Marathon Training: A Step-By-Step Guide

So you’ve decided to run a marathon. 26.2 miles of pounding the pavement, to finally earn yourself a medal and probably a mimosa or five, as well as the knowledge that you are part of the 0.5% of the US population that has run one. Running a marathon can seem like a daunting task, and while it is definitely an amazing feat of human strength, it is also something that is worked up to over time. Anywhere from 16 to 20 weeks of increasing your mileage and endurance will eventually get you there, slowly and without putting too much pressure on your body all at once. There are many different components to preparing your body for a run of this caliber, and we’ve got them all right here.

Training

Training plans are available all over the internet, but many of them can push too hard right off the bat. To healthily get your body accustomed to running such a long distance, the plan should increase your weekly mileage slowly over three to six months. This means that you must give yourself a realistic amount of time between when you begin training and when race day is scheduled.

Since your training will culminate with running 26.2 miles, you may think that this means you’ll be running crazy long distances every day. But this is not the case! Most training plans will include one or two 18 to 20 miles runs throughout its entirety. For the most part, your plan will include 4 to 5 days of running, and you will start from running 20 miles a week to somewhere around 40 or 50.

Speed and Tempo

One of the most important things in running a marathon is to find your comfortable pace. If you start out in a sprint, you are more likely to tire out long before the race’s end. This is why many training plans include days to work on speed and tempo work. This might include interval training and tempo running, which involves running at a comfortable but somewhat difficult pace in order to build endurance while bringing down your mile time.

Don’t Try New Things on Race Day

You might think this is the perfect time to show off your new workout clothes for that post-run Instagram, but you could really regret it. What if you have to keep pulling up your leggings? What if the tag on that new shirt is bothering your neck? These things may sound menial, but over the course of a race they can become very uncomfortable, and impede your ability to do your best running. In general, a good rule is to not try anything new on the day of your race. Don’t try to wear new shoes, or eat a different breakfast, or get up at a different time. These things can throw you off the day of your race.

To find out for yourself what works, try to take a couple “rehearsal” days throughout your training. On a day you have a long run scheduled, wear an outfit you might wear on race day, get up at the time of the race, and eat the same dinner the night before and breakfast day of. This will help you iron out any kinks in your schedule, and change anything that needs to be changed before the big day.

Nutrition

One aspect of marathon running that is often overlooked is what to eat and drink during training. While it’s easy to get into a mindset of, “If I’m running this much I can eat whatever I want!”, remember that what you put in your body will be your fuel for your workouts. This means that being on a somewhat strict diet during training can greatly benefit your body and its ability to endure the long distance. Well-balanced meals consisting of protein and high-carb foods are important for making sure your muscles recover as well as possible, as well as aiding your energy for another run.

Though you may have heard not to drink sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade and to stick with water, these sports drinks can be an easy and fast way to get carbs back into your body during a run. The electrolytes in sports drinks will replenish anything you are sweating out, and will provide energy for your muscles that water cannot. If a run is going to last longer than an hour, a sports drink can be a great way to help your body work through the run.