When to start training

Searching for the right half marathon and marathon plan can be overwhelming! I often get asked when to start training, and what type of plan to use. Both are great questions, and both depend on you and your current fitness level. 

How to choose the right half-marathon and marathon plan

When I began training for my first half marathon six years ago I was a little overwhelmed and truly unsure of what to except. I honestly do not remember what plan I chose (I think I used one from Runner’s World…). After six half marathons and and four marathons I have sort of found the perfect training plan for me, and the right amount of time to train for my specific needs.

While I am all for everyone running, if you are brand new to running don’t let the hype of races get to you. Many people want to run just for fun and can be perfectly happy without actually participating in a race.

In my opinion, you should have a year of running under your belt before you consider running a full marathon. I had been running for about four years before I trained for my first marathon and I was still slightly clueless and did not know what to expect.

I do however think the half marathon is a perfect distance for anyone who is newer to running and wants to improve their overall fitness.

Fitness Level

Your current fitness level plays a large part in choosing a training plan.

If you are relatively new to running you will want a training plan that is slightly longer and starts off easy and has a gradual increase of long runs.

If you have not been running for more than a year I would be cautious about incorporating speed and hill work into your plan. Your main focus at this point is to build endurance and a basic understanding of how to properly run, while also avoiding injury. I love hill and speed work, but it can increase the risk of injury if you are not careful and do not do it properly.

So…

If you are new to running and are really just building up your endurance I highly suggest sticking with a half marathon plan.

An average half marathon plan is 12 weeks, which I think is plenty of time. However, before you begin a half marathon plan you should be able to run at least five miles consecutively. This will just provide you with a good base going into the plan.

There are MANY good plans out there so it can be difficult to choose the right one.

I have created a novice half-marathon plan that starts out with a long run of four miles. I call this plan novice because it starts at a lower mileage week and gradually increases.

If you consider your fitness level to be pretty good and you have a good running base of at least 5-6 miles, you may be ready for an intermediate plan. I have not created an intermediate plan, but it would still be 12 weeks, it would just include more weekly mileage. Maybe I’ll make one…

If you are considering a marathon plan make sure you have a good running base and have been running for at least a year. Marathon plans are physically demanding so that is why I recommend having a good year under your belt.

Length

Training can be so much fun, and very rewarding, but it does take a good chunk of your time. Before heading into a training plan make sure you can devote enough time to train.

Typically (as I said above) a good half marathon plan is roughly 12 weeks. I always tell people to plan on spending one hour a day on running and stretching, and then about 30 minutes on strength training. You can combine those times together, or if you want to run in the morning and strength training in the evening or vice versa that also works. Really, whatever works best for you. As your long run increases I would allot 1-2 hours for that.

As far as marathon training goes, expect a good plan to last about 16-20 weeks depending on your current fitness level. I usually train for 18 weeks.

Like the half marathon, expect to spend 60-90 minutes a day on exercising, and one-three hours on your long run as it increases. Like that half marathon, you have one long run per week. However, with marathon training your weekly runs can be 8-10 miles, which are typically long runs for a half marathon plan, so plan to spend a bit more time with the marathon.

The long runs during marathon training typically go up to 20-22 miles, but no more than that. The reasoning is that the longer you run, the more time you need to recover. I’ve found (and millions of other runners) that if a training plan is longer than 18-20 weeks you increase the chance of injury, mental and physical fatigue, illness, and burnout.

 

I could talk about training plans all day, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information! I am going to stop my rambling here, and if you have more specific questions just leave a comment!

I am currently on week two of half marathon training and have 13 more to go. The only reason I am training for 15 weeks is because I was too excited to train, so the first three weeks are pretty easy but I needed to get back into a more strict routine.

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