Runners World Articles: Archives - July 2002
To Marathon or Not to Marathon?
This quiz will tell you if the 26.2-mile challenge is right
for you. If its not, we have options
Most non-runners cant imagine why anyone would want to run
a marathon. Heck, 26.2 miles is more than most people drive in a
day. For many runners, though, the marathon has become the ultimate
brass ring. Theyre convinced that to be a real runner, they
need to take on the 26.2 challenge. But the marathon is definitely
not for everyone, and thats totally fine. To determine if
its right for you, answer the six questions below. And remember:
This is not a pass/fall quiz. While the marathon may not be your
thing, another race distance may be. You just need to find the right
race for you.
1. Whats your motivation?
There are lots of good reason to run a marathon: you crave the challenge;
youre raising money for charity; you want to get in the best
shape of your life. But peer-pressure is not a good reason. Just
because everyone else in your running group has run a marathon doesnt
mean you should.
2. Can you plan far enough in advance?
To find out how many weeks you need to train for a marathon, subtract
the distance of your last long run (within the past three weeks)
from 28. So, if your longest run was 10 miles, youll need
19 weeks to prepare. If you havent recently run more than
2 or 3 miles at a time, plan on at least 7 months. Youll need
this time to slowly increase the distance of your long runs. If
you dont have enough weeks to train adquately, either choose
a marathon that is later in the year, or shoot for a shorter distance.
3. Do you have enough time?
When training for a marathon, the pace of you long runs should be
slower than your projected race pace. This slow long-run pace will
eat up many hours of your time once you start logging 20-milers.
If you can realistically only spare an hour or 2 per run instead
of what will be necessary, you should choose a half-marathon instead.
4. Are you willing to take breaks?
Marathon training programs need to include regularly scheduled breaks.
If youre the type of runner who has to run hard every day,
your body wont make it to the marathon in one piece. To stay
healthy for a marathon, you must schedule easy days and days off
on a weekly basis. And taking regular 1-minute walk breaks during
you long runs can reduce aches, pains, and injuries.
5. Will your body hold up?
In many cases, the slower training pace, weekly rest days, and regular
walk breaks will reduce your chances of becoming injured. But if
youve been battling a chronic ailment or know that youre
prone to injury once your mileage begins to increase, choose a less
6. Do you respect the distance?
If you think you can bluff your way through a marathon, having skipped
some long runs or fudged on some other workouts, you should consider
another race distance. There are plenty of other great-but shorter-events
that allow you to skip an occasional workout.
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