06 Feb 2018

How Long Should You Train for a Marathon?

Fitness and workout advice

“How long is a marathon?” the average male asks.

“About 42 kilometres.

I’m already walking that every week following the wife around shopping malls and supermarkets. How hard can it be?”

Well, fairly hard.

In fact, most marathon runners will tell you it’s much harder than pushing a shopping trolley around Coles, even at Christmas. And while this is certainly a form of exercise, especially if you put all the really heavy stuff at the front of the trolley, it won’t adequately prepare you for a marathon.

So what will? And when should you start training like a person training for a marathon, whatever that training is? 

Four months should do it.

If you’re a first time marathon runner, you’re looking at a slow, but steady build for about 20 weeks before marathon day. The key is not to rupture yourself early as you build your weekly kilometres up to a combined total of around 80km before race day.

How to choose your first marathon

As a novice marathon runner in the making, it’s always a good idea to cross The Olympics off your list first. While, no doubt, a very good marathon with larger than average opportunities to get on TV, Olympic marathons are notoriously picky on who gets to run and who doesn’t.

To start, you might want to choose something a bit more low key and local, be it a modest rural event on largely spectator-free country roads or a city event with thousands of entrants and a larger fan base lining the streets.

A local marathon means you get to run on roads you train on. But if you really want all the added pressure and/or motivation of a ‘destination marathon’ such as Honolulu, you can make it a major life event.

How to prepare

First, prove to yourself that you can run long distances comfortably over a decent period of time, this being before you commit to a marathon training regime. It’s all very well to say “I’m going to run a marathon,” but a marathon isn’t just a long jog, it’s a gruelling and potentially dangerous event if the wrong body is pushed to limits it doesn’t have.

So, first step, talk to your doctor. Second step, build your kilometres up gradually week by week. Third step, run a few smaller, shorter 5 or 10km events to see how you react to the mental and physical pressures of a competitive race.

Run for your life

Well, a good part of it; 3 to 5 times a week is optimum with a fairly long distance run once every 10 days or so to slowly adapt your body to the endurance of a marathon. Add in a bit of interval jog/sprint work to pump up your cardio capacity.

Make your longest lead-up run about 32km

Hang on, you say, a marathon is 42km! Correct. As a rule, marathon runners never run a full marathon in the lead-up to a marathon. Why? Because no one runs that far unless they absolutely have to; that’s why they’re called marathons.

So where do I find the strength for that extra 10km?

 If you’ve trained well, no problem; adrenaline and a cheering crowd will carry you through that last 10km. 

Deepen your health and fitness knowledge and plan your training with an AIPT course.

Why not help others do the same? As a personal trainer, you can not only get yourself fit for marathons and enjoy that major bucket list moment, you can help others get there as well. Call us today on 1300 616 180 to get started.

Get in touch with AIPT today.

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