Reader Sarah emailed me with the following question: "I've been running for eight months now, and I've completed 5K and 10K races. My friends who have been running for longer are trying to convince me to train for a marathon next fall. Not sure if I'm ready to take that leap. Should I do a half marathon first, or jump right into the marathon training?"
Great question, Sarah! I hear this a lot from new runners who have friends, family members, or co-workers trying to convince them to train for and run a marathon (26.2 miles) with them. While I do believe any healthy person who is willing to commit to the training can complete a marathon, the training is not something to jump right into with no or little running experience. If someone is a coach potato, they would definitely want to run for at least six months (a year is better) before starting marathon training. But it sounds like you have a good running base and have plenty of time to prepare for a fall marathon, if it's something you feel ready to do right now. (Don't let friends pressure you into it!)
It's definitely a good idea to complete a half marathon (13.1 miles) before a full marathon. Many runners, from beginners to advanced, run a half marathon during their marathon training as a confidence booster and a way to figure out their marathon goal time. It's helpful to get that kind of long distance race experience because you'll feel more physically and mentally prepared to go the marathon distance. Finding a local half marathon is not too hard in most areas, and you can fit into your marathon training schedule at any point after you've reached 10 miles for your long run.