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Are you ready for a marathon?

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More than a half million people ran a marathon in 2013 in the U.S. With the number of finishers increasing nearly every year, many people begin to wonder if they should take the plunge and run a marathon.

Whether you wish to check it off your bucket list or if you are ready to take your hobby to the next level, the marathon is a logical challenge. Covering 26.2 miles, the race tests both physical and mental strength.

For many, the question is, how do you know if you're ready for a marathon? Before you ask that question, you need to answer four of them yourself:

1. How long have you been running?
Most experts recommend that runners have at least six months of running experience under their belt before they start to train for a marathon. This ensures that your body has the right type of base in order to build up your mileage. If you are an athletic person, such as someone who has cycled or participated in sports like soccer, you may be able to shorten this time period. However, to reduce the risk of injury and to be prepared for a strenuous training cycle, having a solid base is essential.

2. How many miles are you running per week? What's your longest run?
Most marathon training plans require that you can run at least 15-20 miles per week. Since it's recommended that you only increase your mileage by 10 percent week over week, you want to be sure that you are around this range in order to have a healthy start to your marathon training plan.

In addition, consider what your longest run has been. Building it up to one that is 6-8 miles in length will prepare you well for a marathon training plan.

Ready to register for your first race? Check out this list of marathons that don't have a lottery for entry.

3. How much time do you have to train?
Marathon training requires an investment of your time. Doing it the right way may require that you have to wake up early on weekends or skip happy hours with friends after work. Make sure you are ready to commit to a schedule that mostly centers around running as it will be required to set you up for a good marathon training cycle. Without being able to focus on marathon training, you set yourself up for injury and a painful race experience.

4. Have you ever run a race before?
Running a marathon as your first race can be done, but often times, it's better to sample a different distance beforehand so you know what to expect come race morning. There are many unpredictable elements in marathon running, so being able to control as many as you can is important. Sign up for a 5k or even a half marathon that you can use for a training run. You'll thank yourself for experiencing race day before marathon day.

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