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Cheat Sheet

Marathon Training For Dummies

Training for a marathon takes diligence, commitment, endurance — and math skills! If you want to compete in marathons, you need to be able to interpret posted running times, figure out how fast your pace is, and determine the length of the races you want to run. And that’s on top of counting reps during circuit training!

Interpreting Running Times for Marathon Training

When you’re training for a marathon, time takes on a whole new dimension — and vocabulary. From mile splits (the time you run for each mile of a marathon) to finish times (your overall time for a race) to the speed displayed on your treadmill, marathoners are faced with all sorts of numbers. Read on to see what they mean.

Reading around the colons

When you see 4:02:27, 8:31, or :80, what does it all mean?

  • Any number with two colons is giving you hours, then minutes, then seconds. So 4:02:27 means 4 hours, 2 minutes, and 27 seconds.

  • When you see one colon, the time is in minutes and seconds. So 8:31 means 8 minutes and 31 seconds.

  • Times that are over — but close to — a minute or an hour may be converted to hours or minutes or may not. So you may see 80 seconds as :80 or as 1:20 (1 minute, 20 seconds). If you run a 10K in 65:00 (65 minutes), it may also be written as 1:05:00 (1 hour, 5 minutes).

Figuring your average time

To calculate minutes per mile when you’re running one of your measured road routes, use a calculator and do the following:

  1. Round your seconds to minutes and your hours to minutes, too.

    For example, 36:33 (36 minutes and 33 seconds) becomes 37 minutes, and 1:10:24 — that’s 1 hour, 10 minutes, and 24 seconds — becomes 70 minutes.

  2. Divide the minutes by the number of miles.

  3. Subtract the minutes, so that you’re left with just the decimal that represents the number of seconds. Then multiply that decimal by 60.

    For example, if after you divide your minutes by miles, you’re left with 9.27, subtract 9 and multiply .27 by 60 to get 16.2 and round it down to 16.

  4. Put the number of seconds back with the minutes, and you have your pace.

    Using the previous example, you end up with 9 minutes + 16 seconds = 9:16 minutes per mile

Translating Marathon and Other Race Lengths

Training for a marathon means training to run 26.2 miles. You may want to run other races, as well, many of which measured in kilometers. Read on to see what all those lengths mean in miles and kilometers:

  • *Marathon: 26.2 miles

  • *30K: 18.6 miles

  • *25K: 15.5 miles

  • *Half-marathon: 13.1 miles

  • *20K: 12.4 miles

  • *15K: 9.3 miles

  • *10K (or 10,000 meters): 6.2 miles

  • *5K (or 5,000 meters): 3.1 miles

  • *1,600 meters: 1 mile (4 times around a track)

  • *1,500 meters: .93 miles (3 3/4 times around a track)

  • *800 meters: 1/2 mile (2 times around a track)

  • *400 meters: 1/4 mile (1 time around a track)

  • *200 meters: 1/8 mile (1/2 time around a track)

Converting Miles per Hour to Minutes per Mile

If you use a treadmill as part of your marathon training, you may need a formula to convert miles per hour to minutes per mile. Follow these steps to see how:

  1. Divide 60 by whatever miles per hour the treadmill displays.

    For example, if the treadmill says you’re running 7.1 miles per hour, divide 60 by 7.1, and you get 8.45 (almost 9 minutes).

  2. Subtract the minutes so that you’re left with just the decimal that represents the number of seconds, and then multiply that decimal amount by 60.

    Subtract 8 and multiply .45 by 60 to get 27.

  3. Add that number back to the minutes, and you have your pace.

    8 minutes + 27 seconds = 8:27 minutes per mile.

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