So, you’ve decided to run your first marathon and registered your place; now what?

Well, you have a matter of months to train your body to run 26.2 miles – you’re going to need a plan. Running a marathon requires commitment and dedication. It’s an endurance test.

It will push your physical and mental ability to the limit and will likely be the most rewarding fitness achievement of your life. You’re going to catch the famous ‘running bug’ and ‘hit the wall’; you might even decide to run another one (maybe!), either way, your set for a great adventure.

Here are some tips on how you should prepare.


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Realistic Training Plans

Training is fundamental for running a marathon, whether it’s your first or 10th race. You need to prepare your body both mentally and physically. Your outdoor running training should include different endurance exercises and workouts, such as interval running. This can also be done on a treadmill, but we’d recommend running smaller distances on a running machine.

It’s easier said than done, but it is important that you are realistic about what you can achieve and when. Only you know the strength of your running ability, so base your training plan around it. Remember to include a range of running exercises and workouts in the plan.

Once you’ve settled into a routine, you can then begin thinking about target times, but for those who aren’t experienced or confident runners, start small, so your body becomes used to running for the 1st few weeks. Remember that your running plan can change, so don’t pressurize yourself if you need to change your schedule occasionally. The same goes if you’re struggling to complete your target mileage.

You can’t control the weather, so try not to talk yourself out of training if it’s raining outside!

Speaking from my own experience, it’s ok to stop and try again tomorrow. Putting pressure on yourself could lead to an injury, hindering your progress and motivation.

Although a committed training plan is vital, it is also important that you don’t let it take over your day to day life. Just like work, it is important that you maintain a sustainable lifestyle. By doing this, it will help to keep your mind healthy and focused. Also, don’t overtrain; your body needs time to recover. This is particularly important when covering long distances.

Set Mile Targets

If you’re not a regular and confident runner, spend the first few weeks practising and work yourself up towards running 3 miles comfortably. Attempting different running exercises and workouts will help your overall running performance during the early stages.

Once you have three miles under your belt, you can begin to increase the distance. Your mile targets will depend on when the marathon is but aim to hit 13 miles halfway through your training plan.

For me, key targets were 6 miles, 10 miles, 13 miles, 16 miles, 18 miles, 20+ miles. Some people advise not to run the full distance in training and to only run 20 miles to avoid injury, but some say to run the distance a couple of weeks before race day.

Good Music

woman running with headphones in

Everyone has different running habits, but personally, I prefer to be distracted. The sound of my footsteps and breathing puts me off. If you’re running over 26 miles, which on average is around 5 hours’ worth of running, good music can become your best friend. If music isn’t your thing, try podcasts. Whichever you choose, remember to be aware of what’s around you, especially when crossing roads.

Breathe!

You might laugh, but breathing is important during running workouts and having proper technique is imperative. Not only does it help strengthen your respiratory muscles, but you also need the oxygen to feed your muscles. Remember, running is a high impact, cardiovascular sport and your body needs fuel to keep going, which leads nicely onto the next point...

Stay Hydrated

A car can’t run without fuel, and neither can your body. Staying hydrated is an essential part of feeding your muscles and providing your body with an additional source of energy.

Staying hydrated is particularly important when training on a hot day as fluids help to maintain body temperature and prevent wild hunger cravings. Running gels such as S.I.S can be can also be a great source of energy when you’re training hard.

Diet

trainers surrounded by healthy and unhealthy foods

Diet is equally as important, but don’t be tempted by the trap of overeating because you feel like you need to consume a high-calorie intake. Eating the correct food during preparation and recovery is essential to your success.

Your diet is the key to success. As with drinking fluids, it helps fuel your body with the nutrients and energy needed to successfully run a long distance. It’s important to consume carbohydrates that are high in energy, low in fat and fibre.

It will help increase your energy whilst avoiding a ‘running on a heavy stomach’ feeling. If you’re having a relatively large meal before a run, make sure you give your body time to digest the food. After training, have a high protein meal to help with muscle repair.

Running Gear

Run in something comfortable and like the clothes you’ll wear on race day. Ensure you get the right running trainers – unfortunately, it’s comfort over style. Comfortable running socks will be a saviour too!

At some point, you will inherit blisters, and you’ll want to protect your feet as much as possible. Don’t forget to include a running jacket for those rainy days! If you’re planning on carrying water bottles or a running bag on race day, make sure you wear it whilst training. This will help your body get used to any additional weight that you’ll be carrying on race day.

Running Apps

Whether you’re running for time or want to complete your first marathon, we recommend getting a running app to track your workout numbers such as distance, speed and time. I’d recommend Nike+ running app, Strada or a Fitbit. It’s a good indicator of your progress and can help ensure you reach those milestones.

Stay In Control

We’ve mentioned the importance of fuelling your body during training and on race day but staying in control of your body is fundamental. Staying positive with the ‘I can’ attitude can stop you from giving up. If you can stay in control, you will naturally run further and perform better. Plus, you feel more motivated, and you will enjoy your running workouts more! Music will really help with this.

Enjoy

Running a marathon might seem daunting, but come race day, all the training will be worth it. You’ll have crowds of supporters cheering you on from start to finish, helping you to stay motivated.

You’ve worked hard over the past few months and tested your body’s ability through a variety of running exercises and workouts, so enjoy it! If you enjoy it, you’ll maintain a positive attitude, boosting your performance on the day.

Running a marathon is a huge achievement and one that you should be proud of. Not everyone can say that they have run one. We’d be lying if we said it was easy and you will experience many aches and pains along the way, but don’t give up.

The feeling you’ll experience crossing the finishing line can’t be explained, so enjoy every minute of it.


man doing lunges

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.