10 Proven Ways to Transition from a Half Marathon to a Full Marathon

The mileage from a half to a full marathon is only double. But the most consistent question you will get from most people wishing to transition in the distance run is how to go from a half to a full marathon. 

The first guide to beginning the transition journey is respecting the full marathon distance. Acknowledging that it's more tedious means that you have to change your running strategy. The ideal way to prepare for a full marathon is to have enough time and a great training plan.

Consider these 10 tips to help you.

Race Selection

Your first marathon race will be challenging, and the long runs should inspire you and make you feel confident as you start your first miles on race day. Here are some important race characteristics to consider.

● Race size: Are you comfortable running alone or with other runners? 

● Location: Do you prefer running closer to your home or traveling for the event?

● Course elevation: Do you prefer a flat marathon course or one with inclines and declines?

Race Selection

Race Time Preparation 

You need lots of time to prepare as this will be the first marathon you have ever run. Give yourself at least 16-20 weeks to build mileage for your legs as you prepare for the event. Life can sometimes have detours that take you away from training consistently. Having enough time to prepare for a marathon means that you can commit to a plan despite these unforeseen detours.

Find a Training Plan

The internet is buzzing with many training plans from accomplished coaches and runners. Find one that works for you, or have a coach create one that syncs with your schedule. A good place to start is with your half-marathon training plan. You already know that it works, and with a few tweaks, you can have a progressive training plan that blends with your current running form.

If you can afford to hire a coach, this will be money well-spent. Coaches have many perks besides offering one-on-one training and encouragement along the way. When training for a full marathon, consider the long run a minimum of 3-4 times every week. A 20-mile race will help prepare your body for endurance running. Add some cross-training like ellipticals and cycling to prevent injury and burnout.

Find a Training Plan

Run Longer

Full marathon training means you have to get used to making long runs over the season. Long runs will get your body in tune. They don't have to be fast-paced but rather conversation zone. Some people prefer slowly running, while others switch between running-walk intervals to keep the run effort low.

The longer runs should simulate the terrain of the marathon course you expect to run. Start with at least a 13-mile run and increase with a mile or two every week. Switch between long and long 'short' runs before race day so your body can adapt and recover in time. 

Run Efficiently

Avoid stressing your body too much during training. The run-walk strategy helps runners become effective at breaking the distance while allowing their bodies some mini-recovery time.

A strategy that works is the 8:1 ratio of run-walk sequence. Eight minutes of running and a one-minute walk. 

Run Longer

Train Distance Running, Not Speed

The half marathon distance might require speed training. But for your first marathon, the goal is to finish the distance. Your initial training should include adding mileage to your legs and not speed.

As you add more miles, you will realize that your pace becomes slow due to fatigue. Don't be worried or disheartened. Long runs add stress to the body, and the focus should be on how you can finish them healthy and strong without injuries or risk of burnout. 

Learning How to Hydrate and Fuel

Fueling and hydrating during long runs require strategy. Transitioning from the half marathon means you will need more fuel and hydration during runs. The good news is that you may already know how to hydrate and fuel from your half marathon experience.

You need several weeks of practice and opportunities to learn what fuel or hydration works for your body. Failure to adapt to this process could lead to a miserable first marathon experience. 

Train Distance Running, Not Speed

Mental Visualization

Week one of training will be the most challenging because your body is training to adapt to all kinds of stress. The best way to clear this is to have a print layout of your training plan and check off small achievement boxes as you go.

You can break long runs using an alarm that goes off after every 10-15 minutes to allow you to walk or take a sip occasionally. The mental breakdown of distance running gives small accomplishments while training, and you can carry this habit to your race day. 


Your marathon training plan mustn't be a lonely encounter. Running alone on an empty street may feel burdensome and even discouraging to first-time marathon runners. You can enroll with a local club or find a training buddy to take the marathon challenge with you.

Training alongside a friend is encouraging and will make long runs fun and manageable because you have someone to urge you on when you feel like giving up.

Learning How to Hydrate and Fuel

Realistic Race Expectations

It's impractical to try to win the full marathon on your first try. The goal should be to finish the distance strong and healthy, avoiding injuries and burnout. Finishing the 26.2-mile race is an achievement in itself, and because it's the first marathon you are running, it will also be your personal best time.

You can use the time you set on your full marathon experience as the benchmark for future marathon races you will participate in and hopefully keep improving. 


How to go from half to a full marathon requires that you change your mindset. Even though the race is only double the distance, adding more mileage and hours to your training can be tedious and draining. Keep focused on the goal and hire a coach to make the transition smooth and safe. 

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