Stepping Up From Half Marathons to Marathons

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stepping up from half marathons to full marathons

Stepping up from Half Marathons to Marathons

I know how much work goes into preparing for any race. But one question I get asked by runners who have completed half marathons is how difficult it is to transition to a full marathon. It can be challenging stepping up from half marathons to marathons but maybe not as complicated as you think! Of course, this all depends on your fitness level and preparation.

If you have been training for a half marathon, you already understand many basic steps for full marathon training. This could benefit you greatly when trying to take your running to the next level. Now you need to add some distance and slight changes to your routine to prepare yourself to run a full marathon.

The Challenge of Going from a Half Marathon to a Full Marathon

If you’ve been running half marathons, you know how challenging running them can be. But you also know how rewarding long-distance races are. I was eager to try to run longer runs once I had my first few races under my belt. But, like me, you might ask how hard it is to go from a half to a full marathon.

The increased distance is the primary challenge of training for a full marathon. You are increasing your mileage two-fold when you make this leap. When you prepare to move from a half marathon to a full marathon, you go from 13.1 miles (21.1K) to 26.2 miles (42.2K).

So, how much harder is it to run a full marathon? Is it twice as hard? My first one wasn’t easy, and yours might not be. But with some practice and coaching, I’m confident you can do it, and you might find it’s not a linear relationship between distance and difficulty.

How to Train for a Full Marathon

If you’ve been running half marathons, the good news is that you already have many fundamental training techniques down. So now you need to focus on a few new challenges arising from the increased distance when you move from half marathons to full marathons.

Some of the new obstacles you will face when training for a full marathon include:

  • Preparing your body for longer distances.
  • Overcoming mental roadblocks.
  • Having the energy that you need to move from half to full marathons.

Training involves setting yourself up for success, and the best way to achieve optimal results is to follow some key recommendations for full marathon training. Establishing a routine, especially when under the guidance of a coach, can help you overcome the mental toll that adding miles can take when preparing for a full marathon.

Steps for Full Marathon Training

You’ve talked yourself into going for it. Good for you! Now it’s time to train. The good news is you’ve already been running longer distances, so you’ve built up a solid routine that should help you develop a training plan to transition from a half marathon to a full marathon. But there are some steps you’ll need to take to prepare yourself for the race.

1. Establish a standard routine for your first few weeks.

Since you’re going from a half marathon to a full marathon, you already should have a good base running plan. To start, you’ll want to set your weekly base miles to at least where you left off from training for half marathons. Then, increase your distance by a comfortable number of up to 10% each week.

2. Add a long run once a week.

Just like training for a half marathon, you will want to add a long run each week, but it will need to be longer for a full marathon training schedule. Many runners recommend slowly working your way up to a goal of around 20 miles (32.18K), but I like to try to run a 26.2 miles (42.2K) distance once or twice in my training. Running the full marathon distance helps my speed and gives me a feel for running the full marathon. You can also measure your long run by the length of time, as some people prefer this. So it’s really up to you.

3. Decrease your mileage leading up to the race.

You’ll want to slowly taper your distance as you get closer to your race date, as you would when training for a half marathon. Taking miles off towards the end of training ensures you don’t burn out or get injured before the big day.

4. Fit cross-training into your schedule.

Whether this means lifting weights or practicing Yoga, you’ll want to include some exercises besides running when you train for a marathon. You will build up your strength and endurance when you add these exercises.

5. Always incorporate rest days.

It would help to let your body heal when training for long races. I recommend taking rest days every week or up to once every ten days at the longest. But listen to your body and take a break sooner if needed.

6. Practice feeding your body.

Many athletes can make their way through a half marathon without eating or taking glucose, but the challenge of running a full marathon requires additional fuel. It would be best if you began to get used to feeding your body while training for the marathon. Gaining comfort with proper fueling means practicing eating and drinking while you run your training miles.

How Hard is it to Run a Full Marathon?

Running full marathons isn’t a walk in the park. But that’s the point! If you’re like me, the challenge of breaking personal records and setting new goals is part of what makes running fun. But breaking personal records isn’t always easy. The good news is that I can advise you on how to transition from a half marathon to a full marathon as smoothly as possible and give you a chance to make completing the race possible and feel great in the process.

How Hard is the Full Marathon Compared to the Half Marathon?

There are some extra considerations when jumping from a half marathon to a full marathon. First, you will spend more time in the sun, on your feet, and in the heat or cold. You’re spending twice as much time battling your mind, body, and the elements. A few things you can remember when transitioning from a half marathon to a full marathon include:

  • You’ll need to have more water.
  • Bring food or energy gels.
  • Use Squirrel’s Nut Butter or another lubricant to prevent chafing.
  • You may want a hat or sunglasses to protect you from the peak sun.
  • Take even more time to stretch before and after the race.

If you train correctly and prepare in these ways, you can run a marathon and come out feeling better than ever. I’ve been running long distances since high school cross country, and as challenging as moving from half marathons to full marathons is at first, it often gets more manageable with practice. So many people tell me how happy they were to make the transition and how rewarding full marathons can be.

Stepping up from Half Marathons to Full Marathons Conclusion

Transitioning from half to full marathons is challenging, and it’s usually best to have a support team. Developing a plan for your diet, practice schedule, and the specific course you are running can help a lot. Coach Andrew Taylor has years of experience running marathons and would love to help you reach your goals. Contact me at Sunrise Running Company, and let’s develop a plan best for you.


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