If you have never run a marathon, you probably have at least given passing thought about running either a full or half marathon. Good thinking. Completing either the 13.1-mile half marathon or the full Monty—26.2 miles—is certainly a formidable undertaking, but it is one that just about any reasonably healthy, properly motivated person can accomplish.
Yes, you read that correctly. A full marathon is 26.2 miles. A long way to run? Sure is. Heck, it’s a long way to drive. It might not seem possible at this point, but trust me on this one: It is absolutely an achievable distance. And, nobody says you have to run every single step of the way. Many run and walk. Unlike basketball, there’s no such thing as a walking penalty.
Regardless, the most important aspect to completing a marathon (or half) is simple: You must fully commit to doing everything possible to prepare yourself for the big race. Half hearted efforts will not suffice. You must fully commit your body and mind to accomplishing this goal.
Even if you do, I can only guarantee one thing: It will not be easy. Anyone who tells you differently has never run a half marathon or marathon. But the rewards of crossing the finish line will last a lifetime.
Even so, you still probably have that that lingering question every first-timer has: Can I really go the distance?
It’s a good question, but we’re here to tell you that if you follow all the steps, do the necessary training and learn how to pace yourself, you can do it. Millions of Americans have finished either a marathon or half marathon. Unless there’s a medical reason, there’s no valid reason why you won’t be able to finish one too. You won’t win, but in a marathon or half marathon the victory is in finishing.
We won’t get into all the varied aspects of marathon or half marathon training. Instead, we’ll cut to the chase and cover the basics that every first-time hopeful needs to know before beginning.
What are the first steps I need to take?
1. If you have any doubt about your health, check with your physician to make absolutely certain it’s safe to begin a strenuous running program. If you haven’t done anything physical for a long time, your doctor will probably recommend a check-up to make sure everything is working OK and it’s safe to proceed.
2. Have your doctor do an evaluation of your level of physical fitness. It’s important to know where you are from a fitness standpoint (or lack of) and there are numerous common tests that will evaluate your starting point.
3. Find a good training program. There are so many training programs based in Austin and San Antonio (and points in between), find a good one and commit. (See “Training Groups” under “Training” on this site.). All training groups have programs and schedules geared specifically for the raw beginner. They will take you from your first run (or walk) all the way to the finish of the half marathon or marathon. To find a training group in Central Texas, stop by your local running shop or contact a marathon in your area to see which ones they recommend. Or ask several runners in your area. Most know of a good training program that suits your needs and current fitness level as well as your time commitment.
Assuming that your doctor has given the OK to begin a training program, all you really need to get started is some basic running gear—shorts, shirts and shoes. You don’t need to get any fancy (or expensive) clothes. A lightweight T-shirt is fine, but make sure you buy actual running shorts and not some droopy, cotton basketball shorts. If you buy the wrong pair of shorts, you’ll suffer from chafing problems.
Shoes are extremely important. You simply can not undertake a marathon (or half) running program without buying a quality pair of running shoes. They must be running shoes and not basketball shoes or tennies or aerobic shoes. Only shoes designed specifically for running will do. Go to a specialty running store such as Luke’s Locker, Texas Hill Country Running or Rogue in Austin or in San Antonio, Soler’s Sports, IRun, Fleet Feet or Good Sports for expert advice from the best, most knowledgeable people. They are trained to help beginners and will put you in the best shoes for you. Once there, expect to pay between $90 and $140 for a high quality pair of running shoes.
What you need to eat and drink
You may have heard that runners have bizarre diets, feast on carbohydrates and drink strange concoctions. Some do, but if you already have sound nutritional habits and don’t go overboard on sweets or fatty foods, you’ll probably be just fine. You’ll have to drink more water than you’re used to when training, but that might be the only significant alteration you may need to make in your diet while training for the big race.
Once you get into the bulk of your training and begin doing long runs, you may need to add more carbohydrates to your diet, but in the beginning don’t make any radical changes. If you’re unsure whether you are eating properly, consult with your doctor, coach or sports nutritionist.
How much running you’ll need to do.
Impossible to say. There isn’t a minimum amount which applies to everyone training for a half marathon or marathon, but the more running you can do, the better off you’ll be. Getting fit is cumulative. But only to a point. Too much training is dangerous and unhealthy. But here’s a shocker: The most important part of any training plan is rest. That’s right. A good training program will have the proper balance between building up your fitness and ability to run long with an adequate amount of recovery or rest time.
Here’s a rough approximation of how much time you’ll need, based on projected marathon finishing time. (For half-marathoners, you can reduce the training time by about one-third.) A solid marathon training program will last anywhere from 12 weeks to 24 weeks, based on your fitness and commitment.
This is only a general guideline as marathon times can vary greatly, depending on the course and weather conditions. In addition, the training time projections are a maximum amount of time, based on 4-6 runs per week (and stretching time). As you get deeper and deeper into training, the long runs get longer and more time consuming but most long runs are only every other weekend.
Training time each week Projected marathon finish time
6-7 hours 5-6 hour marathon time
7-8 hours 4-5 hour marathon time
9-10 hours or more 3 ½- 4 hour marathon time
Can I really do this?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. But you will have to train properly, wear the right shoes and make the firm commitment to do this. Completing a marathon or half marathon can change your life.
It’s up to you to make that commitment today.
There are plenty of several prominent Texas marathons this fall and winter to choose from. (An asterisk denotes if there is accompanying half marathon.)
Hill Country Marathon* (Marble Falls) on October 20
Chosen: Marathon for Adoption* (New Braunfels) on October 26
Marathon to Marathon* (Marathon) on October 26
The Frankenthon Marathon (Cedar Park) on October 26
Marathoning for Miracles* (Abilene) on November 2
Fort Worth Marathon* (November 10)
San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon* (November 17)
BCS Marathon* (College Station) December 8
Dallas Marathon* (December 8)
Chevron Houston Marathon* (January 19)
Miracle Match Marathon* (Waco) on January 26
Austin Marathon* (February 16)
Cowtown Marathon* (Fort Worth) on February 23
The Army Marathon (Killeen) on March 2
Additionally, there are several stand alone half marathons:
Buffalo Stampede Half Marathon (Bryan) on October 2
Helotes Run Festival (Helotes) on October 2
13.1 Dallas on October 26
DRC Half (Dallas) on November 3
Shiner Beer Half (Shiner) on November 23
Thanksgiving Day Half (Fort Worth) on November 28
First Responders Half (Waco) on December 1
Spicewood Vineyards Half (Spicewood) on December 7
ARC Decker Challenge (December 8)
Schlotzky’s Jingle Bun Run Half (Temple) on December 14
Rogue Distance Festival Half (Cedar Park) on January
3M Half (Austin) on January 19
River Road Half (New Braunfels) on February 2
The Texas Half (Dallas) on February 2