Marathon Running Tips for Beginners: Your Journey to 26.2 Miles
Embarking on this incredible journey will test your physical and mental endurance like nothing else. But fear not, because with the right approach and a dash of determination, you can cross that finish line with your arms raised high.
So, let me start by congratulating you on taking on this monumental challenge. And let's get into tip #1 with a discussion about the size of that challenge...
Marathon Running Tips for Beginners #1 – Don't Underestimate the Size of the Challenge
I will start with my preferred approach. Then I'll talk to the alternatives.
Ideally, I would like to see somebody go from:
And then take 16 to 20 weeks to prepare for a first marathon. This is an approach that takes well over a year. The marathon is tough. Training for the marathon is tough. It takes a lot in terms of dedication. Not everybody wants to take this amount of time. So, let's move on to the next section.
Marathon Running Tips for Beginners #2 – How About A "Couch to Marathon" Running Program?
So, if I were your coach and had full say over your running program. I would say: let's first build up to 30 minutes of running. Then let's build up to a 10k. Then let's build up to a half marathon.
You will get all the benefits of running. You will build up your endurance, you will get fitter and faster. Let's get you used to running consistently for 3-4 times per week. Let's get you used to doing a regular weekly long run of well over 60 minutes. Then you have got much of the building blocks in place to start a marathon campaign.
But, you might say, I don't have that much time. My marathon is nine months away, six months away, maybe only four months away.
Well, it is not to say you cannot finish a marathon with reduced preparation time. But I just want you to get into this with eyes wide open. The journey to the marathon will be tough. You are taking, in my eyes, some shortcuts. You would be wise to focus on "just" finishing the marathon. Without having lofty time goals in sight. You may have to be quite conscious about using a run/walk approach, both in your long runs and in your marathon. You do run a bigger risk of getting injured.
But, if this is your timeline and this is your plan, then I am not going to stop you. And yes, you can still successfully complete a marathon. Alright, that's enough with the brutal awakening stuff. And maybe you have decided not to listen to this Debbie Downer anymore. That's ok. I can only try to be as clear as possible about the challenges ahead.
Marathon Running Tips for Beginners #3 - The Importance of Consistency and Number of Runs per Week
Consistent running will help your body adapt and improve over time. More regular running, funnily enough, also reduces the risk of injury. You get more time to gradually build up your running. And you get your body more used to the stresses of running.
How often should you run per week?
I have seen marathon running programs with only three runs per week. Again, as per the start of this article, I don't think that is ideal. I'd like to see you run four times per week at least.
However, it depends a lot on your goals. Want to get the most out of your experience and run the whole race? Then you will need more training than somebody who wants to use a run/walk approach to get to the finish line.
It also depends on the amount of cross-training you are willing to do. I will get into cross-training a bit later. But you can be reasonably successful with a little less running, compensated by a lot more cross-training. There are multiple ways to get to the finish line. One way or another, you are going to have to build up your endurance.
For a 26.2 miles foot race, you'd better get used to running though.
And in the end, whether you are running three, four, or five days a week, consistency is key.
Marathon Running Tips for Beginners #4 - Minimum Required Long Run
This may seem daunting. But, you will build up to this type of long run over time. And it's not about running at a blistering pace; it's about covering the distance. Your long runs are where you build the mental and physical stamina necessary for race day. It's the most specific preparation for your marathon.
An interesting strategy for the long run that I would recommend if you are a beginner aiming to finish the marathon, is to add some walk breaks in your long run. You are still covering the distance. However, the recovery from a run/walk is much faster than from a continuous run. I would recommend maintaining a ratio of at least 75-80% running to 20-25% walking.
When we are talking about the long run, we need to talk about diet and fuelling during the run.
Marathon Running Tips for Beginners #5 – Marathon Diet and Fuelling During the Run
One thing I urge you NOT to do, is to follow a harsh diet when you are in the midst of marathon training. You need to feed your body appropriately. Not doing that will lead to you being very fatigued and you will also be increasing your risk of injury. Check out the Runner's Diet page for more info and some warning words about RED-S, Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport.
