How to Train for a Marathon: Your Marathon Training Plan

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26.2 miles. A distance that will test your body, mind, and spirit, challenging you to your very core. Every runner who has successfully gone the distance will tell you there is only one way to make your marathon dream a reality: A marathon training plan. No tricks. No shortcuts. Total commitment. Staying on your feet across that finish line depends on preparation.

As a pre-race baseline, experts recommend at least three to six months of running four times per week. A year or more would be even better. You should be able to comfortably complete a six-mile run and it would behoove you to have a few 5K races under your belt. Jumping into the big race with any less running experience is asking for trouble, and possibly serious injury.

If you’re ready to do what it takes, here are some marathon training tips to help you put your best running shoe forward.  

Resting is as Important as Running

When it comes to how to train for a marathon, planning adequate rest is as critical to your regimen as logging enough miles. Many aspiring marathoners make the mistake of training too hard when they should be taking the time to recover from workouts. For a highly trained runner, a resting day may be 30 minutes of easy running. Marathon training for beginners may include days of no running at all. No matter how finely tuned the runner, the training plan should include scheduled days of complete rest at regular intervals. This will keep the body in shape for the hard workouts to come.

Simulate Race Conditions

You will not be running 26 miles to train, but it will be helpful to simulate as many of the anticipated conditions as you can. Try to pick up your pace at the end of long runs to acclimate your body to keeping up your tempo for the long haul. Practice water stops and drinking large volumes of water and/or carbohydrate solutions while training.  Incorporate the terrain of the marathon route, such as hills, into your practice sessions and get out in the predicted weather conditions as much as possible. You might also want to do a dress rehearsal several weeks before the race to try out racing clothing, shoes, socks and pre-race meals. Nothing worse than finding out a shirt chafes, or shoes cause blisters mid-marathon.

Train with a Group

Training with a group can be both effective and fun. Other runners can be encouraging and helpful in setting a good workout pace. Make sure the group doesn’t turn a practice session into a competition. You don’t want to race the workouts, especially on a long run.

Listen to Your Body

Your body will let you know when you’ve pushed it too hard. So, pay attention. You don’t want to let a small injury become a serious issue that will keep you sidelined the day of the big race.

As you prepare mentally and physically for this daunting undertaking, it’s a good idea to create a marathon training calendar to keep you organized and on schedule.

Stay focused and be patient with yourself. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Good Luck!

Marathon FAQ

How long does it take to go from couch to marathon?

Believe it or not, you can go from being a non-runner to finishing a marathon in under six months. But it’s wise to increase your running distance in steps and ill advised to go straight from zero to 26.2 with no experience in between.

Can you run a marathon without training?

For most runners, a marathon is the culmination of months and months of arduous, meticulous training, that includes a careful diet, and a regimented program of progressively longer runs. However there have been cases of runners, like the Irish pop singers John and Edward Grimes who completed the marathon on a whim, straight of a flight with no training.

How long should you wait to run another marathon?

If you ran your marathon full out, it’s best to wait another 4-6 months before tackling another one.

How long should you wait to run after a marathon?

Generally, it takes two to three weeks for the body to recover from the strain of 26.2 miles. Some running experts suggest resting one day for every mile you ran in the marathon. So, no hard racing or running for 26 days after the marathon.  

What percentage of people have completed a marathon?

Around half a million runners, roughly 5%, compete in marathons and an estimated 45% of those completed the task.