How to Go From Zero to Marathon in Six Months

Running a marathon is an undertaking that, in this coach's opinion, should not be taken lightly. Whether your goal is simply to finish well with a view toward future marathons, or to chase a significant personal best and qualify for Boston, preparing for this event requires planning and vision.

In previous articles, we've discussed preparing for a marathon for those who are already at a high level of fitness leading into preparation (or the "crash course"), as well as those who are perhaps in fairly good shape but need a bit more time within the traditional 12- to 14-week time frame.

This article will discuss a long-term approach toward a marathon build-up. This process is targeted at two types of runners:

  • those who have been removed from the sport due to injury or a prolonged rest period of six months or more (i.e. an honest self-assessment reveals that you're out of shape)
  • those who are relatively new to the sport and have been running for less than a year.

These types of runners will need to adapt this or a similar long-term approach toward running a successful marathon.

As a side note, I believe a marathon is not the best target event for new runners. I am fully aware that "bucket-listers" occupy a place in our sport; however, creating long-term passion for long-distance running is tougher when so many are targeting the longest and most brutal running event as their first-ever race goals. Can folks with little running experience "finish" a marathon with eight, 10 or 12 weeks of training? Certainly. But why not take 5 to 6 months and do it better, regardless of your goals? If you are not deterred by my shot across the proverbial running bow, then let's continue.

More: What Happens When You Run a Marathon Without Proper Training

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