Training for First Marathon in 12 Months' Time

training for a first marathon

Hello, I am a 43 year old male - I do no running or training.

I would like to complete a marathon 12 months from now.

How should I start training for this?

Answer by Dominique:

Hello there,

First off, it's a great goal you have set yourself. Challenging, but great. A marathon is not something to be taken lightly. But with dedication and the right training, you'll be able to do this. So, let's dive straight into how to approach this with the following steps:

1. Start off with the right goal
2. Consistency is the name of the game
3. Learn to love the easy run
4. A slow, but steady build-up
5. Quarterly goals to keep you going
6. The power of the long run

Start Off With the Right Goal

training for a first marathon
Before you kickstart your running career, set yourself up with the right goal. For your first marathon, without any running history behind you, the only right goal is to finish.

Finishing a marathon is fantastic!

But don't get too swept away by trying for a sub-4, sub-3:30 or better time immediately. This is about recognizing where you're starting from, setting realistic goals, and most importantly, enjoying the challenge and the process of preparation.

With that out of the way, let's get to the running.

Consistency is the Name of the Game

training for a first marathon
The key to success is simple. Consistency. You'll want to aim to run at least four times a week. That might be challenging at the start. Start off with at least three runs per week. But eventually, after a number of months you will want to move on to four runs per week. Week after week. Month after month.

Consistency is key.

Especially when you are new to running, your fitness will improve quickly once you get going. But you'll lose that fitness quickly as well if you don't stay consistent. So, just keep on showing up.

Learn to Love the Easy Run

training for a first marathon
A mistake many beginning runners make is that they run too fast in training. Most of your runs should be at "easy pace".

When you do start running make sure it's at a slow and comfortable pace. Think of a speed where you could still hold a conversation with a friend. It's okay if you need to do a bit of walking during your runs or start off with a run/walk routine. It's a great way to ease your body into running longer distances.

You simply don't want to push yourself too hard, too soon, because it can lead to injuries.

A Slow, but Steady Build-Up

Now, on to our next point, which is about building up your running slowly. It’s important to increase your running mileage gradually over time. Doing too much, too soon, is a common pitfall for beginners.

A reasonable guideline is a 10% increase per week, but I have developed some better guidance that you can find on my Increasing Mileage Safely page.

Quarterly Goals to Keep You Going

training for a first marathon
Having smaller, staggered goals along the way to your marathon can be a real help and keep your motivation high. A reasonable build-up is the following:

  • Quarter 1 - 5k race

  • Quarter 2 - 10k race

  • Quarter 3 - Half Marathon

  • Quarter 4 - Marathon

  • I have got running programs on this site that help you get ready for your first 30 minutes non-stop running, for your first 10k and your first half marathon.

    They are all 12 weeks in length and are all reasonable and doable. These intermediate goals are not only motivating but also a good check of your progress.

    And once you have done that half marathon, backed by nine months of consistent training, doing that last hard slog to get ready for the marathon is going to be doable as well.

    The Power of the Long Run

    training for a first marathon
    And finally, the most crucial aspect of a marathon running program - the long run. If you’re training for a marathon, the long run is where it’s at. It’s normally done once a week and usually takes up about 20-30% of your total running for that week.

    Long runs build endurance and add to your overall running ability. They don't have to be done at a blistering pace. They are just another easy run. But longer. Rather think of them as time spent on your feet rather than distances covered.

    For beginners, it is good to reach the 20 mile mark in your training once. Supported by a steady buildup of lots of 10+ mile runs and at least a handful of 15+ mile runs.

    In the end, finishing a marathon is about perseverance. You'll have good days and challenging days but that's all part of the journey. Allow yourself the freedom to adjust your training as needed, to rest when you’re tired, and to swap a run day for a cross-training day - it's about listening to your body!

    I hope this gives you a good starting point, and more importantly, the courage to start. Enjoy every step, the sunsets, the early morning fog, the days the rain comes pelting down and you still need to do that long run... Enjoy the process!

    Best of luck on your inspiring journey to marathon running! Always here if you need more help or advice.

    Kind regards,

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