons:

They want to set a challenge and stick to it. 

They want to create healthy life changes and habits. 

They want to compete with themselves. 

What is your reason to run? Write it down. Remember it when the going gets tough.

First Steps To Prepare for Marathon

Training for a marathon is a pretty straightforward process. The real challenge comes when you put in the actual work. Here are some initial steps you can take to set the race in motion.

Start a Running Log

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. But it helps to jot down a quick note after each run. Alex Honnold, the first climber to free solo El Capitan (Yosemite National Park), logs every climb, noting the steps he took and how the climb went. 

Were you properly hydrated? Did you rest well beforehand? Having these references will help you as you prepare for race day.

Consider doing a tune-up race as race day approaches in order to iron out your racing strategies!

Download a Training Plan

Find a plan that works for you. We tailor our FREE half marathon to marathon training plans to work with your schedule, your pace, and your personal goals. 

Each plan can be edited in Google Sheets to make every detail specific to you. 

Some of our most popular training plans for making the leap from half marathon to marathon:

Marathon Training Plans - How to Train for a Marathon 5
Marathon Training Plans - How to Train for a Marathon 6
Marathon Training Plans - How to Train for a Marathon 7
Marathon Training Plans - How to Train for a Marathon 8

. . . or check out our full marathon training plan library!

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Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon.

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