Training for a marathon in one month
May 4, 2006 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Can you train for a marathon in one month?

I am 26 years old, 6'3" 183lbs. I have been active and athletic my entire life, but not as much lately as I was when I was younger.

Anyway, I want to run a marathon on June 3rd, but am completely out of shape. I am not looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon or anything, but I at least want to finish the race in a reasonable time (< 5 hours). Walking would be ok, my main goal here is to finish the race and not injure myself.

Is this unreasonable? Any training tips?
posted by blueplasticfish to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is possible at all. When I first started running (and, like you, I was in my mid 20's and athletic and slim) I pushed myself a little too hard the first couple of months and ending up injuring my knee. Don't try for a sub-five marathon -- it's not worth pushing yourself, and if you take a year and really get into it, you should be able to ease in to running and make sure that you develop without injury. Knee injuries, by the by, really blow.
posted by incessant at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2006

you wanna survive or finish walking tall?

have you ever run a marathon before? Under 5 hours means a pace of a little under 11 minutes/mile which is easy in the initial miles - but may prove difficult in the final miles.

training - unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you will also have to contend with the summer's first heat. in addition - you have to get out of 'completely out of shape' before you begin getting 'in shape' for the event.

Five weeks is a VERY short time. You can train your mind to finish the marathon (which is, admittedly, half the battle) but your body will take a beating. How much are you prepared to suffer?

examine the reasons why you want to run this marathon. is it to raise funds for a charity event? is it to prove it to yourself that you can do it? is it to settle a bet?

In my experience, if you have never run a marathon, you are out of shape and you want to finish, set your sights on something slower than 5 hours. You can walk and run, for example walk 5 minutes and run 5 minutes for the entire course and finish respectably.

This site offers some useful advice for beginning marathoners.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:25 AM on May 4, 2006

...and by 'finish respectably' I mean on two legs, and not on all fours. I make no guarantees about a finish time, nor would I want to.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:26 AM on May 4, 2006

If you haven't been running, training for a marathon in under a month is probably a very long shot.

Most marathon training schedules are about 18 weeks, and they assume you're already running.

What I would suggest is to spend the next two weeks starting a running program and see how you do.

If you haven't been running at all, on the first day run no more than a mile or two at a slow pace. Stretch before and after. If you run too far on your first day out, you may get DOMS which will set you back several days at least.

I think starting a training program to run a marathon is a great idea-- even if two weeks from now you realize that you won't be ready, you could be ready for one by the end of summer.
posted by justkevin at 11:31 AM on May 4, 2006

This is an awful, awful idea, unless you would like to finish with massive overtraining injuries. It would be difficult/impossible for a casual runner to do it in a month (casual = normally runs no longer than six miles). For someone who hasn't been running regularly? No.

Now, if you're willing to do it in over five hours that's certainly less insane. Just do a lot of walking, pace yourself, take time.

Is there a 5K you could shoot for, or a 10K?
posted by schroedinger at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2006

As a runner, I'd first tell you not to try this. It won't be fun. Why not select a fall marathon and do some summer training?

If you must, get running now. Don't go out and try to run for two hours. Do a run-walk, where you run for 4 minutes and walk for a minute. Do this for 20 minutes the first day.

Build up to doing this for an hour in a few weeks, running every other day. Once a week, starting next week, do this for 90 minutes, and then two hours the next weekend. This won't be fun. Imagine doing twice, or three times, that.

After that, try running without walking breaks for 45-60 minutes in 3-4 weeks. If you don't injure yourself in the process, and you're able to run non-stop for an hour in a month or so, you'll probably have a fighting chance of doign it without walking the last 6 miles.

This buildup would be inadvisable in any other situation. Myself, I run 75-80 miles per week (I'm a 10K runner) and am still intimidated by that distance.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:41 AM on May 4, 2006

Training from scratch (even if you're in good shape) will take ~ 6 months.
Please do not attempt this. You will injure yourself, possibly long-term.
posted by j at 11:44 AM on May 4, 2006

You're gonna hurt yourself.

