Depending on which type of race you are planning to run, your train-up strategy will be much different for each type of race.
The training workout for both 5 and 10K races can be as short as six weeks, however, marathon training can last up to 30 weeks or more. The key is finding a training plan that best suits your fitness level, experience and goals for running.
Running 3.1 miles doesn’t require as long of a train period as do longer races. As far as distance, many runners probably do that length each time they run. But running for time and placement is different than running for just distance. Experienced recreational runner can usually train for where they want to be in as little as 6 weeks; the inexperienced closer to 8 weeks.
This 6.2 miles is the first race where fitness level, experience and goals have more of an impact on train-up time. The duration is about the same as it is for a 5k – 6 to 8 weeks, but the training performed is different.
Most training programs have inexperienced runners running at least three times per week. Some training programs include 2 days per week of cross-training to build fitness and boost injury resistance. More experienced runners use more advance training programs where they run up to 6 miles per run, five days per week.
Generally speaking, three months of train up should be enough for most people to run 13.1 miles. If going for a personal best, or if just running your first one, more train up time may be needed. Those already running 8 to 10 miles per week can get ready in as little as 12 weeks or less.
Some runners preparing for this type of race choose a plan that uses a 16-week duration cycle. However, others use a 20-week plan, which allows some flexibility for vacation, injury, illness, etc. If starting at zero, your plan could be 30 weeks or more in duration
With full marathon training, long runs of 20 to 22 miles are common depending on experience. Be cautious of plans containing multiple 26 to 28 miles runs as they can lead to fatigue, burnout and injuries – the very things you are trying to avoid.
Training for a half or full marathon will be easier (and faster) if you have run shorter races like 5 and 10ks before. However, many newbies not experienced at running train up and successfully complete the longer runs all the time. You can compete in any (or all) of these types of races based on your competitive running goal.