Is your long run getting well over 60 minutes? Are you even hitting 90 minutes and more? Then I would recommend starting to implement a fuelling and hydration strategy. Gone are the old days in which runners would run for hours and "train their bodies" to get used to running in an energy-deprived state.
It's simply better to hydrate and fuel properly. It helps you recover faster. You get more of the benefits out of the long run when you take care of your body. Also check out the marathon training nutrition page for further information about fuelling during the run and other thoughts on eating while preparing for the marathon.
Marathon Running Tips for Beginners #6 - Increasing Mileage Safely
Hard / Easy Principle
Follow the principle of training hard one day, taking it easier the next. On the hard day you could be doing a longer run, on the easy day you could be doing a shorter run, or rest or do some cross-training. Rest days are when your body repairs and strengthens itself, so don't skip them.
Suppose you are running three days in a row. And your schedule says to run 6 miles on each of them for a total of 18 miles. That's not hard/easy. I'd much rather see the schedule say 7 miles – 4 miles – 7 miles. Still a total of 18 miles. But with a clear hard/easy pattern.
Listen to Your Body
When building up your mileage, the 10% rule that you may have heard about is not too bad. But, in reality, this needs to be balanced with the key rule of listening to your body.
Check out all the information you need on my page about increasing mileage safely.
Marathon Running Tips for Beginners #7 - Staying Injury-Free
I can't overemphasise the importance of strength training enough. I simply don't know a runner who has not benefited from strength training. It helps make you stronger. It helps make you faster. Most importantly, in a marathon build-up, it helps get you to the starting line by staying injury free. This helps keep you consistent.
So, incorporate strength training exercises to improve your core and leg muscles. This added stability can help reduce the risk of injuries, such as knee pain and IT band issues. Check out the strength training for runners page for a lot more information about strength training.
Cross-training, like swimming or cycling, can give your running muscles a break while maintaining your cardiovascular fitness. When you want to improve your running, generally, doing more running is the answer. However, there may be reasons why that is not the case for you.
You may be experiencing some niggles from the relentless pounding of the streets. Rather than doing another run and getting injured, cross-training may be the answer.
Suppose you do get injured, cross-training can help keep some of your fitness while you recover. And lastly, it can also help alleviate the monotony of running every day, providing a mental break from running.
Check out the cross training for runners page for more information.
With dedication, consistency, and smart training, you can transform yourself from a beginner into a marathon finisher.
So lace up those running shoes, find a training plan that suits you, and start your marathon journey today. The road ahead may be long, but every step you take brings you one stride closer to your marathon dream. Good luck, and may your training be filled with joy, determination, and the knowledge that you're becoming a stronger, healthier, and more resilient version of yourself. See you at the finish line!
Still feel overwhelmed with the challenge of the marathon ahead of you? Take the guesswork out of your training and check out the running coaching I can provide you with. A marathon is a big undertaking. And you will do so much better when you train with a running program specifically tailored to you!
Are you a beginning runner? Then this is your best starting point. Many tips and running programs on offer, dedicated to you.
Aiming to lose a few pounds? Get into the Running for Weight Loss section for tips and advice.
The Running Training section of the site has got the most articles. It is constantly getting updated with new tips and information. A must-visit if you are serious about improving your running performance.
The 5k is a great distance to run and train for. The great thing is that you can do it quite often and see big improvements.
The 10k is a real challenge. You need to run fast for an uncomfortably long time! Check out this section if you are strong of mind and legs!
The marathon is a massive challenge. Proper training is so important! Make sure to check out this section if you have got your mind set on the marathon!
Discover effective and easy ways to treat black toenail. Understand causes, symptoms, prevention methods. Visit best-running-tips.com now to learn more.
Have you got some pain in your heel when running? Check out this page to learn about common causes, what to do about your heel pain and when to visit the doctor.
In this section of Best Running Tips I will tell you about the most common running injuries. Learn about them so you know how to prevent them !
This short article provides a list of foot and ankle strengthening exercises that can improve your foot stability and prevent heel pain when running.
I am 68 years old. I have been a runner for 33 years doing mostly 5 and 10K race with one half marathon. I usually run a 5K in 25-27 minutes and the