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Ultimate Marathon Running Guide - From Start to Finish

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When it comes to running a marathon whether it is your first time or one of many, following timely and proper guidelines is important. Every run plays an important role to bring you closer towards success in the marathon. Without further ado, follow our planned out marathon running guide for more insight into how to complete your next marathon with ease.

ultimate marathon running guide
Plan your steps for the marathon

What to Consider When Picking a Marathon


Find a Marathon that you have enough time to prepare for. If the race is a few weeks away, without proper training you may hurt or strain yourself. Make sure you have at least 12 to 18 weeks to train, depending on your marathon type and how much you run per week. If you opt for a complete marathon and you are a beginner without running experience then keep around 24 weeks for training and preparing for the race. There are also many 16 and 17-week training plans for beginners that you can choose from.

Race registration

There are some races that need very early registration or are difficult to get permission for. Keep a backup option ready just in case. Check the fees for registration as well, as they may or may not be within your budget. Also if you plan to travel to another location for a marathon, then you will need to plan your budget accordingly.


Plan ahead by checking the weather in the area you are planning to run in. Knowing the season and time of the year that your race will take place in is a big factor to consider when choosing a marathon. This can impact your performance as you have to take into consideration whether you are comfortable running in a climate that is hotter or colder than you are used to. Also, rain, pollen, snowfall and other factors can help you pack clothing and medication accordingly.

Set Your Own Goal

Depending on your training, health, the state of mind, or ambition, you will have a desired goal for the marathon. You just need to pick one and stick to it, this helps decide training, nutrition and overall fitness that you will have to maintain. If you do not feel as prepared as you hoped to be then there’s no harm tweaking your goal to simply completing the marathon. In the end, you are still a marathon finisher!

Train Right with a Marathon Running Guide

We have collected the best training practices to create a complete marathon running guide. Read the following guides to know which to follow for your half marathon to marathon training schedule.

The Weekly Run – Conventional Plan

The best training plan is always the one made according to your needs. No plan can be better than the one which is made by yourself such that it keeps you fit and helps you reach towards your goal.

Firstly, you need to develop a habit of becoming a consistent runner to avoid exertion. And then you can choose the following conventional weekly run plan, or you can customize it according to your needs.

Monday: Keep Monday off or prefer short runs

Tuesday: Middle distance workout based on the type of marathon you are going to participate in; 5k, 10k or more.

Wednesday: Easy run for medium distance, wherein you increase your running interval is long enough to keep continuous pace instead of running fast halfway and then the pace immediately slows down.

Thursday: Prefer short and medium distance run on Thursday. You can also plan to have strides for medium distance.

Friday: Medium distance run with quality workouts.

Saturday: Prefer to have an easy run on this day.

Sunday: Finally, finish up for the week by an active long run, which is always the most important part of the training.

Need help to plan for the long distance run? Check: Tips to help you out for long runs .

Also, refer the below 12-week training schedule for long run marathons.

12 Week Full Marathon Training Schedule

The first thing you need to consider while selecting a training plan for yourself is to think about the time that suits you best. If you are a morning person, make sure to start early morning. Otherwise, you can choose to run after work or during lunch hours.

Secondly, set realistic goals which are aligned to your fitness. Do not set goals which are beyond your potential, it may lead to damage of your body, and then you become demotivated gradually.

Start working on your goals and then ask yourself, how do you feel about it – enthusiastic or exhausted?

Consider all the factors such as plan length, weekly routine, weekly mileage, long runs, and quality workouts. These factors have different measures based on your experience level in running marathon; beginner, intermediate, advanced, and competitive. In addition to these, do not dive directly into long runs. Gradually, increase your limit.

Here is a 12-week full marathon training plan . This plan is most suitable marathon running guide for people who have done at least 4 miles or 6 miles race before.

Livingit Alert
Please do not hesitate to modify it according to your requirement.

Read further for a breakup of the weekly and daily training schedule you should follow for this plan.

Week 1 to Week 4

Build your foundation to increase your mileage from 6 miles to 12 miles. In this duration, increase your mileage to 16 miles in the 1st week to 25 miles in the 4th week.

Dedicate ‘Thursdays’ to hill run such that your hill repetitions will increase from 7 reps to 10 reps. It will help you build up strength and stamina and will also help you prepare for your speed training that will occur in weeks 5-10.

Week 5 to Week 10

During these weeks, increase your weekly mileage from 25 to 25 miles. Each week increase your long run from 14 to 20 miles.

On Thursdays, instead of doing hill training, work on interval training. This will help you run a short distance with a fast pace. It will help you increase your pace.

Week 11 and Week 12

Dedicate these two weeks for tapering of marathon and carb loading. For carb loading, follow a proper drink and nutrition plan that is mentioned below in the Marathon Running Guide Tips .

