Training for a marathon is a challenging feat for anyone to take on, as running 26.2 miles isn’t easy. Being such an arduous process, the more time you have to train for your marathon, the better.
With that said, you are most likely wondering to yourself: how long does it take to train for a marathon?
As with most answers in the running world, it depends, but there are some hard and fast rules to ensure you are giving yourself enough time. When thinking about how long it takes to train for a marathon, there are many things to consider, such as your fitness level, experience running, and running goals.
In this article, we will break down our answers about how long it takes to train for a marathon by running experience and goals and also give you a general timeframe to answer your question: how long does it take to train for a marathon?
More specifically, we will discuss:
- How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Non-Runners
- How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Beginner Runners
- How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Intermediate Runners
- How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Advanced Runners
- 5 Helpful Marathon Training Tips
Let’s jump in!
How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Non-Runners
Taking on a marathon as your first big goal is quite a challenge if you are just starting out on your running journey.
As running is a high-impact sport, a body unfamiliar with the stresses and pounding of running becomes at high risk for injuries. The best action plan would be to start at the beginning with a Couch to 5k walk-run plan.
This way, your body can adapt to the impact of running little by little, with your first workouts broken down into more digestible run/walk intervals.
After you have crossed the finish line of your first 5k, take the following steps to increase your distance gradually:
- Run a few more 5k races with the goal of improving your time.
- Next, move on and train for a 10k race and run several of them, each time, trying to improve your PR.
- Finally, take on a couple of half marathons over the next 6 months until you feel more comfortable with the distance.
- Now you are ready to begin to train for your first marathon!
This progression would be the safest way for a non-runner to build up running volume and stay injury-free.
So, ideally, for non-runners, we are looking at a timeframe of a year to a year and a half to train for a marathon safely.
However, suppose you are absolutely convinced that you must run a marathon as your first goal, and there is no way to change your mind. In that case, we do have a training plan for you.
To get you to cross the finish line of your very first marathon ready to go, you will need 6 months with this plan.
For a person completely new to running, this 6-month training plan process will be split into four distinct sections and take you from a Couch to 5k, 5k to 10k, 10k to half-marathon, and then half-marathon to the marathon at warp speed.
Check it out! Couch to Marathon Training Plan
How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Beginner Runners
There is quite a significant distinction between non-runners and beginner runners.
A beginner runner will have experienced the impact stresses of running and already have their body adapted to them, at least somewhat, depending on the experience level.
For someone who has been running shorter distances, such as 5ks and 10ks consistently, but will be running their first marathon, 5-6 months is the recommended amount of time to prepare them for a marathon in the safest way possible.
Since the body is already adapted to running in general, the new stressor in training for the marathon will be the increase in volume, working your way up little by little to reach the 26.2 miles.
See our plan: 20-Week Marathon Training Plan For Beginners.
How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Intermediate Runners
Now, runners with more experience who have been running shorter or mid-distances for a while now or have even dabbled in a couple of previous marathons will be able to train for a marathon in a bit less time.
However, as mentioned before, the more time you train for your marathon, the better your result will be, especially if you are looking at a specific time goal and beating your previous personal record.
Anywhere from 16-20 weeks would be a suitable amount of training time for an intermediate runner to train for a marathon.
See our: 16 Week Marathon Training Plan For Intermediate Runners or 20 Week Sub 3:30 Marathon Training Plan
How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon: Advanced Runners
The same time rule goes for advanced runners as well. Suppose you are trying to run a sub-3-hour marathon or want to crush your past PR. Taking more rather than less time to train for your marathon will give you a better chance to reach your goals.
16-20 weeks is a reasonable amount of time to dedicate to training for a marathon as an advanced runner.
See our: 20 Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan or Sub 3-Hour Marathon Training Plan
As you can see, these are both 20-week plans. Even advanced runners should take their time and carry out a complete marathon process.
5 Helpful Marathon Training Tips
Now that you have a good idea of how long it takes to train properly for a marathon, you can begin planning your first race. There are some other important factors to consider when taking on such a challenging goal. Let’s take a look at the most pressing ones:
#1: Follow A Training Plan
As your first step, you must find a professional marathon training plan to follow. The riskiest thing you can do is make it up as you go along and train how you think you should.
Training plans are well-thought-out puzzles, with every piece placed just so. The length, intensity, and placement of each and every workout are arranged to help you reach success, which means finishing the marathon injury-free.
We have excellent marathon training plans created by experts for you to follow; enter our marathon training plan database to start perusing.
#2: Carve Out Your Training Time
No matter what level, a marathon training plan is a big commitment. Between easy runs, speed work sessions, long runs, cross-training, and hitting the gym twice a week, your schedule just got a whole lot busier.
Scheduling in advance when you will do each piece of the training is critical for success.
Whether it’s early in the morning before you start your day, a lunchtime run, or an evening workout, plan your sessions on your calendar to be sure you stick to them.
Not only do you need to set aside your time for your training, but you need to incorporate other time-consuming commitments such as getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, stretching, mobility, sports massage if need be, and planning your pre- and post-run snacks and meals.
#3: Fuel To Run
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet daily that can keep up with your calorie-burning workouts is vital. Most marathon runners’ diets are carb-heavy, as carbs provide the energy they need for workouts.
Aside from your healthy day-to-day eating habits, you must make some adjustments to your diet.
Add pre-run snacks before workouts, and post-run protein or recovery shakes or meals afterward. You will also need to learn how to fuel for your long runs, ultimately turning into your race-day fueling and hydration.
For a full rundown on marathon fueling, check out our complete guide here.
#4: Ensure You Are In Good Health
Before taking on a demanding training plan, especially if you are a new runner, check with your healthcare provider to ensure you are in tip-top shape before beginning.
It is always better to err on the side of caution.
#5: Don’t Cut Corners
Piggybacking on following a training plan, don’t cut corners. Your training plan has been specially sculpted just for your goal, so every piece has a purpose and an objective.
Warm up, cool down, and please, please, please, don’t skimp on the strength training, as it is vital for optimal performance. Of course, if you have any pain or discomfort, a day off here and there will actually help, not hurt you.
Other than that, stick to that plan!
Most of all, enjoy this journey! You will be putting in a lot of time and effort and will see that it’s definitely worth it in the end.
In summary, if you are already a runner, training for a marathon usually takes between 16-20 weeks following a well-constructed training plan.
If you are not a runner, yet an active person, you will take 6 months at the least, and for someone who doesn’t run, it could take up to a year or a year and a half to train for a marathon correctly.
We want to help you get started today by giving you the best marathon training plan possible. Check out all of our options here: Marathon Training Plan Database.