Minimum Fitness Level When Running a Marathon

Many people new to marathon running want to know what the minimum fitness level is for them to run their first marathon.

Maybe they want to know if they have trained enough (perhaps having pre-race jitters), or maybe they want to try to beat a goal of quickest time to train for a marathon.

Whatever your reasons are for wanting to know the minimum fitness level required to run a marathon, you need to first decide how you want to complete the marathon.

Get it done no matter what
You just want to travel 26.3 miles under your own power on your own two feet. You dont care if you run, walk, sprint, or hobble and take all day to do it. I think the minimum fitness level for this one is deceptively simple.

How hard could it be to run/walk a marathon with no time goal? Maybe harder than you think if you are completely out of shape. But if you can consistently run a few miles at a time, a few times a week, you will probably be able to finish a marathon by some means. If you can walk at the average walking pace of 3 mi/hr, then you are looking at almost 9 hours of walking.

Can you walk for a full day? If so, have at it! It will be fun. You can mix in some running, talk to people, enjoy the weather, the view, or just being outside. Keep in mind that you need to read the race rules carefully: some races have cut-off times if you are slower than a certain speed, you get disqualified from the race.

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Run the full distance, with no particular time goal
This path is good if you want to train the minimum amount of time to achieve your goal of running a marathon without doing a breakneck paced program that could earn you an injury. This also happened to be my goal for my first marathon. I was told that I could run 60% of my total weekly mileage in one run.

That meant that to be able to run a marathon, I would need to be running at least 43.8 miles per week. I think my longest distance week was 40 miles, and the longest single run I did prior to the marathon was 17 miles. I was a little nervous about how prepared I was in the week leading up to the big day, but I was happy with the results.

If you are in this scenario, at maybe a little less than the 60% as you are coming up on race day, just ask yourself if you are willing to be able to walk a little during the event. Sometimes it is more important to meet a deadline and complete the race than it is to run the full distance. But you need to answer that question for yourself.

Run the full distance within a certain time
If you have not run a full marathon before, I would recommend you not try this path unless you are willing to invest more time into training. The only way to know if you are ready to run a marathon at a certain pace is through training. Ill have a more specific post dedicated to this in the future.

Perspective
It helps to know what particular speed you would need to run in order to complete various marathon time goals. The following table will give you an idea of what marathon times go with which speeds.

Remember that the paces may seem easy, until you have been at one pace for 3 hours, and are now feeling the pain!

Be realistic when evaluating your capabilities. a look at the time required to complete 3 miles. Find the one that is closest to what you can do comfortably at your current fitness level.

You will not be able to complete a marathon at this pace. In fact, you will probably be one speed group slower. But dont be depressed by that remember that a marathon is over 8 times longer than that!

 

 

Pace (min/mile)

Speed (mile/hr)

Time to complete Marathon (HH:MM)

Time to complete 3 miles (HH:MM)

Average walking pace

20

3

08:46

01:00

Fast walk

15

4

06:34

00:45

Slow run

10

6

04:23

00:30

Average running pace

8

7.5

03:30

00:24

Fast running pace

6

10

02:37

00:18

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