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How to Progress from Half Marathon to Marathon | 6 Tips for Success

Some runners find that they are fully satisfied with the half marathon distance. However, many others find themselves ready to progress from a half marathon to marathon after getting the hang of long distance running.

The endorphins and sense of accomplishment that comes from running long distances is addicting. Many runners start out believing that they never want to run a full marathon – until they complete their first half. Before they know it, they’ve caught the bug and want to do more.

Ready to progress from half marathon to marathon?

Whether you’ve always wanted to run a full marathon or are taken by surprise after finishing a half, training for a marathon is the natural next step for most runners.

While going from a half marathon to marathon makes sense, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

Related: 9 Things to Know Before Training for a Marathon

Making the transition from half to full marathon means you’ll literally be doubling the distance. The challenge of running 13.1 miles becomes drastically more intense now that you’re training to run it twice. But luckily, half marathon and marathon training involve many of the same qualities.

Many runners find themselves a bit uncertain when deciding whether or not to progress from a half marathon to a marathon.

Can I run a marathon if I can run a half marathon?

Most likely, yes! While a marathon is literally twice as long as a half marathon, training and preparing for a marathon involves many of the same qualities as training for a half. You’ll continue to build on the mental strength and physical endurance you used during your half marathon, helping you progress to a full.

How long should I train for a marathon from a half marathon?

The answer depends on a variety of factors, such as your fitness base, the quality of your half marathon training, and whether you’re training simply to finish the distance or hit a specific time goal.

In general, you can view an immediate transition from half marathon to marathon training as if you’ve just completed a 13 mile long run. From here, you’ll need to build your long run distance to about 18-20 miles. This usually takes about 4-6 weeks, which, followed by a 2 week taper, means that the second half of your training would take about 8 weeks to complete.

How hard is a marathon compared to a half marathon?

Ask multiple runners this question and you’ll probably get a different answer each time. The answer varies for each individual person. However, you should prepare yourself for the fact that a marathon is literally twice as far as a half marathon. This means that however challenging it was for you to finish a half marathon – you should prepare to do that twice.

Regardless of how challenging it was for you to complete a half marathon, with the right commitment, dedication and perseverence, there is no doubt that you can run a full marathon.

Deciding to progress from half marathon to marathon is exciting. Runners are known for their continuous drive for improvement, and the half marathon to marathon conversion is an excellent example of this.

Related: 15 Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Marathon

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 safely progress from half marathon to marathon.

Ready to progress from half marathon to marathon? Here are 6 tips to make training for your first full marathon a success. Plus 3 training plans to choose from! #halfmarathontomarathon #fullmarathon #firstmarathon

How to Progress from Half Marathon to Marathon

Choose the right 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 – likewise with porta potties. 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 very far 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.

You’ll need enough 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!

If you’re preparing to immediately progress from half marathon to full, be sure to sign up for both races ahead of time. Space the dates out far enough apart so you have the right amount of time to continue increasing your mileage after finishing 13.1.

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 with only 4-5 miles as your longest run, try and find a plan that increases gradually.

Another element to consider is how frequently you are able to (and want to) run. Many 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.

Related: How Often Should You Run? | How Many Days a Week to Run

If you will only be able to run 3 times a 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.

Look back on your half marathon training to determine what worked for you and what didn’t. As you prepare to progress from half marathon to marathon, try to find a plan that caters to your strengths.

Focus on distance, not speed.

Transitioning from half marathon to full 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 notice your pace slowing down during your long runs – that is natural. Remember that longer distances increase stress on your body, so your half marathon pace will likely 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.

Practice fueling and hydrating early.

It may take a bit of experimentation to discover a fueling strategy that works for your body. Luckily, if you’ve complete a half marathon, you’ve probably already discovered something that works.

Continue to practice and tweak your 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 fueling strategy that works well, stick to it.
Providing your body with plenty of time to get used to taking in fuel will help you feel confident and comfortable on race day.

Related: How to Fuel a Long Run | 6 Tips for Eating on the Run

Stay in the present moment.

Nothing is more intimidating that printing off your first marathon training plan and looking ahead at those 16, 18 and 20 mile long runs. Avoid stressing yourself out by focusing on where you currently are, 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 18 miles 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 half marathon to marathon 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 just might surprise yourself.

More half marathon to marathon tips:

>> Find marathon training plans here!

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