How Long Does It Take to Train for a Marathon?

Half Marathon
kristian sekulic/Getty Images

Many runners have aspirations of running a marathon, but worry about the amount of time they'll have to dedicate to their training. The time required to train for a marathon really depends on your current fitness level, your running experience, and your goals for the race.

Beginners should slowly build their distance and should plan to take anywhere from 18 to 22 weeks, depending on their starting point. Taking a safe, gradual approach will help prevent injuries and avoid physical and mental burnout from the marathon training.

Experienced runners who have already run marathons may be able to get race-ready in 12 weeks. If you're hoping to beat a personal record, you may need a few more weeks to work on improving speed and strength.

If you've been running for at least a year and you've already raced other distances, such as a half marathon, you're probably ready to start training for a marathon. But it does require a huge time commitment and serious physical and mental training, so there are questions you should ask yourself to determine whether you're ready to take the plunge. Here's what kind of time commitment to expect with marathon training, based on your starting point:

Beginner Runner Time Commitment

If you've never run a marathon and you're currently running under 15 miles each week, expect to spend 18 to 22 weeks preparing for your marathon. You should plan on running at least three times a week in the beginning, and at least four times a week as your training progresses. You'll also want to incorporate one to two days of cross-training to help build your fitness and boost your injury resistance. In terms of the weekly time commitment, the highest mileage and most intense weeks of your training will be three, four, and five weeks before your race. During the final two weeks before the marathon, you'll actually start cutting back on mileage during the tapering phase.

Here are some marathon schedules for beginner runners:

  • Run/Walk Marathon Training Schedule: This 20-week marathon training program is designed to help you run/walk to the finish line of your marathon. You should have a base mileage of about 12 to 15 miles per week to begin this training program.
  • Beginner Marathon Training Schedule: This 20-week schedule is for a beginner marathoner whose goal is to finish. You should have a base mileage of 12 to 15 miles per week to start this training program.
  • 22-Week Marathon Training Schedule for Beginners: This simple marathon training schedule will get beginner runners marathon-ready in 22 weeks. To start it, you should be able to run at least 3 miles.
  • Advanced Beginner Marathon Training Schedule: This 20-week marathon training schedule is geared toward advanced beginner runners. To follow this training schedule, you should be able to run 4 miles comfortably and can run at least four days per week.

Intermediate Runner Time Commitment

If you have a little more running experience and feel like you're past the beginner stage, you could be ready for a marathon in closer to 16 to 18 weeks. Plan to run at least four to five days a week, with one to two days of cross-training activities, such as cycling or swimming.

Was this page helpful?