How To Prepare For A Marathon In 2 Weeks

If you’ve just signed up for a marathon that’s scheduled in 2 weeks, we can only assume that you’ve been training for the race day for months but you only got the chance to register now.

How To Prepare For A Marathon In 2 Weeks

Why? Well, we’re not going to sugarcoat it; if you only have 2 weeks to get ready for a marathon, then we recommend you postpone your participation for another marathon that’s at least 4 months away.

You see, it takes most runners a minimum of 16 to 20 weeks to prepare for a marathon. The exact training period varies according to your fitness level and training volume.

As a rule of thumb, the longer the distance you’re looking to run for a race, the longer the preparation time you need for it. We all know that a marathon is quite a long distance, which means being ready to take it on within only 14 days is just not doable, even if you’re an intermediate or advanced runner.

In today’s guide on how to prepare for a marathon in 2 weeks, we discuss what you should do during the final 14 days of your marathon training program to help you have good form at the starting line and perform as well as possible.

How To Prepare For A Marathon In 2 Weeks, Are 2 Weeks Enough Time?

This question is always one of the very first that a runner thinks of once they sign up for a race and realize how much time they’ve got leading up to it.

While it’s true that the exact training period a runner needs to be fully prepared for a marathon differs from one runner to another depending on several factors (such as physical fitness, endurance level, and training volume), it typically takes most runners a minimum of 16 to 20 weeks to be ready for a marathon.

So if you’re thinking of training for a marathon from scratch in 2 weeks only, we’re letting you know now that this period isn’t nearly enough time to get the job done.

If you’re a beginner with no previous training, 2 weeks will do nothing to help finish a marathon. You may be able to run a couple of miles, but completing the whole 26.2 miles of a marathon in average time is out of the question.

It’s a similar case for an intermediate or advanced runner. Sure, 2 weeks of marathon training may help them run a little longer, but finishing the race in average time is a very far stretch.

The reason is simple: running a marathon is a strenuous physical activity that takes a huge toll on the body. It requires months of preparation for your muscles to be able to carry you that long of a distance in decent time without sustaining an injury.

Additionally, it takes many weeks to master the right pacing and breathing techniques. Not to mention, it requires a certain level of mental training to possess a strong-enough mindset that enables you to push yourself to keep running when you want to do nothing more than quit. 

We’re not even talking about making good or above-average time, this is just reaching the finishing line.

So what can you do in 2 weeks? Well, you certainly can’t fit 20-weeks’ worth of marathon training in 14 days, which leaves you with nothing much to do except start training for another marathon that’s scheduled at least 4 months away.

Note that this is regardless of your skill level. Marathon training in 2 weeks from scratch is just not possible nor a good idea, and there’s a pretty high chance you’ll end up with an injury if you decide to do it anyway. The injury may even be severe enough that it prevents you from running for a few weeks or more.

What you can do in 2 weeks is continue the marathon training plan you already started months ago, and we’ll discuss how that goes below.

What You Should Know About Marathon Training

Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate, or an advanced runner, a marathon training plan normally involves increasing your running distance gradually and simultaneously decreasing your walking distance every week.

This way, and by the end of the marathon training program, you’ll be able to run the marathon distance taking as few walk breaks as possible.

Although the goal is to keep them at a minimum, walking breaks can be vital during a marathon as you’ll need to use the water stops. Running through these at a marathon pace may result in spilling or gulping the water.

You should also keep in mind that a marathon training plan doesn’t include runs every day, or even running on specific days. However, one of its crucial features is to avoid going on runs too many days in a row.

On the days in between your runs, you’ll either do some cross-training exercises or take a rest day.

Examples of cross-training workouts include swimming, dancing, using the elliptical, lifting weights, yoga, biking, boxing, or any other exercise other than running that you enjoy.

You’ll also probably incorporate strength training into your marathon training program a few times a week. This can be very beneficial for marathon runners when it comes to building endurance and reducing risks of injury.

How To Prepare For A Marathon In 2 Weeks, What To Do

Here’s what you need to do 2 weeks before your marathon:


How To Prepare For A Marathon In 2 Weeks: Training

When it comes to training, you should go on your last long-distance run 2 or even 3 weeks before the marathon day. Be sure to incorporate short walk breaks to mimic the times you’ll have to slow down at water stops or manage your heart rate over inclines.

The 2 weeks just before your marathon should include runs at reduced mileage, which is a process known as tapering. Tapering gives your muscles a chance to rebuild and restore before enduring the stress of the marathon instead of straining them with increased mileage.

We know it can be tempting to add mileage at this point, but you need to trust the plan. The longest run you go on a week before the marathon day shouldn’t be longer than 8 to 10 miles.

During the final 2 weeks before the race, you should continue to include shorter runs or walks for about 30 to 60 minutes every day or every other day.

The goal here is to remain active and flexible without putting your body through harsh training or tough hills and stairs.


Breakfast for runners

During the last 2 weeks before your race, your diet should be healthy and balanced (vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and whole grains). Since your training load will decrease, you should adjust your caloric intake accordingly.

We recommend eating smaller meals more frequently instead of 2 or 3 huge meals. Also, the general direction in sports nutrition currently is that too much carbo-loading is unnecessary.

Two weeks before a marathon isn’t enough time to implement dramatic diet changes, so don’t overeat. Stay away from foods that give you loose stools or gas, especially during the two days leading up to the race.

Avoid pre-packaged foods and cut out or down on the sweets. You should also avoid high-caffeine energy beverages and alcoholic drinks in the several days leading up to your marathon to help prevent dehydration.


Getting some sleep

Sleep is a crucial part of a marathon training plan, even more so the 2 weeks before it. During sleep is when the body rebuilds and revitalizes its muscles and restores its energy.

