19 best marathon training tips

Kate Stinchcombe-Gillies
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Marathon training tips for beginners


Oct 20

What prompted you to run your first marathon? Perhaps this is your first time and you’re looking for all the help going. Many of our FitFestOxford community have strode out 26.2 miles in their time. So we thought it about time we collated the best marathon training tips to get you started, keep you moving and nailing your motivation all the way to the finish line.

19 marathon training tips

1. You need a marathon training plan

Training for a marathon takes time, especially if you’re a running beginner.  Over a period of weeks and months your training plan will adapt according to your acquired endurance, stamina and mileage.
There are myriad beginner training plans for marathons, but here’s our favourite.

2. Start with your running shoes

As my mother used to say, look after your feet and they’ll carry you far. This VERY much applies to marathon runners. What you wear on your feet is very individual to your feet and body’s mechanics. Read all the reviews you like, but then get yourself to a running shoe specialist to try some out and find what’ll work best for you.

3. Map your mileage

The key to running long distances is to become comfortable and capable of striding out the miles. Coming to terms with reducing your pace to be able to extend the mileage of certain runs each week is part of the effort. Gradually increasing your mileage each week is one of the milestone marathon training tips. While you don’t have to obsess over your weekly mileage, it is a helpful reference point to track your progress over time.

4. Get comfortable in your kit

Nobody wants to deal with chafing on race day. Make sure you’ve run long distances in your marathon day kit and have contingency kit for various weather scenarios (or just standing on the start line). Anti chafe balm is a thing though, so familiarise yourself with it sooner rather than later!

5. Warm up on the go

Dynamic stretching, that imitates running movements, is the best way to warm up. Also known as plyometrics, you might find yourself jogging on the spot, doing sideways jumps, knee raises and walking lunges.

6. Hydrate along the way

If you’ve never run for more than an hour before, you probably haven’t had to carry water. Now’s the time to start. Although marathon courses have hydration stations that you can plan into your training timing, they obviously don’t exist on your training route, so carry what you need and aim to drink at certain distances or time intervals.

7. Fuel your run

Use your training to learn what food and nutrition best suits your body’s marathon effort as well as what you need to top up your energy levels while running. Running nutrition is as important as hydration if you want to give your body the best chance of performance and recovery. Seek expert marathon nutrition advice to get you started and you’ll be off to the strongest start.

8. Find a fuel belt

Move over bumbags and make way for fuel belts. Find one that works for you and how you’re going to use it. General best marathon training advice is to pre-mix your gels with water for you to consume every 30 minutes or so.

9. Consider marathon cross training

Believe it or not, one of the best marathon training tips is to add in other exercise in between your running to make you a stronger and faster runner with better recovery times. Core strength plays a particularly vital role in supporting and stabilising your body, especially as it gets tired towards the end of a run.

10. Repair and recuperate tired muscles

If you’ve ever rolled your quads or ITB on a foam roller, you’ll have met us with eye-watering acceptance that there is no gain without pain. It’s not a comfortable marathon training exercise but what they call self-myofascial release helps reduce muscle inflammation as well as injury risk. Ice packs and ice baths are another approach!

11. Train on the right terrain

Here’s one of those slightly obvious marathon training tips: if the race is on roads, train on roads. You are training your body and choosing your shoes for a particular race or series of races, so imitate the race environment as much as possible.

12. Join a running club

Social running may not be your usual bag, but finding a running club that supports your mission as well as your fitness and performance will also improve your running. Plus, finding like-minded running buddies will provide a competitive edge and an instant support network.

13. Be realistic

There are bound to be weeks when you aren’t able to commit to your marathon training plan. Work, illness or injury can all get in the way, but don’t let it get you down or stressed about your marathon mission. Just pick up where you left off when you’re ready, and stay positive.

14. Rest days

Rest days are a vital part of marathon training plans. Your body needs time to rest and recover as does your brain, so give yourself some dedicated downtime and enjoy an afternoon nap every now and then too.

15. Build a support network

Your running club may provide this, as may your family and friends. While no-one wants to be bored to tears hearing about the status of your toenails, people will want you to succeed and achieve your goals. Why not ask someone to cycle the last stretch of your longest runs with you, to give you some sense of accountability or simulation of having supporters on the sidelines. 

16. Listen to your body

There will be days when your heart races faster or your legs feel like lead. Don’t over do it. Tomorrow is another day and a good night’s rest, nutritious dinner and conscious hydration are all more important than getting mentally deflated over fatigue. 

17. Taper

Tapering before a race can seem counterintuitive. Yet it’s a chance to invest in proper fuelling, technique runs and sufficient race before the pressure of race day.

18. Go do your thing

You’ve made the commitment. You’ve put in the miles. Now go do your thing, on your terms. One of the best marathon training tips we’ve heard? Don’t get hung up on a finish time, have a racing strategy and stick to it as best as you can. 

19. Revel in post-race recovery time

Celebrate your completion of the race – you did it! And then look after your legs and your food intake. Ice baths or alternate hot/cold water on your legs in the shower are said to aid recovery. But most importantly get a protein rich, nutritious meal and then sleep.

Take it easy from here with light running for a week or so. Make sure you running it out the following day with an easy run to keep the blood flowing through your muscles – it all helps them heal after their mammoth effort.

Putting marathon training tips to the test

Shoes on a ready to go? Good luck – let us know how to get on , won’t you? Join the conversation over on Instagram or Facebook – we look forward to seeing you there and hearing your progress. Thanks for reading.

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If this is your first marathon attempt and you’re looking for all the help going, we thought it about time we collated the best marathon training tips to get you started, keep you moving and nailing your motivation all the way to the finish line.
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