I love running marathons and I encourage other runners who want to try a marathon to push themselves and go for it. It is common for runners at some point in their running careers to ask themselves “Can I run a marathon?”
While running a marathon is an amazing and exciting thing, it isn’t for everyone.
Can I Run A Marathon? Should I Try To Run A Marathon?
For some people, training for and running a marathon is something that will never suit their temperament. For others, it may be a great idea for some point in their life, but the timing isn’t right for training right now.
So how do you know?
Can you run a marathon? Should you try to run a marathon?
A Marathon May Not Be Right For You If:
You Are Injured
Never start training for a marathon if you are already injured or if you have a nagging injury that pops up with some regularity.
I very rarely talk in terms of ‘never,’ this is one of the few exceptions. Never start marathon training when injured.
Marathon training is one of the most physically demanding things you can do to yourself. It’s demanding even for those who start in perfect health. Starting injured is only asking to aggravate your injury or do permanent damage to yourself.
Proceed When: Your doctor has given you the OK to proceed.
You Don’t Know Why You Want To Run A Marathon
You need to really want to run a marathon. You need to have a clear ‘why.’
Running a marathon shouldn’t be something you do because it seems like something you should do. Or because you’ve done a few half marathons and a marathon feels like the next step in the race progression.
Ask yourself: Why do you want to run a marathon? Why do you want to run a marathon now?
When the training gets tough (and it will) you’ll need that why. You’ll need to remember why it is important to you.
Knowing that ‘why’ will keep you going.
Proceed When: You can articulate why you want to run a marathon and why this is the right time.
You Are Looking To Lose Weight
Marathon training seems like a no-brainer for weight loss. The sheer number of miles runs seems ideal.
Few people lose weight while training for a marathon. Many (including myself) usually gain weight in the process. This is for a number of reasons including increased water weight, muscle gain, and increased calorie consumption to fuel long runs (I have an earlier post on why marathon training is a terrible weight loss vehicle containing a more detailed explanation).
Combined with proper nutrition, some running plans can be great for weight loss, but marathon training is not one of those plans.
Proceed When: You don’t expect marathon training to result in weight loss.
You Don’t Have The Time
Properly training for a marathon takes a ton of time. You need to consider it a part-time job.
Consider your running paces and do the math. Do you have enough time in your schedule to run 30-40 miles a week at those paces?
At my slow long run pace, my 20-mile training run, complete with stretching, and recovery takes the majority of my Saturday. Not everyone can fit that into their schedule.
To train successfully, you can’t skip and scrimp on training runs because you don’t have the time.
Proceed When: Your calendar is clear enough to allow proper training.
You Have Other Priorities
For the 4+ months you are training for the marathon, it needs to be your top priority. Similar to how much of your time proper training will take, it will also use up nearly all of your mental energy.
If you have multiple priorities, your time and energy will be split. To train successfully, you need to dedicate yourself fully to training.
If you are working on multiple hobbies or have other high priorities in your life, it might not be the right time to start training.
Proceed When: When marathon training will be your top priority.
You Don’t Have The Support Of The Important People In Your Life
You need the support of friends and family to train successfully. You’ll need help with household chores and errands when training.
I promise you, you can’t do it all, don’t even try.
Not everyone has to (or will) support you in your training efforts. But those closest to you and that mean the most to you (your spouse or significant other, for example) should be on board.
They may take some convincing. Being able to articulate why you want to run a marathon and what it means to you (discussed above) may help them understand your desire and lead them to support you.
Proceed When: The people who mean the most to you support your training.
You Haven’t Handled Training For Shorter Events Well
It is one thing to take liberties while training for a half marathon or another shorter race. It’s not too terrible of sin to skip a shorter training run here or there on your way to a 10k.
But to train for a marathon, you need to get a training plan and you need to be comfortable following it.
There will, of course, be a few modifications here or there to any plan. Life happens, and you need to adjust your training accordingly.
But if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of following a plan on day one, a marathon may not be for you.
Proceed When: You are comfortable following a training plan.