More often than not we are humbled by the marathon distance. The 42.195 is tough an gruelling and is no easy task. Because the distance is so long, anything can happen.
The marathon distance should be tackled in a methodical strategic manner such that injuries can be minimised and success can be maximised. The underlining rule is that you require at least 12 – 20 weeks to prepare for a marathon, and that is dependant on your fitness level.
If you’re just starting out to run, you would require more time to train for a marathon. If you have taken an extensive break off running, you fall into this category as well. A competitive runner who has taken a long break and a beginner both have a low level of fitness.
If you can achieve 16km long runs, you would require 18-20 weeks to adequately prep yourself. This will ensure you have enough time to build up your mileage. You have to increase your mileage gradually (not more than 10 percent every week).
If your weekly mileage is rough 40-60km a week, you fall in this category. You would require 14-18 weeks to train up for the marathon distance. Within your training block, you would want to build up your long runs to about 30km. Not every week has to be a 30km run. You can do a 25km run with a 10km marathon pace run for instance. This is to train your general endurance and marathon-specific endurance.
If you’re comfortable running over 65km a week and able to run 20-25km long runs, you are an advanced runner. You are in pretty good shape and don’t require as much time to train for the marathon distance. You would require about 12 – 16 weeks of marathon specific training. The first 6-8 weeks would be to work up your mileage to hit a 30km long run whereas the next 6-8 weeks would be for you to work on your marathon pace specific training.
Whatever your level, the goal remains the same. You would want to be able to run more consistent long runs with a large volume at goal marathon race pace.