The word ‘marathon’ has a magical ring to it. Tough but achievable the 26.2 distance seems the perfect – and the ultimate – running goal to set yourself. But before you whip out your credit card and enter one, WR contributor Lisa Jackson advises you ask yourself these eight crucial questions…
1. Is the marathon distance really for you?
At 26.2 miles, a marathon is rather a long way (try cycling or driving the distance and you’ll see exactly what I mean!) and just because everyone around you seems to have gone marathon mad doesn’t mean you should too. Long-distance running requires you to be able to be out on the road for up to six hours – are you really up for that?
2. Do you have the time to train?
If you’ve got young children, a very demanding job or are caring for ageing relatives, you’re going to be hardpressed to find slots for the four to six weekly training sessions you need to do. Most schedules last four months and include a weekly long run of up to 22 miles. However, if you have a supportive partner and/or friends, this isn’t insurmountable.
3. Have you been running long enough?
‘If you’re unfit, overweight or starting running from scratch it’s advisable to have been running for at least a year before attempting a marathon, because your muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons need to have adapted to the strain it will put on them,’ says physiotherapist and former elite ultrarunner Leslie Watson (lesliewatsonclinic. co.uk). ‘However, this time scale can be reduced if you’re very active in your daily life.
4. Are you injury free?
‘If you’ve been plagued by recurrent shin pain or plantar fasciitis (pain under your heel) then setting out on a marathon journey is risky,’ says Women’s Running GP Juliet McGrattan. ‘These conditions can worsen with overuse and it’s more sensible to make sure they’re fully resolved before tackling longer distances.’
5. Are you fit enough?
If you’ve not been running very much lately, you may not have the baseline of fitness to complete a marathon successfully – or if you do, to enjoy doing so! ‘As a rule of thumb, if you’ve recently managed to do a half marathon distance walk or run, you’re well on your way to being fit enough to start training for a marathon,’ says Watson. ‘To work out how long it might take, double your half marathon time and add on between 10 and 20 minutes.’
6. Do you have a support system in place?
A running buddy to make you smile through the miles during those eye-wateringly early morning or sweaty afternoon sessions – or a running club that holds weekly speed and hill sessions – can make all the difference. Knowing you have access to an experienced physiotherapist or sports massage therapist is also a huge plus. Click here for a fab, reliable training plan from WR.
7. Are you mentally tough enough?
It’s been said that ‘running a marathon is 80% down to mental strength – and the other 20% is mental too!’ Try doing some long runs and using mental tricks such as counting or positive mantras (‘feet fast, legs strong, I can do this all day long’ or ‘I think I can, I know I can’) before committing.
8. Are you prepared to do another one?
Virtually every marathon finisher I know has uttered the words ‘Never again’ after getting their first marathon medal. Very few meant what they said and have now run another one – or 10. Beware, this marathon running malarkey is fun and utterly addictive!