Daywise Marathon Running Guide for 12 Week Plan

Now that you know the weekly training plan to follow, here is a day by day guide for each of the 12 weeks.

Mondays: Monday is the rest day to recover after your Sunday long runs.

Tuesdays : Improve your endurance and stamina doing tempo runs. Run with 80% of your maximum heart rate. If you do not know about your sustainable pace, Refer to the section – keep your pace proper , to check on your endurance level.

Wednesdays : Maintenance runs help you focus on your breathing and forms. It is easy and short miles training run period. Run these maintenance runs at the rate of 70% of your max heart rate.

Thursdays : Dedicate Thursdays to increase your stamina and speed. During first four weeks, do the hill training and for rest other weeks, work on the speed or interval training.

Fridays : Consider it as a rest day or cross training day (XT). If you are very tired, make it a rest day. Otherwise, cross training is the best option to make your body perform better.

Saturdays : These are again maintenance runs just like the one you do on Wednesdays.

Sundays : Run long runs and work on improving your heart strength, aerobic system, and endurance level. Run these long runs with 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. Do not run these runs at a fast pace, consider running slow

Ultimate Marathon Running Guide
Day Wise Marathon Guide for 12 Week Plan


Marathon Running Guide: Tips to Follow

From nutrition to what to wear on race day, following a good routine and sticking by it is going to benefit you on race day. The following are guidelines to follow when preparing for your race and some tips too.

Fluids and Nutrition

ultimate marathon running guide
Make a Nutrition Plan for Yourself

We all know that a proper diet plan before and after running a marathon is the key to success. However, it is equally important to practice with proper drinks and nutrition many weeks before the running event.

Along with your training plan, follow an appropriate nutrition and hydration plan. Remember to use the same products that you have during your marathon training for the actual marathon. This helps you understand which nutritional products are right for your body, and so that on the race day you are comfortable with the level and types of food and fluid intake.

In Training: Around 30-60 minutes before your workout, take a small snack rich in carbohydrates. After your workout do the same within 15 minutes of completion. Proper intake of carbs is a must. Sports drinks such as Gatorade provide the definite amount of carbs. You can also have energy chews or energy gels. Ideally, runners should take 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour, but then it also depends on your limit for fuel intake.

Although usually recommended for pro athletes, you can try Carb Loading . This involves an intake of about 3-5 grams of carbs per pound of your body weight. This storage of carbohydrates is used by your body as energy to endure long distance runs.

If you are a long marathon runner, you must also consume protein along with carbohydrates. This is for the simple reason that carbs fuel your body while protein repairs any muscle damage. Also, include unsaturated fats with protein and carbohydrates.

On Race Day: Consume breakfast with at least 100 grams of carbohydrate. Take the breakfast before 3 hours of running event. Keep yourself hydrated all the time. Just before 15 minutes of the event, drink water.

You also need to have proper fluid and carbohydrate during the race. As you run, you sweat which leads to dehydration. Your daily training helps you analyze your fluid intake level such that you do not end up being dehydrated or have too much of liquid—which leads to gastrointestinal distress.

While running you can take foods like toast with peanut butter, oatmeal, banana, energy bars, low-fat yogurts, wheat bagel and keep yourself hydrated with water and sports drink.

Sleep Enough Everyday

ultimate marathon running guide
Sleep is essential

You should sleep longer and better to perform better in the running marathon. You must sleep properly daily no matter how busy your schedule is. Especially when you are a runner, a proper sleep is as important as proper diet and training plan.

Though taking less sleep will not affect your strength physically but mentally, which can lead to degradation of performance.

Keep Proper Pace

ultimate marathon running guide
Keep Your Pace Even

Include your speed plan in your training to keep your pace even. Depending on the distance required for your race –5k race, 10k race and much more—you should decide the perfect pace for each mile, at which you feel comfortable and do not have to force yourself to catch your breath.

Set a benchmark for yourself by running on a flat track to determine your exact speed. Do not increase the pace instantaneously. If you think you are going too fast, take help of oxygen power performance table made by Jack Daniels and J.R. Gilbert.

ultimate marathon running guide
Oxygen Power Performance Table

Every two weeks try to increase your pace a little from the previous track record until your mile time is same as the race time.

For instance, if your mile time is 10 minutes, then:

  • For 5-K distance, increase your mile time by 33 seconds.
  • For 10-K, increase your pace by 1.3 minutes per mile.
  • For half marathon, increase it by 2 minutes per mile
  • For full marathon, increase your mile time by 3 minutes.

