5K to Marathon in 6 months?

Hi, I'm new on here and would love some advise from experienced runners. I just started running last week, and have a place for london marathon in April 2012. This gives me just under 6 months to train. This is probably absolute madness as I'm finding that I can't run for much more than 5k at the moment, but I'm hoping with the right training I would have just enough time to be prepared. I'm 20 years old and am not overweight - hopefully this'll be an advantage! Thanks in advance!


  • Many people go from no running to a marathon in 6 months.  Buy a copy of The Runners Handbook from Amazon, it has beginners training plans and is full of advice.
  • Congrats on securing a place for the London Marathon!

    I'm definitely no expert or by any means experienced, but thought I would offer my view from a newbie perspective as I have recently completed my first marathon!

    I started running in the new year, so in total I've been running for 10 months, but in terms of marathon-specific training with long slow runs it was 5 months. But when I say 'marathon-specific' I must admit I did not follow any structured plan...

    So did I find this was sufficient preparation for the marathon? Well, yes and no.

    I think the time scale I'd allowed myself was long enough (and I think probably 6 months for you could be OK too) - but I after the marathon I definitely realised that I should have been more structured in my approach and I should have clocked up more training miles.

    I felt on good form before the marathon and quite confident after completing a half marathon a few weeks prior, achieving my goal time. And physically, the marathon wasn't the absolute beast that I thought it would be (I didn't hit that dreaded wall or suffer any cramps, injuries etc) but psychologically it was so much tougher than I'd expected!! The second half of the marathon was considerably slower than my first half as I got 'the fear' and didn't know whether my legs would have it in them to go the distance. That loss of confidence was most likely due to not having clocked up many training runs much longer than a half marathon distance. And my body was probably crying out: 'what on earth are you trying to do to me?!" once I'd ventured beyond my usual training distance. I finished in 4:40 which was 10-20 minutes after my target, but felt happy to have just made it round at least.

    So, in a nutshell, yes I think training for a marathon in 6 months is achievable, but with a big goal like this, I learned that I need to be more structured and disciplined to build up sufficient mileage in my training so that I am adequately prepared, not just physically but mentally as well. I learned that with 26.2 miles you can't just wing it!! Find a good training plan and stick to it as much as you can!!

    If you are working towards covering a 5k distance at the moment, I would recommend, if you're not already doing this, joining your local parkrun, which is what I did to kickstart the 'structured' aspects of my running schedule. Setting aside your Sundays for a long slow run and building this up each time until you reach about 20 miles is also invaluable - this is where my own training suffered really as I wasn't disciplined enough with them. You have to be prepared to make some 'sacrifices' in your lifestyle over the next 6 months, like saying no to some social invitations, changes to diet etc.

    But, saying all this, it's all worth it as I felt such a sense of achievement at having completed the distance. And yours will be so memorable as you've gotten in to the 'big one'..!

    And now I am going to apply the lessons I have learned to improve my time at a marathon next year.

    Good luck, I hope that your training goes well, and that you enjoy it! image
  • Thanks to both the replies - I have ordered a copy of the runner's handbook.

    Ploddingalongnicely - it's really great to hear it can be done in that timeframe, so thanks so much for taking the time to reply, you have definitely boosted my confidence. I'm going to try and find a decent training plan and stick religiously to it - I'm a student, so have plenty of time on my hands for training! The park run idea is a great one. I'm not really setting myself a time target, I just want to do the run without having to walk. What was the longest run you did during your training, and did you do any of your training on the treadmill? I have a feeling that I'm going to be tempted by the warmth of the gym instead of running outside on icy winter mornings (in scotland!)

    Thanks once again
  • Without wanting to bombard you with more books, there's a fantastic beginner to marathon book called 'the non runner marathon trainer' by David whitsett. The main part of the book has a chapter per the main 16 weeks of training, which talks you through the training for that week, but more importantly everything else you'll need to consider, from diet to the psychology of the marathon. Based on my 2012 marathon plan, I think 26th December is 16 weeks before London, so the books an ideal Christmas present!

