Completing a half marathon is no small accomplishment. The chafing, bruised toe nails, early bed times and early mornings are only a small price to pay to accomplish such a feat. Finishing a half marathon calls for celebration. You have just pushed your body to the limits, conquering distances you never thought possible. And even so, more often than not, runners finish a half marathon and still find themselves wanting more.
Are you wanting to make the leap and progress from half to full marathon training?
If so, congrats! Your aspirations and continuous drive for improvement are admirable qualities. Lucky for you, transitioning from a half marathon to a full is significantly easier than deciding to run a full marathon for your first race. You already have an idea of the pain, commitment, and perseverance that’s required for distance running.
But even so, running a marathon is an incredibly challenging feat. Even after running a half marathon, the long runs will get longer, recovery becomes more important, and mental willpower is tested like none other. These challenges are what make finishing a marathon so satisfying. Deciding to progress from a half marathon to your first marathon is an exciting choice.
Marathon training often feels incredibly intimidating, but with a few tweaks and careful consideration you can make this goal very attainable – even enjoyable! Here are some important tips to help you go from a half marathon to a full marathon safely. Make that transition from half to full marathon the smart way and you may just find yourself coming back for more.
How to Progress from a Half Marathon to a Full
– the Smart Way
Choose the perfect race.
Don’t sign up for just any race for your first marathon. Take into account different race characteristics that will help you feel confident and less stressed on race day. A few things to consider when selecting a race for your first marathon:
- Race size: would you prefer to run with a large group or be out there by yourself? Some beginner runners prefer to run large races so they never feel alone, whereas others prefer smaller races where runners get spaced out. Think through the situations that will make you most confident.
- Location: do you want to travel for your first race, or run something close to home? Traveling is an amazing opportunity but might add to the stress on race day. Select a race that will make you feel most comfortable the morning of your 26.2.
- Course and elevation: do you like to see the other runners on an out and back course, or will that make you feel discouraged? If hills are your weakness – look into the course elevation to select one that is relatively flat. Check things out ahead of time to know what you are getting into.
- Aid stations: read through the course details to find out how often there will be aid stations. For your first marathon, frequent aid stations are usually very helpful since you don’t know what to expect. It’s always nice to have many opportunities to get water or Gatorade just in case you end up needing it. If the aid stations on a race course are few and far between, you may want to expand your search.
- Finish area: you won’t be able to predict what you’ll feel like post-marathon until you get there. Check out the finish logistics to make sure you won’t have to walk a few extra miles to get out of the chute or find your car afterwards.
Plan far enough ahead.
Another important (perhaps the most important) detail to consider when selecting a race: the race date. When signing up for your first marathon, make sure you give yourself more than enough time to train. Aim for a race that takes place at least 20 weeks (about 5 months) in the future. This will allow you time to select a training plan, fit in any necessary base training, and gradually increase your mileage. There is nothing more discouraging than trying to quickly increase your mileage and realizing you are in over your head. Play it safe by planning into the future!
Find a realistic training plan.
Your marathon training plan is the key to your success. Selecting a realistic training plan is one of the most important decisions you will make. Many marathon training plans increase long run mileage right away. If you are starting your training running only 4 miles as your longest run, try and find a plan that increases gradually. A lot of marathon training plans schedule runs 5 (or even 6) days a week. Think through your schedule and give yourself an idea of what type of training you will realistically be able to maintain. If you will only be able to squeeze in runs 3 times during the week, find a training plan that calls for fewer runs and more cross training. If you know your body won’t respond well to high mileage, find a training plan with lower mileage during the week and long runs only on weekends. Take your time when selecting a training plan to make sure it is the right one.
You can download my FAVORITE Beginner Marathon Training Plan here! This training plan got me through my first five marathons without injury. It incorporates strength workouts and cross training to ensure you are strong on race day!
Focus on distance, not speed.
Marathon training is all about increasing your distance, not your speed (especially for your first marathon). Focus on increasing your mileage and forget about trying to increase your speed. Don’t feel disheartened if you see your paces slowing down during your long runs – that is natural. Remember that longer distances increase stress on your body, so your usual pace might slow down as a result. Take your time on those long runs and do what you need to finish them healthy and strong, rather than pushing yourself to injury or burnout.
Related: How to Safely Increase Your Mileage
Practice fueling and hydrating early.
It may take a bit of experimentation to discover a fueling strategy that works for your body. Practice fueling and hydration techniques early on in your training to ensure you have enough time to settle on the right one. Once you find a fuel strategy to which your body responds well, stick to it. Allowing your body time to get used to this method of taking in fuel will make you feel confident and comfortable incorporating it on race day.
Stay in the present moments.
Nothing is more intimidating that printing off your first marathon training plan and looking ahead at those 20 mile long runs. Avoid stressing yourself out by focusing on where you currently are in your training plan, and look only to what is directly ahead of you. You’ll be surprised how quickly the miles start to add up, and before you know it you’ll be running 14 mile runs with ease. Focus on the present run, and don’t psych yourself out with what’s to come. You’ll get there.
Choosing to progress from a half marathon to a full is a very exciting choice. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed with training once you discover how much more effort is required on those long runs. But don’t give up! Running your first marathon is an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. It takes practice, patience and dedication, just like a half marathon. Pushing your body to new distances is incredibly humbling and inspiring. Keep going, believe in yourself, and work hard – you might just surprise yourself.
Further Marathon Training Reading:
- 15 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Marathon
- So You Want to Run a Marathon…
- How to Have Your Best Long Run Ever
- 10 Ways to Overcome the Wall in a Marathon