The Marathon Bug

Let’s say you’re one of the thousands of runners who finished this month’s Big Sur Half Marathon. Your body is now reasonably well recovered. You’ve got a great sense of accomplishment from running 13 miles, and you’re feeling pretty darn good about your running life.

Maybe you still look adoringly at your finisher’s medal – and perhaps, every so often, you squint your left eye closed so that the word “half” is obscured, but “marathon” is still visible. Maybe you find yourself wondering what it would take to get a medal that looked like that. Sometimes you talk yourself out of it, but the idea lingers, and preoccupies your thoughts with each passing day.

If this is you – congratulations! You’ve caught the Marathon Bug. Trust us, it probably won’t go away. The only question now is, what should you do about it? How do you make the leap from 13.1 to 26.2?

The answer isn’t as hard as you may think. In fact, you can probably have yourself ready for the Big Sur Marathon next April. It is still 22 weeks away, which gives you plenty of time to train.

Your first, most important step is to commit yourself NOW to reaching the goal. Go to and register for the race. Your motivation to train will be much greater after you’ve officially signed up. Where your money goes, your body is likely to follow.

Between now and the end of April, you’ll gradually progress your training towards your marathon goal. At first, you don’t have to change the number of days you run, or the number of miles. The most important adjustment is to reserve one day per week for a marathon-specific training run.

For instance, from now until the end of the year, do a long run of 10 or 12 miles every other weekend. On the opposite weekends, run three to five miles at a pace that’s slightly faster than your target marathon pace. This isn’t dramatically different than most half-marathon training plans.

Starting in January, your overall mileage will gradually build, as the length of your training runs increase. Long runs should increase by 1 or 2 miles every other week, and marathon pace workouts can be anywhere from 5 to 12 miles. Many runners will raise their mid-week mileage as well, but this is depends on how your body responds to the longer weekend runs.

Your longest run should be three weeks before the race, and should be at least 22 miles. Working backwards, your long runs in March should be 18 to 20 miles, in February should be 16 to 18, and in January should be 14 to 16. If you just ran a half-marathon this month, and you keep training through December, starting a 14-mile long run in January shouldn’t be too intimidating.

Finally, don’t hesitate to enlist some help. Find someone who runs marathons and pester them for advice. If you have nowhere else to turn, contact your local running columnists – we’re glad to give training tips.

Yes, the road is hard sometimes, but the rewards are worth it. If you thought the sense of accomplishment from running 13 miles was great - believe us, the pride of a marathon finish is exponentially more. And it’s available to anyone who wants to make the leap.

Don’t be afraid to take a bold step and scratch that Marathon Bug. Chances are, it will never go away unless you do.


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