Reality Check: Are You Ready to Run a Marathon?


According to Running USA, over 541,000 runners finished marathons in the United States last year. Incredibly, the amount of marathon finishers has increased over 40% in the last decade. Much of this growth is attributed to the popularity of the half marathon.

In 2013, there were 1.96 million half marathon finishers in the United States. The half marathon has inspired lots of recreational runners to run farther than they ever thought possible. And, the half marathon is really the perfect feeder system for the marathon. In fact, the runners often run side-by-side in the same race.

Most marathon runners will tell you that despite the rules of mathematics, 13.1 miles x 2 does not equal 26.2 miles. So, before signing up to run a marathon, consider the following questions. Your answers will determine if you are truly ready.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Running a Marathon

1. Do you have the time to train for a marathon?

You’ll be running 5-6 days every week. Some training runs may take up to 3 hours to complete. If you have a regular life, this is going to cramp your style. No more late nights before long run days. Muscle soreness and fatigue are normal side effects of marathon training, so you’ll need 8-9 hours of sleep to stay healthy.

2. Can you comfortably run 25 miles per week now?

A good mileage base develops the strength and resiliency needed to complete a marathon training program. It’s a good idea to run a few half marathons so that you have some realistic expectations of what race day will be like. I’d recommend at least two years of regular running before running a marathon.

3. Are you injured?

Any weaknesses or injuries will be exacerbated during marathon training.

4. Do you have a support network?

Your friends and family will be a source of strength for you. Clearly communicate how your training affects them, and how they can best help you.

5. Why are you running a marathon?

You use your legs and your mind to get through the first 20 miles of a marathon. You use your heart to get through the last six. Your motivation is what gets you out of bed early on cold mornings, what keeps you going on your first 18-mile long run, and what keeps you focused throughout the 16 weeks of hard training leading up to race day. What motivates you?

4 thoughts on “Reality Check: Are You Ready to Run a Marathon?

  1. Good article. I wanted to run a marathon for several years but a career that was demanding I could never balance training with work. Nevertheless it was always on my bucket list. Fortunately I was transferred to the corporate office that had a gym and I could schedule runs at lunch some of which took 2 hours. I stayed later at my job to get my work done. At the gym I also met a strong support group that got me through it.
    I agree that 2 years of prep work is important to build your base.
    A marathon is a great experience and a very rewarding. Now every time I see a sign on the highway saying 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 miles to destination I smile and think ‘not so far, I can run that’

    1. Thanks for the comment Joseph.

      I do the same thing when I see the mile markers and signs. It still amazes me to think of the distance we cover running marathons. 26.2 is a long way.

  2. Good article, except one point. I disagree that you have to run 5 or 6 times a week to complete a marathon. In fact I ran on average three times a week, with the very occasional 4th run. I would run one long run, one easy run and one hard effort run (hills/ tempo etc). Every marathon plan says 5/6 runs a week and this put me off for a long time. But I’m, and many others, are proof that you don’t have to run that much.

    1. Good point, Steve. We all respond to training differently. And, of course, it depends upon your goal for the marathon. If you are trying for an age group win or qualify for Boston, your training will look very different from someone who is running to finish.

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