After running 8 marathons, training everyday runners for marathons and coaching several different run clubs, I am pretty familiar with the question:
Do you think I could run a marathon?
My answer is always: Do you think you can run a marathon? That answer is more important than any one I could ever give you, but there are certain criteria you may want to consider before undertaking the rigorous training schedule a marathon requires.
1. Are you injury-free? Because if you’re not, those injuries are likely only going to get worse as you pack on the miles.
2. Is there enough time before your marathon for you to adequately train? If you already run 6-8 miles comfortably, you’ll need about 4-6 months to train. If you’re a 3-5 miler, you’ll want to plan for a marathon that’s 8-10 months away. If you’re new to running entirely or just a casual 2-miler-with-the-dog kinda runner, you’ll want a year. I know, it sounds like a long time, but mileage is hard to put on and doing it slower helps to keep you from getting injured along the way.
3. Do you have the time? Can you commit to running 4-6 miles, 2-3 days a week and one day when you will have to run anywhere from 8-22 miles (this takes over 3 hours sometimes)? Do you have a yoga/strength training class you can do once a week? This is the minimum I suggest for marathon training. Whether or not you have the time is the hardest question to answer because your life if probably like mine:
ridiculously crazy constantly changing. But, if you’re ready to make running a priority, go for it!
4. Are you looking to take on a more physical/mental challenge? Marathon training is grueling and sometimes gets ugly. I remember one year when it poured rain for every single 20 miler I ran. No joke. Three weeks in a row on the days I mapped out for my long runs there was a monsoon, but hey, I had to get my miles in. Are you ready for the unexpected to try to derail you? Then bring it on!
5. Do you have someone you trust (and who’s done it before) who can help guide you through the process? A friend, a trainer, a coach, a running group, a writer (whose book you actually read) or someone else who you can go to for a training schedule and cross-training tips? You could just go out and run and hope for the best, but I wouldn’t want to be you on marathon morning if that’s the way you’re going to train. Yikes.
If you said “YES” to all of these questions (or maybe it was more of a “yeeeeah, ok”) and you have your doctor’s blessing, then I say why not go for it? Bring on the pain. Oh yes, there is pain, but there is great pride in the pain. Give it a shot and register for a half-marathon midway through your training to test yourself. You never know, you might actually end up surprising yourself and loving it. I did.
Now go out and run!