So you decided to run a marathon. Congratulations!

Although it isn’t known exactly how many people run marathons every year, the common assumption is that it is as low as 1%. Becoming a part of the marathon runner tribe is special and quite an accomplishment simply because not everyone runs a marathon. Not everyone can.

Not everyone should.

Why So Many Runners Don’t Get to Run their Marathon

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time there was a new mom. She was overweight and had a terrible case of the blahs. She also had developed a back problem…and she was only 31!

One day, her chiropractor gave her some advice for her back. “Maybe you just need to lose some weight,” he said.

Perhaps that doesn’t sound very nice. But it was the truth, and she’d never heard it put so bluntly before.

So she started running. And then she met other runners. And, after a few weeks, she decided she wanted to run a marathon. She chose a half marathon training plan and checked that race off the list after three months of running.

Then she cut back on her running for a couple months. It was the holiday season and there was just too much to do to devote much time to running. She hung in there running, probably, 9 or 10 miles per week.

In the new year, she chose a marathon training plan and jumped into it. A marathon, after all, was the ultimate goal!

She stuck to her plan like a good little runner. In fact, she even hired a babysitter one night when her husband had to work late, so she could knock off 7 miles that were scheduled on a Wednesday!

Marathon training does take dedication. But she didn’t get to run her marathon.

Nope. She didn’t run the marathon because she didn’t know one of the most important things about marathon training.

Before you decide to run a marathon, you must already have built up a base. You must already be running, at least, 15-20 miles per week BEFORE you chose your plan. You must have a running base BEFORE you begin training to run 26.2 miles.

You simply cannot jump from running 5-10 miles per week to the 20+ miles per week that most marathon training plans begin with and not get hurt.

You might be thinking this won’t happen to you. You might be thinking about how healthy you are and how much money you spent on running shoes so that this won’t happen to you.

Unfortunately, the reality is, nearly 70% of runners get injured every year. And, as a new or low-mileage runner, if you do too much too soon, you drastically increase your odds of injury. And an injury usually means NOT running a marathon. That’s what happened to me as you probably guessed from the story above. And I played sports all my life and had never been injured.

The Simple Math that Will Help You Become a Marathoner

If you want to successfully join that 1% and become a marathon runner, here’s what you should do before you choose and begin following a training plan:

  • Figure out how many miles per week you are running right now.
  • Figure out how long it will take you to get a running base.
    • Take your current number of miles per week and multiply it by 10%. That is the number of miles you should increase each week until you get up to, at the very least, 15 miles per week. Twenty is better. Every 2 to 4 weeks during this period, you need to drop one of your weeks back down for a lower-mileage recovery week.
    • Figure out how many weeks it will take you to get to 15-20 miles per week. Ideally, you should be running about 6 months before you start training for a marathon. At least a few of these weeks should be in the 15-20 miles per week range. This is your running base.
    • Now find a training plan. You can search online, hire a running coach or buy a book on marathon training. There are tons to choose from.
    • Add your base training to the beginning of the plan. Take your marathon training plan and add the weeks you figured it will take you to get a good running base to the beginning of the plan. Don’t start the actual plan until you’ve completed your running base and you should be okay.

Of course, there’s no guarantee you won’t get injured when statistics show 70% of runners do each year, but the odds of staying healthy will be in your favor. You can reduce your risk even further by adding strength, cross training and plenty of rest to your repertoire.

Marathon training is no joke, but you can do it because you will be smart about your training and you are dedicated to putting in the work it takes to prepare your body to run 26.2 miles. Good luck with your race!

If you know someone who wants to train for their first marathon, do them a favor and send them this post, okay? Help a runner out.

Good luck and happy running!