This is why you should clear your schedule for the last 2 weeks to give yourself better chances of getting multiple nights of good sleep. Also, cancel any plans for late nights or early mornings.

For the sake of improved sleep quality, stay away from alcoholic drinks, caffeinated beverages after noontime, and spicy foods that disturb sleep. Try to avoid eating within 2.5 hours of bedtime as well.

If you can, aim to add an extra hour of sleep every night throughout this phase. If you’re traveling, don’t forget to pack some earplugs and a sleep mask to help you get some sleep during the trip.

Additionally, you need to avoid bright screens before bed while keeping your bedroom dark and cool. Be in bed 30 minutes before the time you want to fall asleep. It can also help to practice about 15 minutes of meditation to de-stress.

If you’re too nervous to sleep much the few nights leading up to your marathon, don’t worry too much about it. It’s not uncommon for marathon runners to toss and turn the night of the race and still make it to the finish line.

Usually, the sleep that you get the second-to-last night before the marathon is what really counts.

Tips to Step Up Your Marathon Training

Here are a few pointers to help you make the most out of your marathon training program:

  • Invest in proper running shoes to train in. Not only can this improve your marathon goal pace, but a good running shoe will also keep your feet comfortable while reducing fatigue and injury.
  • Build more strength in your muscles via resistance, body weight, and weightlifting training.
  • Consider hiring a running coach for your marathon race. With their experience, a running coach can give you valuable insight regarding training techniques and create a custom training plan depending on your fitness level and around your daily schedule.
  • Incorporate different types of exercises in your marathon training program such as cycling, power walking, and water aerobics.
  • Use apps and tools to keep track of your progress. For example, “Nike Run Club” and “Runkeeper”.

What is a Good Marathon Time?

The majority of marathon runners consider a finishing time “good” if it falls within the global average range or shorter.

So what’s the global average marathon time? According to Runners World, it’s about 4 hours and 30 minutes. This average is calculated across both sexes, all experience levels, and all ages.

The data reveals that the more popular running became, the slower the world got as more new runners were accounted for. In fact, the average marathon finishing time went up from approximately 3 hours and 52 minutes to 4 hours and 28 minutes between the years 1986 and 2001. That’s a 15.6% increase!

Now let’s take a look at the average marathon times for male and female runners:

  • The average marathon finish time for a male runner: according to Runners World, the average marathon finish time for a male runner in 1986 was 3 hours and 48 minutes.

In 2001, it jumped to 4 hours and 15 minutes, which increased slightly to 4 hours and 22 minutes after that.

  • The average marathon finish time for a female runner: the average marathon finishing time for women runners also slowed down between 1986 and 2001, clocking in at 4 hours and 56 minutes.

Since then, however, female runners have sped up their average marathon finish time by an average of 1.3% each year.

If your marathon finishing time is shorter than these scores, then you’re an above-average runner and you should be very happy with your performance.

What is the Best Marathon Time?

Of course, the best marathon time is the world record. For male runners, the marathon world record time is 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. For female runners, it’s 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 4 seconds.

That said, elite male runners have an average marathon finishing time of approximately 2 hours and 5 minutes, while the average marathon finishing time for elite female runners is roughly 2 hours and 22 minutes.

The question here is, should you aim for such marathon time? Well, no one can stop you from trying, but know that these times are simply out of reach unless you’re quite an experienced runner.

From a statistical point of view, only the top 5% of runners can finish marathons in shorter than 3 hours. This means that any finish time less than 3 hours is very impressive for a non-professional runner.

What is a Good Marathon Pace?

In the world of running, the pace is how much time it takes to run a specific distance. It’s measured in minutes per mile.

It’s rather common among new runners to assume that there’s a particular pace they should aim to run at during their training sessions or races. This is a misconception; there isn’t a magical pace you need to stick while running, whether you’re running casually around the block or to finish a marathon.

This is because the abilities and fitness levels of every runner are different, so at any point during the marathon, your race pace may not be the same as the person running next to you.

As a beginner runner, you should instead shift your focus more on maintaining a conversational pace while running as you work on building endurance.

If you’re wondering what a conversational pace is, it’s one that allows you to talk in complete sentences while running without gasping for air or breathing too heavily during the run.

Whenever you feel out of breath, don’t hesitate to slow down the pace a bit. It’s also fine to take a walk break while you catch your breath. If you’re using a treadmill and you’re not sure of the pace to start running at, we recommend beginning at 4.0 mph and gradually increasing the pace until you reach a conversational pace.

That said, setting a proper marathon goal pace plays a key role in maintaining a constant speed throughout the entire 26.2 miles. You should, consequently, figure out your goal pace once you’ve made up your mind on the marathon time you aim to achieve.

Similar to a marathon finishing time, a “good” marathon pace varies according to the runner’s level of experience, physical fitness, sex, and age. Let’s take a look at the average marathon paces for male and female runners:

  • The average marathon pace for a male runner between 20 and 30 years in terms of skill level is:
    • Beginner: 11:21 minutes per mile
    • Novice: 09:33 minutes per mile
    • Intermediate: 08:15 minutes per mile
    • Advanced: 07:16 minutes per mile
  • The average marathon pace for a female runner between 20 and 30 years in terms of skill level is
    • Beginner: 12:45 minutes per mile
    • Novice: 11:03 minutes per mile
    • Intermediate: 09:33 minutes per mile
    • Advanced:08:25 minutes per mile

Wrap Up

There you have it, a guide on how to prepare for a marathon in 2 weeks, assuming that you’ve been training for the race for months now and want to know what the final 14 days should involve.

This is simply because marathon training in 2 weeks from scratch is just not possible nor a good idea, and you’re very likely to end up sustaining an injury if you decide to do it anyway. Typically, it takes most runners a minimum of 16 to 20 weeks to be properly ready for a marathon.