    You do have enough time, although you will have to be absolutely committed from now on. 5k is fine at this stage, you need to now build 1 long run in per week and slowly increase the run from 5k to 10k so that you can run that by mid December. Most 16 week beginner training plans assume you can run 5-7 miles to start with, so that becomes your Christmas goal. If there's a 10k going on near you around Christmas, enter that.

    In terms of treadmill, I will occasionally use them for weekday evening shorter runs, especially in January when running on icy pavements is dangerous. However your long weekend run has to be outside in my view.

    So in summary, yes you can do this...
  • Hello Hector, you're welcome, glad to be of help image

    The longest training run I managed was 16 miles (really in hindsight I should have stretched it longer to 20 miles to adequately prepare myself).

    No I didn't do much training on the treadmill - personally I get a little bored doing anything over 5k on them, so can only manage to use them for short sharp runs or interval sessions (but these are really beneficial too).

    If you're looking for ways to motivate yourself to keep running outside over the cold winter months....

    If your uni has a running/cross country club, perhaps you could try joining up?

    As you're up in Scotland, if you're in either Glasgow or Edinburgh, Nike also organise free 5k runs in the week (search for Nike Plus runs - I go to one in Manchester which is good fun).

    Any way in which you can build running in to your week, and keeping it fun, is the way forward I'd say. (But longer runs on Sundays are really key).

    Also, as the previous poster has mentioned, sign up for 10k run soon. And perhaps see if there is a half marathon that you could aim for in the new year (say, Feb, March time).

    Hope that helps image
  • Thanks again to the two previous posters. I managed to do a 10k today, so training is going better than expected. I did nearly collapse from exhaustion at the end (or possibly from being ridiculously hung over), so perhaps I'm pushing myself a bit too hard!
    There's a weekly 5k race I can join, but I think I'm going to join in a couple of weeks when I'm a bit faster, as I don't really want to come last!
    I've also joined the Uni running club, so thanks for that idea!
  • Hi, I'm up to about 14 miles for my sunday long runs, but I'm finding it tougher each week.... I almost started walking my legs were so tired. I was wondering whether I was doing enough running during the week, as my plan recommends three 4-5 mile mid week runs (which stays pretty much the same up until three weeks before the marathon). Surely if my long runs have increased to over 14 miles, shouldn't I be doing a mid week run of 7 or 8 miles??
    If anyone can help, I'd be grateful, as I'm a bit confused.
  • My view is that your plan is fine and that you're doing really well, keep gong...! 14 miles is always hard work and think back to where you were when you first posted, 5k was the limit. Some plans do have slightly longer runs during the week, mine though has a 2x4 and a 6, which is about the same as yours.

    Don't forget that your legs will be fairly tired during your Sunday run as you'll have run more miles in the previous 7 days than ever done before. On marathon day you'll have had the benefit of tapering and a big cut down in mileage and will be fresher. At this training distance it's also important to think about nutrition, and making sure you're eating and drinking the right things on the morning of your run.

    I dont claim to be an expert and others may have another view, but it seems you're doing fine, well done on getting this far.
  • Thanks Andy, I guess my plan is OK... I'm probably just over reacting but each week it just gets so much harder, my legs just don't seem to be able to deal with it! I do slightly wish I'd entered a half marathon instead, but hopefully all the pain will be worth it come marathon day!

    I haven't really thought about nutrition yet, but as a student, my diet consists of lots of pasta... so I'm probably eating the right kind of stuff. I take wine gums on my long runs as well and have one every fifteen mins or so.

    Thanks for your help, I'll keep pushing myself!
  • Thanks to everyone who helped out on here and gave great advise. Had a fantastic day yesterday, and although I injured my knee a couple of months ago, I got round in 4h30, which was much better than I was expecting!!
    Can't wait to do another one.... next target is to break that 4hr mark!! Thanks again
  • Wow fantastic, well done! Great to see someone carry it straight through from those initial doubts. Not as mad as you thought!

    Just hope I can now put in a reasonable run at Manchester on Sunday!
  • fantastic image
  • Well done, that's brilliant! Your persistence paid dividends! image
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