When should you start training for a fall marathon?

Fall training

While it may seem like the spring marathon season has just got into full swing, it’s already time for marathoners to start mapping out their plans for fall. It’s hard to believe we’re already just outside the 20-week window for major events like the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon (Oct. 15) and Chicago Marathon (Oct.8). Even if you’re looking to run a late-autumn marathon like New York City (Nov. 5), you can’t afford to drag your feet when organizing your running calendar. Here are a couple of things to consider when scheduling the official start to your fall marathon training.

running in fall

Assess your current fitness level

A general guideline for marathon preparation is to dedicate 16 to 20 weeks to training before the big day. Your current fitness level becomes an important factor in where you fall on the spectrum; for runners who already have a spring marathon under their belt this year, 16 weeks of training should be more than enough of a buffer, provided your weekly mileage hasn’t gone into a prolonged tailspin after you finished your spring event. That would put the start of training for early-October marathons like Chicago and Toronto at mid-June, and mid-July for early-November marathons like New York.

First-time marathoners, or those who have gone months without consistently hitting 25 km per week, have much less of a buffer. They should plan to start training (gulp!) now, and certainly by the last week of May week for an early October marathon, and the last week of June for early November events.

running in fall

Build your mileage wisely

Making sure to give yourself time to build your mileage slowly and safely is crucial to making it through marathon training without a potentially sidelining injury. Depending on your current weekly mileage and your peak weekly mileage target during training, making time for incremental distance increases could sway the length of your training schedule.

If you’re an experienced runner with a very high peak-mileage target like 120 km per week, and you currently weekly mileage is 25 km per week, the 16-week window for experienced runners won’t be long enough. The rule of thumb is to make sure not to increase your mileage more than 10 per cent from one week to the next, or the distance of your long run by more than 10 per cent. You’ll also lessen the risk of injury by keeping your long run to 25 per cent or less than the total distance you run in any given week.

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