Why a marathon? Run something shorter. 5K/10K. That's much more reasonable to prepare for in 5 weeks. Plus there's usually more of those types of runs than marathons.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2006

As someone who is running their first marathon this coming Sunday, I think you would be crazy to attempt this.

Now if you wanted to walk the whole thing, I think that would be doable but you won't be finishing in under 5 hours. It will be closer to 7 or 8 hours. For example, the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon has rolling course close of 20 minutes per mile. That means as long as you can walk at a pace of 3 MPH, you can do this marathon.

Marathons often have relay events and/or 5-10K events. You should look into that.
posted by mmascolino at 11:51 AM on May 4, 2006

I'm going to go against a lot of things people have said already, but I'll preface by saying I don't think it's necessarily safe, or a good idea.

That said, it most definitely can be done.

Depending on how athletic you already are, a steady training program for a few weeks combined with sharp mental focus can get you to the finish line, for sure.

I know plenty of people who have a history of running, but have been "out of shape" and have successfully trained for marathons in a month or two, and run them without complications.

Bottom line is you know your body better than anyone. Train for a few weeks, see how you feel a week before the race. If you feel good, go for it. But make sure your mind is as into it as your body or you'll never get there.
posted by dead_ at 11:58 AM on May 4, 2006

Not unless you've been running -- but maybe, at age 26. Of course, you could only run part-way, and finish by walking (which will no doubt be what happens, since you say you're out of shape).

This seems to be a common notion: that after a few weekends of training, you can run a marathon -- where's it coming from? (I work with some people who talk like this, and actually run the race-- but when pressed, they confess it's actually just a half-marathon).
posted by Rash at 12:08 PM on May 4, 2006

A friend of mine did a November marathon the year of our graduation with only 3 weeks of training. He had hip/knee pains for 6-12 months afterwards.

He also wasn't just "pretty athletic". He did cross country/track all high school and he was running miles in the low 4's (like 4 minutes 15 seconds) up to 6 months before the marathon.

I'd say you can do it but you're going to pay for it for a long time afterwards.
posted by sideshow at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2006

One of my colleagues will be running a Marathon in four months. He has been getting in shape to start the 18 week training program for the last two months. Then again, his goal is to run it in under three hours...
posted by plinth at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2006

Be careful, I am sure you know what happened to the person who ran the first marathon, and he was unprepared:

Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, according to legend, was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping, but moments after proclaiming his message to the city, he collapsed dead.
posted by milarepa at 1:11 PM on May 4, 2006

No, you can't do it and if you try you will likely hurt or kill yourself. Please don't do that. How about one in September? That will still be quite a challenge to prepare for given your current conditioning, but it is at least doable.
posted by caddis at 1:31 PM on May 4, 2006

As an active runner, let me just say there is no way.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 1:33 PM on May 4, 2006

I would be the last to enourage you to actually do it, but I ran a marathon without doing any training at all for a year prior. I would certainly add the caveat that before I took my year off I was in insanely good shape (I was running about 100 miles a week.) This would definitely mitigate the damage that this kind of activity would do. I survived with some chafeage in very uncomfortable regions, I think I put the equivalent of a very large container of Vasoline down my pants between miles 12 and 15.

All in all, I would encourage you to think about postponing your marathon experience.
posted by jefeweiss at 1:55 PM on May 4, 2006

My brother trained for (and completed) a marathon in a month. He decided to do it after completing a half marathon.

He's also insane.
posted by delladlux at 2:12 PM on May 4, 2006

Former 'Big Brother' star Jade Goody has admitted that she only agreed to run the London Marathon for charity because she didn't know how long a mile was.

Goody collapsed after running 21 miles of the 26-mile race and was treated for exhaustion afterwards.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 2:13 PM on May 4, 2006

No. Just No.

