10 Beginner’s Tips for Training for a Marathon

There are two types of people in the world: ones who would love to run a marathon and ones that say “NO WAY.” If you are reading this post, then chances are you have thought that accomplishing this goal is something that you would consider doing. Perhaps you are a beginning or novice runner and think that this is something you’d love to do eventually, or perhaps you are an avid runner and want to take the leap into marathon training. Either way, it is a given that training for and completing that feat of running 26.2 miles is no joke and not a decision that should be made lightly. 

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Completing a marathon is not for the faint of heart. It is something that will test you not only physically but mentally and emotionally. It is a whole body experience that takes plenty of time to properly train for, but the great thing is that we firmly believe that anyone can accomplish this goal if you have the tools to succeed. Will you be ready overnight? Of course not, but with time, training and many, many miles under your belt any type of runner, fast, slow, novice or professional, can train for and complete running a full length marathon.

SQUEEK! Hold the breaks here- are you really and truly a beginning runner? Make sure you are starting off on the right foot by checking out our How To: Become a Runner post. By taking what you read there and applying these tips, you will be well on your way to being the best runner you can be.

Are you ready to start? Step one is to choose a race. Depending on how frequently you run now will determine how far out you choose. If you are really a beginner, you will want to give yourself ample time to train, probably at least 6 months or more. If you run frequently and feel confident, you could choose one a little closer, maybe 3 or 4 months out. Make sure you allow yourself enough time to run because (no surprise here) training for a marathon requires you to run, and run a lot! Once you have chosen the right race for you, you are ready to train! These tips are perfect for beginners, or first time racers, and they assume that you are already confident with your running style and form and the basics so you can avoid injury and actually enjoy yourself!

Create a training plan- and stick to it

To effectively train for a race like this, you need to create a plan and stick to it. Thankfully there are an incredible amount of training apps, websites and plans out there for you to choose from. You can search around online and find one that works for you or you could create one yourself. In general, you should try to run a total of 4 days a week. It’s a good idea to try and increase your distance by a mile or two each week for your longer runs. You don’t have to run the full 26.2 before race day either. Most training plans will get your close to that, with a maximum distance around 21, 22, or 23 miles and then a week of “tapering” where you’d run some shorter distances. For the other days, you should have a medium distance (like 7 or 8 miles) and then two short runs (like 3, 4 or 5) for a total of 4 days a week.

Don’t skip the short runs

Trust us on this one. The short runs are just as important as the long ones since these are the ones that help prevent injury. If you skip the shorter runs and only focus on the longer ones, you become more susceptible to blowing out your IT band or a hamstring.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

This is pretty self explanatory. Make sure you are drinking lots of water and drink it often all throughout your training. If you don’t already have one, get a hand bottle or belt for when you are on your longer runs. If you start consuming more water on these runs, don’t be afraid to stop at a convenient store and fill that bottle up!

Pace yourself properly

Pro tip: when you are running your longer runs, you will want to really slow down your pace (unless of course you are a professional, in which case you probably don’t even need to read this post!). You will need to slow down your time so that you don’t run too fast in the beginning so you run out of energy. Remember, it is ok to walk. Do not think that if you toss some walking into your longer runs it makes you any less of a runner. Running 18, 19 or 20 miles is quite a feat. If you like the run/walk combo, try running for a few miles and then walk for a few minutes, and then run again. Listen to your body and find the pace that works for you.

Stretch before and after every run (especially your long ones!)

Stretching is SO important. Try some dynamic stretching in the beginnings (leg lifts, high knees, lunges, butt kicks) for a few minutes and then some more standard stretching after you are finished. These will help warm up your muscles and cool them down afterward to help keep you strong and prevent injury. Check out our How To: Become a Runner post again for more info on this subject too.

Eat right, especially before you run

Running in general is a strain on your body, and running these long distances is extremely taxing. You need to not only run enough to strengthen your muscles but you need to feed your muscles with foods that will give them enough energy to keep you going. If you are running 18 miles, you may burn almost 2000 calories- that’s a lot! Make sure you are eating before you go so you have enough energy to keep going. Try eating around two hours before you go with something balanced like a whole wheat english muffin with peanut butter and jelly and a banana. This type of meal has the right combination of carbs, healthy fats, sugars and potassium to get your body up and moving. Remember to eat when you are done too!

For more meal ideas, read about 10 Foods to Fuel Your Run so you can be sure to fuel your body before, during and after your runs.

Manage your playlist

Some people like to listen to books or podcasts when they run, but most like music. If music is your thing, plan out your playlist so it has the type of songs with a pace to keep you going. Some like upbeat and fast songs but others like to run to slower-paced songs so they don’t run too fast. No matter what you pick, make sure your battery is charged up so you can have music the whole way!

Dress appropriately

Pay attention to the weather and dress appropriately for it. Remember you will get warm as you run, but if it’s cold out, you will still want to dress in a way that will keep your body warm without soaking up the sweat.

Fuel up during your runs

For your long runs you are burning a massive amount of calories and you need to replace some of those or else you are going to have a a hard, hard time. When you start the longer runs, head over to one of your local running shops and getting some samples of mid-run “fuel” and test them out BEFORE the big day. Maybe you prefer a goo gel, or jelly beans or something in your water? Grab a few and test them out on your long runs so you will know what kind and flavor you like best. Most of these say to have some every 45 minutes or hour, so plan on taking a few with you. Do not, not, not try something new on race day! Be sure you have ran a few long runs with your fuel of choice before using it on the big day.

Be realistic about your expectations

Decide what your goal is at the beginning of your training and be real about it, depending on how much time you have to train and your fitness levels. It’s ok to have a time goal or even just a “finishing” goal too! Remember you are running a marathon, so that is a feat in itself and it will be amazing no matter what time you finish in.


Training for and completing a marathon will be one of the hardest things you have ever done (yes maybe even harder than child birth!), but it is also an amazing experience and something you will be so proud of yourself for doing. Don’t let the distance scare you. If this is on your bucket list, sign up and begin training- you can do it!

One of the most important parts of running is finding the right shoes for you, check out our guide to finding the right running shoes for you to get you started!

Check out our official Get Fit 2015 page for all the initiative posts in one place.

Photo Credits: Our Three Peas, Cindee Snider Re (CC) modified, Joy (CC) modified, Dawn (CC) modified

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Michelle

Michelle; full time mama, part time blogger, wife extraordinaire. This busy mama to three “peas” is a lover of all things running, crafting and baking. A New England native and current desert dweller, she is the brains and wit behind the blog Our Three Peas, where she writes about the hilarious reality that is motherhood. She strives to live a green and natural life and swears that most motherhood-related dramas can be solved by having a nice glass of wine at the end of the evening.

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