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Prepare For Your First Marathon - Ready, Steady, Run!

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Marathon training is important because of the sheer intensity of the event. Even if it’s a 5k run, it is going to be a first for your body to be running a long distance at a stretch. We cannot stress enough on the importance of marathon training, especially for beginners, to have a good race day experience. To prepare for your first marathon, you need to train well.

Training ‘well’ includes exercise, running practice, a proper schedule, diet, sleep, and any other necessary lifestyle changes. Running your first marathon is one of the most memorable experiences. It is the ultimate test of fitness. A bad first marathon memory stems from one very common reason – improper training.

Prepare for Your First Marathon – Training

To complete the daunting 26.2 miles, you must have a training base for at least 3-6 months of running behind you, 4 days a week. That’s 12 to 24 weeks. You should be able to run a 6-mile stretch easily.

The trick to running, as a beginner, is to maintain a pace where you can run and have a conversation at the same time. Remember, running doesn’t need just stamina; a better part of your strength comes from the musculoskeletal changes that take place in your body with time. Your bones and muscles adapt to the new workout and gradually build up to sustain the intensity of running.

Without further ado, let’s get onto some marathon training plans.

Marathon Training Plans

The common practice for running mileage is as follows –

  • Beginners: 15 to 20 miles/week, gradually increasing to 35+ miles/week
  • Experienced runners: 35 miles/week, gradually increasing to 50+ miles/week

1. Marathon Training Plans by Hal Higdon

In this 18-week training plan for beginner runners by Hal Higdon, all Sundays are for cross training like swimming, cycling, walking, slow jogging, going for a hike, yoga, etc. Nothing that puts too much strain on your body, and can be a mode of recovery.

Marathon Training for Beginner Runners

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Novice training plan.

Marathon Training for Intermediate runners

This training program clocks in more mileage than the one above and is meant for those who have prior running practice.

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Intermediate runners plan. Source

2. Marathon Training program by Women’s Running

This training plan allows for rest days, being Sunday and Friday, to recover strength and gear up for the remaining hardcore training ahead and is planned for 20 weeks.

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Women’s running plan. Source

3. Marathon Training Plan by Cool Running

The training plan by Cool Running involves taking Mondays off and spacing out training through the rest of the week and is a specific marathon training for beginners to help you prepare for your first marathon.

Marathon Training for Beginners

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Beginners running plan. Source

Marathon Training for Intermediate Runners

This is the more advanced version of the beginner runners plan.

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Intermediate runners plan

They also combine speed workouts and training method known as fartlek, which is a Swedish word for tempo training. A tempo run means mixing a fast run with intermittent slow runs.

Read: Fartlek: A Swedish Training Trick for Better Running

Tips to Prepare for your First Marathon

Let’s take a look at some more tips for a better first marathon preparation.

Don’t Over-Exert

The quality of the workout matters over the quantity. Do as much as you can! Pushing yourself does not mean over-exerting your body. This is a common mistake among new runners. If you run on an ache or injury, it can have permanent repercussions. Rest days are a rule, not an option.

marathon training
Don’t over exert yourself.

In order to prevent an injury, you must gradually increase the number of miles you run in training, not too long or too fast. Rotate your hard runs with easier ones, this way you are not straining yourself. Training for a marathon on a treadmill is an option for bad weather days, but remember that it isn’t the same as running outside.

Eat Wisely

Runners are supposed to eat high-carb, low-fiber foods. For a short run, an empty stomach will help lose more fat. Longer runs need more fuel. Prepare a diet plan with the help of the immense information available out there. Also carry water, an energy drink, and some energy snacks for long runs.


Breakfast must be eaten at least an hour before, and the meal must have slow release carbs. The best foods to take are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, ideally 3 hours before your run. If the race is long, then take food with protein in it to boost energy. Eggs or pancakes are the best options.


You will need to take in carbs during your race, especially if it is long, to sustain yourself. By taking energy drinks, gels, or chews, you can acquire the desired amount of carbs. Keep experimenting with your level of carb intake while training so that you know what is the perfect amount needed for you.

Post Race

To aid in your body’s recovery after a marathon, you should take foods high in carbs and protein, like you did for the pre-race preparation. This you be eaten within half an hour of the race completion. This also depends on the length of the race. Small races require only a small meal to regain energy, while longer marathons need recovery meals. Your meal should have at least 50 grams of carbs to restock glycogen levels and replenish energy, and at least 15 grams of protein to repair muscle damages.

Dress Smartly

To prepare for your first marathon, you should add buying the right running gear to your to-do list. This does not mean you have to splurge on running clothes and shoes, it just requires you to have the correct clothing and apt shoes in time for your race. When it comes to running shoes, you will want to spend some time finding the correct size for your build and ability. Some running shoes come with cushioning, others with ankle support, it all comes down to your needs.

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Choose your gear smartly. Source

Opt to dress in typical running clothes all made of synthetic materials or even merino wool. These materials let you cool down better, absorb moisture and tackle odor. Avoid cotton clothes, and by using synthetic materials you can reduce chafing. Chafing occurs when the material and specific body parts, such as the nipples, cause friction and can bleed. This may hamper training and make it uncomfortable.

Most importantly, you should train with the running gear you purchase so that you are comfortable with the way they feel and know exactly what to take to the race. Breaking into your running shoes and feeling confident with them can really help your marathon.

Your first marathon: Choose it carefully

Choose a marathon distance that you can handle. Look at the weather, season, your preparation, and then decide. Your first marathon need not be the whole 26 miles. Start with a 5k or 10k run. Measure your fitness level. You want to have a good race day experience and finish it. Start from there.

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A 5k marathon

If you wish to travel for a marathon, then you can decide which one you would like to complete and where. But if you don’t want to take the trouble of planning a trip along with the marathon, then look for the ones happening close by. Also, if you are not in the mood for more popular marathons with lines of bystanders and cheering crowds, then we suggest you check out the popularity of the race, and the cause it could be for before you sign up for one.

Nerves are an inevitable part of a first marathon. What will give you strength is the knowledge and results of all the practice that you have put in. As you prepare for your first marathon, you will need to make some sacrifices and a ton of hard work. It will all be worth it, though, when you cross that finish line.

Now that you know how to prepare for your first marathon, learn the strategies of recovery for after you complete it.

Read our article Post Marathon Recovery Steps after Running a Marathon.

Share your running experiences with us, we’d love to hear about your first marathon!

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