I’m about to start training for my very first marathon! What a milestone to finally reach 5 years into my running journey!
My first marathon was supposed to happen in 2012…instead, I had my worst half marathon ever. But 4 years later, I’m a much smarter and stronger runner, I’m injury-free, I have a running coach, and I’m excited for all the hard work that lies ahead!
Still, I have so many questions about marathon training as a first-timer. What have I gotten myself into?? If you’re going through your first round of marathon training, this post is for you! I’ve rounded up some of the greatest training advice from experienced marathoners to motivate and inspire you!
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This August, I’m beginning training for my very first marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20. It’s hard to believe that this moment has finally come! As I prepare for this HUGE undertaking, I wanted to provide a resource of motivation, inspiration and useful tips that will not only help myself but anyone and everyone who is going through this for the first time. We’re in this together!
I’m so grateful to have had several experienced marathoners and bloggers contribute to this post with their advice for running your first marathon. They have provided advice on some of your biggest questions about training for a marathon based on their collective experiences. You’ll learn what to do and what NOT to do!
Check out these tips PLUS a few blog posts on specific areas of marathon training!
The biggest setback I see in first-time marathon runners is following a training plan that is too advanced for them. Following a training plan that is not conducive to your lifestyle can be a recipe for disaster. I always modify training plans to fit my life and never hesitate to take an extra day off if something feels off. Listen to your body and train accordingly! –Michelle, Fruition Fitness
Trust the process. Follow the plan. It’s 12-16 weeks because you need that time to get ready. Don’t worry about the 20-mile run when you’re doing 10-12. You’ll get there and be ready when the time comes. Bonus tip: Make your long run at least 23 miles. –Marsha, Faith and Fitness with Marsha Apsley
Easy runs are meant to be run slow and… easy! It can be tempting to go faster if you are feeling better, but it can cause an injury or even overtraining issues. When I trained for my first marathon, I ran these as fast as I could and it was a BIG mistake! If you have an easy run on the calendar, make sure you are running as slow as you can so that you are getting the miles in while giving your muscles a break. Trust me, the Kenyans even practice this! 🙂 –Lora, Crazy Running Girl
Slowly build your mileage during your marathon training. If you build up too quickly, no matter how much running you have done in the past you are more likely to develop an injury. –Amanda, Positively Amanda
Listen to your body. When you need an extra rest day or to swap a hard workout for an easy run, do so. It’s better to reach the starting line slightly undertrained that overtrained – or worse, not at all because of injury or overtraining. –Laura, This Runner’s Recipes
Don’t skimp on the strength training! It’s so important for injury prevention and goes a long way to help with both speed and endurance. Learning proper glute activation for any hills on the course will allow you to expend far less energy than if you were powering through with your calves, while lateral movements will help strengthen your hip and knee stabilizer muscles. –Becki, Fighting for Wellness
Getting the right fuel is just as important as getting in the miles. If your run will last longer than an hour, take in easily digestible carbs every 45 minutes or so. Chews, gels or whole foods, like bananas and raisins, are all great options. When you finish, get in a small snack (100 calories) filled with carbs and protein in a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio within the first 30 minutes. After you’ve cooled down and foam rolled, get in a larger meal with more protein to help those muscles recover. –Nicole, Fitful Focus
Start fueling now! Most runners fuel too much in training runs and not enough on race day. You want to teach your body how to tap into its glycogen stores while also training your gut to handle fuel on race day. This takes practice, research (or consulting a coach), and trial and error. –Laura, This Runner’s Recipes
The biggest tip I can give anyone training for their first marathon is to continue to have a life. Don’t worry about missing runs if life happens and don’t try to make up miles. Listen to your body and make sure you take time for yourself. –Steffany, Run Steff Run
Definitely trust your training on race day-use the same fuel and gear you have through training and know that you can run 26.2 miles, even though you didn’t run that distance in training! Sleep and recovery are also really important in training and the key to arriving at the start line healthy and happy! –Lauren, Breathe Deeply and Smile
Start slow and finish strong. This goes for training and the race. Don’t do too much too soon. Add .5 or 1 mile to your long run each week. On race day, start slower than your goal pace and go faster in the second half. –Erica, Erica Finds
Make a plan, do the training. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. (Nothing. Not socks, not undies, not gel, not hydration. You should test everything during your training.) On race day, HAVE FUN! You’ve got an automatic PR. Stop to pet the puppies. If you run into something bad or need to puke in a garbage can, consider it fodder for future funny stories. ENJOY! –Elizabeth, Train With Bain
Have faith in yourself. Ask a friend to run small sections of your long runs. Make sure you bring fuel for those runs (I used the gu gummies!). Listen to podcasts, nothing is worse than that voice in your head saying how much you are hurting, so don’t give yourself a chance to. Run on different trails, it makes the long runs more fun when you are exploring. –Hilary, Bakes by Ranchcookie
Keep a positive attitude. It’s so easy to stop one of the long runs half way, but remember why you’re doing it and how amazing it will feel to cross the finish line!
–Amanda, Positively Amanda
Know that you are capable. Mental limits will hinder you far behind physical limits will. Trust your training, trust your body. –Laura, This Runner’s Recipes
My biggest tip for first timers is to set only one goal – to finish. Marathon training is hard and the first is the hardest without having a big goal to contend with too. –Toni, Running, Loving, Living
I think that for a first marathon, the goal should be to have fun. That was my goal but I had a time goal as well and was disappointed when I didn’t meet it. The disappointment didn’t last long but I wish I’d just never put an arbitrary number in my head to start with! –Courtney, Eat Pray Run DC
Enjoy the journey! There will be difficult training runs and tough portions of the race, but truly enjoying the process and finding happiness and self-fulfillment in the miles will get you through the bad and good miles alike. –Laura, This Runner’s Recipes
Are you training for a marathon? If you’ve run one before, what advice would you give to a first-timer?