Marathon Fitness - Am I Ready to Run This Marathon?

by Joe Hart
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

marathon fitness

I have been running for about 3 years now and have got a question about marathon fitness. I am 22, male and weigh 154 pounds. Only raced in four 10k races in those 3 years. My fastest 10k race was about 45 minutes.

I am currently scheduled to run a marathon which is to be held in one month. I have never ran a half or full. I run about 3 times a week 7 km as well as soccer 3 times a week for about 1.5 hours at a high pace.

Do you think I can handle the race physically? I.e. not injure myself to a extent of no return. By the way, I have had a constant nagging injury left inner thigh and left knee clicking.

Answer by Dominique:
Hey Joe,

I appreciate your interest in taking on the marathon. Running one of these races is no small achievement. You've asked a very important question about whether you're ready for this massive challenge.

Now, if I were to just apply some "Dutch charm" and give you a one word answer... I'd say... "No". But that's not very helpful, so let's work through this a bit more and let's cover:

1. Your fitness level
2. Minimum training requirements for a marathon
3. What should your marathon strategy be?
4. About running with injuries
5. Trying out your marathon strategy

Your Fitness Level

marathon fitness

First, let me assure you that it's clear you've done an excellent job at building up your physical fitness.

The combination of regular running and fast-paced soccer games has indeed given you a solid fitness foundation, and that’s something to be proud of!

That type of fitness will hold you in good stead for any race up to about a half marathon I think.

You are more in a 10k-ready state of fitness, but you'd go ok in a half marathon as well, I think.

Minimum Training Requirements for a Marathon

However, marathons require more. It is simply just such a very, very, very long way to run. To truly be prepared, you would've ideally done several 120-180 minute runs and covered 20 miles in a single training run at least once. And that's for a debut marathon.

When you really want to race a marathon you'd hit 20 miles at least four times.

So, yes, this isn't something you can prepare for in a few weeks – it takes months of dedicated training.

What Should Your Marathon Strategy Be?

marathon fitness

Knowing what we know now, given where you're at presently, if you've decided to still do the marathon, you might want to consider a run/walk strategy. Start the marathon with something like a 7-minute run then a 3-minute walk, and just keep repeating that pattern.

It's imperative that you don't attempt to run too fast. You should run at a really easy pace. It is going to be a long way.

I'd suggest setting the expectation this time around to have fun and focus on completion, which is a fantastic achievement in itself! The important thing to remember is that while your 10k time might suggest a marathon time of 3:30, due to the increased distance and necessary pace adjustments, you should be prepared for a time anywhere between 4:30 to 6 hours.

About Running with Injuries

Regarding your existing injuries, it’s crucial to assess the potential impact this might have. I'd strongly recommend seeing a doctor or physiotherapist before the race to get some professional advice. It sounds like it is not a massive issue at the moment. But again... the marathon is such a long way. I'd at least make sure you get a good diagnosis on the issue.

Trying Out Your Marathon Strategy

marathon fitness

Now if you're still committed to run the marathon, I'd recommend trying out a long run/walk of about 25-30km once within the next two weeks, similar to your proposed marathon strategy. This will give you an idea of what to expect during the actual marathon.

Remember, a marathon is never a painless endeavor, not even for the most trained runners. It’s an endurance test that pushes the limits of every runner, and there is a particular joy and pride in being able to complete this challenge, despite the difficulties.

I hope I haven't been too negative. You have got great general fitness, I think you can finish a marathon, but I just want you to take a conservative approach.

Good luck out there, Joe! Shoot for the stars, but keep your feet on the ground!

Kind regards,

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