You will end up injuring yourself. Skip this year and start training for next year.
posted by Rubber Soul at 2:29 PM on May 4, 2006

Well, it's not equivalent, but I recently did a half marathon with zero training. Also, I'm not in shape at all. Not athletic, never have been. As in, I'll run to catch a closing elevator, but only so I can avoid having to take the stairs. I finished in around 3 hours (so not exactly a speedy finish). I stuck with a pace group for the first seven and a half miles, and then my ass broke. Or at least that's what it felt like.

negative: DOMS. My legs hurt like a mofo for about three days afterwards. As in, I can't sleep it hurts so bad pain.

positive: I had so much fun. It was a beautiful day, and the course was fairly flat. Plus, it was motivating; once I healed, I've started up running myself. A quick two or three mile jog no longer seems daunting; before I would have dismissed the idea of running that distance altogether. Testing the outer limits of my capacity showed me that though I'm certainly no athlete, I was underestimating what I can do.

Of course, thirteen miles is one thing. Double that is quite a different beast.
posted by neda at 5:50 PM on May 4, 2006

I also did a half marathon with zero training. Then I did the full run the year after with only a week of prep. I was 20 at the time. I definitely think you can do this if you're an active individual. Put on some good shoes and tape up the nipples. Oh, and get some "nut butter" so you don't chafe too much down there. Should be good to go. Naturally if you break a leg or something, you should stop. Otherwise, I don't see why you couldn't finish in under 5 hours if you pace yourself correctly. My time, for what it's worth, was 4:32. I'm glad I did it, though I don't know if I'll try again anytime soon. My legs were sore for a couple days, but that was to be expected. MAKE SURE YOU STRETCH A LOT IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE RUN!
posted by bloggboy at 10:52 PM on May 4, 2006

milarepa: That's just another greek myth. See
posted by bloggboy at 10:57 PM on May 4, 2006

You could probably walk a full marathon with no training, though... it certainly appears that way to me, anyway, based on what I've seen of the fitness levels in the back o' the packers out there in the walk friendly races.

Not my thing... but if folks enjoy it, I say more power to 'em.
posted by ph00dz at 7:26 AM on May 5, 2006

I think the comments that are warning you that it is impossible are too extreme. I think you need to do a field test of how fit you really are right now. Instead of thinking you are fit, go find out!

Go for a 10K run. I think a relatively fit 26 year old should be able to run 10K with no problem (I can anyway and I'm no athletic star, I just play a lot of Ultimate).

If you can run that, take the next day off. Then run 10K. If you can run that again no problem, I think you can get ready for a marathon in a month. If you have to walk while doing a 10K, it doesn't look good unless you are willing to walk most of your marathon. Keep in mind some older folks just walk marathons (really embarassing for a 26yo though).

Keep a journal and start quickly building to a focus on long (3hours plus) runs. If you want, run for 10 minutes and walk for one. Don't worry so much about the distance. Just get your body used to suffering for that long.

Your time will be 4:30+ and you will feel sore for a while but at least you'll have done one. I only ran one marathon, I didn't train much, it was painful, but I can brag about it for the rest of my life.
posted by FastGorilla at 8:00 AM on May 5, 2006

If you do run it, be prepared for long-term injuries which are very demoralizing. I ran 5k's and 10k's regularly for the first few months before taking part in my first half marathon, and until today my knees hurt.
posted by arrowhead at 11:25 PM on May 8, 2006

I trained for a little more than 2 months for the 2006 LA Marathon. (I've been running three to five miles two or three times each week (mostly) since '96.) I finished in 5:48, but my knees hurt so much that I was -- literally -- shuffling at the finish line.
I couldn't run again without horrible knee pain for 6+ months.

I started training for the 2007 LA Marathon about a month ago and am running on Sunday. I just want to crack five hours.

IOW: It can definitely be done. I don't suggest it unless you have stock in Advil or Tylenol and don't need to move with any rapidity for a few months ... but it can be done.
posted by GatorDavid at 10:25 PM on March 2, 2007

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