How Long Does It Take to Train for a Marathon?

Marathon training is a big undertaking; there is no question about that. But what if we told you marathon training did not have to be such a daunting idea? In fact, if you plan ahead, find a solid marathon training plan, and stick to that plan, gradual improvements will allow you to be ready by race day with minimal stress.

Marathon Training Time Based On Running Experience

In this article, we’re diving into how long it takes to train for a marathon given your running experience: from beginners to vets. Let’s dive in!

I’m a brand new, beginning runner.

If you are brand new to running and to working out in general, a marathon is still completely doable. In fact, it’s a great goal to kickstart your fitness journey. Figuring out how to train for a marathon will be your first big hurdle. Luckily, we’ve got you covered.

As a general rule, beginning runners should give themselves at least 5-6 months to train for a full marathon. After all, you don’t just want to finish your first marathon.

You want to finish your race feeling strong and injury-free. If you are looking to make long distance running a habit, you’ll want to create a good memory out of your first marathon.

This is why we suggest at least 5-6 months of training beforehand. And you will want to find a marathon training plan. Let your plan do the heavy lifting in your marathon training – all you should have to do is show up every day and do what the plan says. And don’t worry, at least once a week, the plan will say to rest.

Your Main Goals:

  • Acquire sufficient physical fitness to finish the race
  • Learn and practice proper running form
  • Build the endurance and mental toughness required to run such a long distance

If it is your first time running, find a plan that starts with short distances at a slow tempo, utilizing the run-walk method. This method allows you to combine running and walking in intervals.

Maybe for your first run you’ll run for 30 seconds, and walk for one minute, repeating that pattern for 20 minutes. From there, you can eventually bump that up to running for one minute, and walking for 30 seconds, or some variation of that. This way, you are learning proper running form while incrementally increasing your fitness level.

Over the next 5-6 months, your will gradually increase distance and speed. When searching for the proper marathon training plan, make sure your training plan has variety.

marathon training partner

For many beginner runners, it helps to find a training partner, or to join a running group, either in person or online. Telling someone about your training helps you to stay accountable, as does having someone to train with. Consider asking a friend if they want to get fit and train with you!

Each week, you (and your partner) will incorporate a long distance run, some speed work, 1-2 days of strength training, and plenty of mobility every single day. If mobility is new to you, check out this video on foam rolling basics for beginners.

 

Hopefully, you’ll find the training plan that works perfectly for you. However, if you don’t, just remember that these plans can easily be modified and customized to your needs.

For example, if you are aiming for a particular marathon time, adjust your plan accordingly if necessary. Especially as you get closer to race day, adjust your training paces so that they reflect your desired race time.

I am active, but running has never been my thing.

For those who work out regularly or even semi-regularly, give yourself 3-4 months to train for a full marathon. Your overall fitness will certainly help you cross that finish line, but running requires a particular skillset that is best built gradually.

For this reason, give yourself about a month to get ready for your marathon distance run. Here at The Run Experience, we always recommend following a training plan, no matter your fitness level.

A training program will take care of determining things like weekly mileage, weekly number of training runs, when your rest days are, and other things like that.

The less planning and stressing you have to do, the easier your training will be. It’s that simple. So let your training plan take care of that and be your running coach; you just have to be the athlete.

The biggest challenge of your marathon training is going to be running on some of the days when you would normally do a different work out. Or perhaps, given your current workout schedule, your biggest challenge might be fewer rest days than you’re used to.

Again, this is why we recommend a training plan so that your runs are like any other calendared appointment.

marathon training plan

Your Main Goals:

  • Learn and practice proper running form
  • Build the endurance and mental toughness required to run such a long distance

If you are already working out regularly, you do not need to switch up your routine entirely. Find a marathon training program that incorporates cross-training, and use those days for your normal workout method.

Your marathon training requires you to build both the particular muscle memory associated with running, and the endurance a marathon requires. If you give yourself enough time to build these things gradually, your body will thank you on and after race day.

A major benefit of starting your marathon training early is that you will be less prone to injury. This is because you’ll have time to incorporate easy run days and recovery days. Not only will these minimize overall soreness during training, but they will make your tempo and long distance runs that much stronger.

I already run, and I’ve even done a half marathon, but I’ve never run a full marathon.

The only difference between “marathoners” and “recreational runners” who have never done a marathon:  marathon preparation. Longer distances simply require more preparation so that you can teach your body how to calm down and support you, even at mile 25.

If you are changing your race distance to become a marathoner, give yourself 2-3 months to get marathon-ready. Your run form is likely in good shape, but finding and maintaining marathon pace over such a long distance is a tall order.

Allow yourself enough time to properly train and comfortably switch your distance, so that your body doesn’t try to fight back against the sudden added mileage.

Your Main Goal:

  • Build marathon-level endurance and mental toughness

It is important to note that some of your training runs are going to be longer than anything you’ve done before. These longer runs beat the body up. In fact, when it comes to marathon training, one of the biggest hurdles is actually just making it to the starting line.

mobility


This means your mobility and recovery practices are even more important. If you already follow running training plans, just be sure you really stick to your marathon plan.

If training plans are a new concept for you, we cannot recommend them enough. Maybe you used to be able to get away with not using your foam roller, or with skipping your cool down, at shorter distances. When it comes to marathon distance training, that is no longer the case, and a training program will hold you accountable for things like that.

Runners of all levels can successfully cross that marathon finish line. Just be sure to give yourself adequate prep time, stick to your training plan, and enjoy the ride!