Reality Check: Are You Ready to Run a Marathon?

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By Jason Saltmarsh

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 five to six days every week. Some training runs may take up to three 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 eight to nine 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. You’ll need a clean bill of health before starting your 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?

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