What to Wear

Deciding an outfit for your marathon depends mainly upon the temperature of the race time. During the warmer month, prefer clothes that do not overheat you. Wear light colored tank tee or top made from a wicking fabric, shorts, sports bra (for women obviously), and comfortable socks.

ultimate marathon running guide
Proper Clothing for the Race is important

If you’re racing during winters, do not overload yourself with clothes. Follow summer clothes along with arm-warmer and throw off gloves. Remember, carry arm-warmer that you can throw away or tie on your waist if you start feeling warmer during the run, and that is easy to take off, breathable, and does not abrade your neck.

How to Choose the Right Shoe?

Finding the right pair of shoes is the most critical need for running a marathon. If you do not choose the right shoe, you might end up injuring your foot.

There are some general things that every running should consider while buying running shoes:

  • Go to a fitting professional who does the gait analysis
  • Choose the size ½ larger than your normal shoe size
  • Prefer to run in different shoes or get a new shoe after you are done running 300 miles in the particular pair of shoe.
  • Take a test ride before you buy them.

Apart from foot injuries, there are various other injuries that every runner should know about.

Training in Warmer Months

In hot weather, your body reacts differently. You require more potential to run. Check the weather forecast, plan long runs on comparatively cool days and adjust your training plan for coolest part of the day. Get vital summer gears such as water bottle, hat, sunblock, and shorts that do not abrade your skin.

Things to Do a Week Before Marathon

The final week before your marathon, isn’t it exciting?

Obviously, it is when you’ve sweat a lot working hard for months for the marathon. You’ve done the long runs and completed training of months following the marathon running guide . Now is the time to perform. It is the time to ease out your nervousness and give your best.

If you are a beginner, running can be tough to manage. You may face medical issues before or after your running event. So, before you go for the marathon, here are some things that you need to consider before a week of the marathon.

As you get closer to the race day, it would be best to know what tapering for your marathon is. It means that you reduce the amount of exercise you do as you get closer to your competition day. It is deemed essential for performing well, and usually, starts 1 to 3 weeks before the race.
  1. The most important thing is to relax and chill out after a lot of long runs and hard work for months. Now is the time of tapering for the marathon and opt for short and easy runs for the week.
  2. Follow your regular training routine . It is not the time to adapt new running tactics and routes.
  3. For at least three days, practice running at the same time as your marathon time .
  4. Take extra precautions ; do not let any illness take over your performance. For that matter, carry some sanitizer with you to keep yourself hygiene enough.
  5. Carry a water bottle with you to stay hydrated . Make sure to drink water until your urine transforms from yellow to clear.
  6. Eat carefully . Do not overeat and stop eating high fiber food. Prefer to intake only the food which you take during training that does not upset your stomach.
  7. Select lightweight shoes and comfortable socks for practice running so that you get to know beforehand if you are getting a sore feet or blisters and can get another pair.
  8. Practice a run in the outfit you are going to wear during the marathon; it will boost your confidence.
  9. Just before you leave for the marathon, stretch out properly such that your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves are relaxed.
ultimate marathon running guide
Stretching before the Marathon

Last and the most important thing take proper sleep every day of the week. It definitely won’t be easy considering your nervousness but try to sleep as much as possible to gear up for the marathon day.

You can also check the various training programs available online .

Hal Higdon Marathon Training Program

The main benefit is it’s absolutely free of cost. It includes various schedules depending on the type of runner you are. It has different plans for beginner, intermediate or advanced runner.

Despite the fact that this program does not make you a better runner, but just more prepared for the marathon, it is still considered good. It is best suited for the seasoned runners who already know to treat and train themselves. If you are still figuring out a program to choose, the Hal Higdon training plan for marathons could be a right choice.

Jeff Galloway’s Marathon Training Program

Jeff Galloway is an experienced runner with programs as popular as Hal Higdon. Galloway’s program is similar to Higdon’s, but without that many options for runners at different levels.

This training program has perfected the run/walk type of running which is a safe and easy to way to train for a marathon. Any runner from beginner to advanced can use this method. This program also helps you establish a pace for the marathon and maintain it.

Hanson Brothers Renegade Marathon Program

The Hanson Brothers have developed a different approach to training for a marathon along with a book they have written for marathon running. The program keeps you tracking your strength, tempo, and speed with a distance of 16 miles denoted as your long run to accomplish.

With this method, they help you find your marathon pace. This program, however, requires a lot of commitment and your dedicated time. There is no injury prevention training, and the strength training covers mostly the basics.

Team In Training Marathon Program

This training program features a great community to help support you and also allows group runs. There is minimal coaching and not very detailed. No strength or cross training is specified in the program. The best part about Team In Training that it supports a cause!

Post-Marathon Tips

In most of the marathon running events, you get food as soon as the marathon is over. But if in case there is no after food. You need to have proper food to reenergize yourself. In addition to diet, there are many recovery steps to follow after running the marathon .

Now that you have this ultimate marathon running guide , register yourself for a marathon suitable for you. Grab your outfit and go ahead.

Feel free to share your running event stories here.

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