Am I Ready for a Marathon?

With registration for the Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon opening today, I've been thinking a lot about whether I want to try my first full marathon. Here's what I've been asking myself.

Can I do it, physically?
My first response is yes, I can. I've been running since 2011 and have been serious about running for a full year. I run five days a week and do strength training and yoga to support my running. I diligently follow my training plans and rarely miss runs. I have two half marathons under my belt and am doing my third next month. I'm not injury prone and feel physically very strong. I think I can do it... But. I have never ran more than a half marathon distance, so I have no idea how my body can handle long runs, the chafing, fueling, and recovery that comes with them, and more intense training plans. So...I don't know.

Can I do it, mentally?
I'm even less confident about how strong I am mentally. While I'm working at the positive mental aspect of running, it's still very much a challenge for me. I picture myself out there on the course, four hours in, in hot and humid temps, with crippling nausea (see, I'm already imagining the worst). Is my brain strong enough to make my body push on? I don't know.

What if I get injured?

Like many, my ultimate goal is to be injury-free so I can continue running. I've heard so many accounts of people getting injured when marathon training, and I know I've read articles that say everyone has a limit to how much they can run before getting injured. What if I get injured to the point that I not only can't run the race but also have to take a long break from running?

How will training impact my personal life?

I know training takes over your life. I don't want to give the impression that my husband doesn't support my running, but he and I do everything together. For me to devote so much of my time to doing something that doesn't involve him would be a huge strain. Is it worth it?

Should I get better at running shorter distances?

While this will be my third half marathon, it will be my first time goal. I think I still can improve a lot in the half marathon distance, as well as shorter distances. Will improving in shorter distances be better to tackle first to build a foundation and save a marathon for when I'm a better runner?

Is it okay to run a marathon so slowly?

Race predictor calculators predict I would finish a marathon in 5 hours (at an 11:30 pace, though I am not confident about that prediction). I have read plenty of posts from other runners who run in that time, but it seems they all use run-walk intervals. A while ago I asked Lauren about it, and she said while she trains straight running, she uses run-walk intervals in marathons. I think I read that pace groups over five hours use run-walk intervals. That would be a whole new way of training for me, one which I'd have to learn and get used to. Would I need to train and run it by doing run-walk intervals? Or is it okay to just run slowly?

Is it okay to do a challenging course for my first marathon?

If I do a marathon, I want it to be Pittsburgh. I think a marathon just wouldn't be as meaningful to me in another city, and running the Pittsburgh course is one of the main reasons I'd want to do a marathon. But I haven't done the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Should I do that first? In fact, my three half marathons have all been on trails and not the road. Should I get experience in hilly half marathons on roads before tackling the Pittsburgh marathon?

Why do I want to do a marathon?

This is what it all comes down to. I don't want to do one just because I get excited after reading other runners' marathon recaps. I don't want to just because it seems like a logical progression. I need to have a real reason for wanting to do one. I have two. One is, as a I said before, to experience my hometown from a perspective unique to marathon runners. The second is for the challenge. I want to see what my body--and mind--can do. Are those reasons good enough to register for the May 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon? Or should I wait--for all the other reasons I wrote about--and get better and get more race experience before tackling a marathon?

I have a coupon code that expires November 5, so I have until then to decide whether I'll do the Pittsburgh Marathon or Half Marathon. Any advice? 

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