By Brad Beer
A frequently asked question that I get from aspiring marathon runners is:
“Do I need to run the marathon distance in training before attempting to complete my first marathon?”
The simple answer is no. There is no need to run the 42.195 kilometres in training before you complete your debut marathon.
Certainly the longer the preparation that you have leading into your debut marathon the better. A longer training program allows you to incrementally increase your running volume week by week, so that come the marathon, you’re able to take on a longer run in training than someone that started with a shorter preparation.
For example, your longer run may include a distance upwards of 30 kilometres, perhaps around the 35-36 kilometre mark.
Another factor that determines the longest run scheduled in a pre-marathon program is the previous running history of the runner attempting their first marathon. The more seasoned runner, should be able to ‘handle’ more longer runs in distance (and duration) as part of the marathon preparation.
Compare this to the runner who is new to the sport and is embarking on their first marathon. This runner may not be able to include runs of 30kms or greater into their program as the ‘base’ of training will be reduced. This runner is also more susceptible to ‘spiking’ (suddenly increasing) their running training, which is typically a key injury causation (see Step 5 The Power of Rest in You CAN Run Pain Free!).
In summary, you don’t need to run the marathon in training, however, try for as long a run as you can safely achieve before you tackle your first marathon. That doesn’t mean cramming your volume, as that can spike your load on your body and potentially lead to injury. Seek the guidance of your health professional and good luck with your first marathon!
If you would like to learn more about preparing well for your first marathon, read my ‘5 Keys to Preparing Well for Your First Marathon’.