One of the most consistent question I am asked is, “how much harder is a full marathon than a half-marathon.” Honestly, while the mileage might just be double, it takes a lot of effort and smart training to go from a half-marathon distance to a full. There’s so much more that can go wrong during a full marathon, and getting through a full training cycle without injury is no easy task. Here’s my top five tips for taking the leap from half-marathon to full marathon.
- Hire a Coach/Pick a Plan – With a half-marathon, as long as you build long runs up to about 10 miles slowly enough for you body to adjust, you’re probably pretty good. I’ve seen runners go from 10k to half-marathon in the course of a month, when needed. So while I always recommend a training plan for any distance, running a full 26.2 miles just isn’t going to happen without following a plan or having someone create a plan for you. If you’re someone who needs one on one encouragement or help trouble-shooting, hiring a good coach is well worth the money. And bonus tip: if you follow a generic training plan, add a couple of weeks to it. You never know when your kid might bring home a stomach bug that takes you out of commission for a week. And having a couple extra weeks built in can help prevent pushing through an injury when you really need to rest to make it to the start line.
- Prioritize Strength Work – You cannot rely on endurance alone to cover 26.2 miles. Over the course of a few hours, your core will fatigue, your calves will scream, and you might be surprised the hear that even your arms get tired. Making sure you incorporate strength work will help your body maintain good form, which preserves running economy. Having good core strength makes running feel less hard, and believe me when I say you will be thankful for every last ounce of strength in that last 5k.
- Rotate Shoes – As someone who hates spending money, this is a tip that is hard for me to follow. I’d rather have one pair of shoes that I run into the ground. But having a pair that you can rotate means that both pairs wear out more slowly and gradually over time. This can help prevent overuse injury, and means that you won’t need to buy a brand new pair right before race day. And honestly, you’re going to spend money on shoes one way or another, so you might as well do it in a way that might help you save your knees.
- Practice Fueling Strategy – For a half-marathon, you’ll probably only have a handful of training runs that go further than the 7 mile mark. This means your opportunities to practice fueling are limited. For a half-marathon, you don’t need to fuel too much, so even if your plan for fueling goes south, you can probably suffer through and survive. For a marathon, though, you’re going to need to fuel for more than half of your race. If you don’t figure out what kinds of fueling options work well for you (and how often you need to eat), you’re going to have a pretty miserable race. The good news here is that you will have a lot of opportunities to practice and experiment with fueling, because you’ll have several weeks worth of long runs that require fueling. So use those long runs as an opportunity to test and tweak your fueling strategy!
- Have a Pain Management Strategy – The fact of the matter is that during a marathon, something is going to start hurting. There’s a few common issues you can try to trouble-shoot in advance. Have a plan for things like blisters, stomach issues, cramps, and joint pain. I know that I have a tendency to end up with GI issues, and for that reason I ALWAYS carry electrolytes and Pepto chewables with me. If you know blisters usually crop for you, make sure you carry a single serve vaseline pouch and a couple of band-aids. Knowing that you have what you need to make yourself as comfortable as possible goes a long way to believing that you won’t give up.
There’s a lot of work that comes with transitioning from 13.1 miles to 26.2, but if you can run a half-marathon you can probably run a full. Especially if you give your body the time and training it needs. If you’re looking for a running coach, please head over to my Contact Me page and send me a message. Happy training!