Training for a Marathon: 5 Essential Tips

Are you considering training for a marathon?!  Whether it’s your first EVER, or you’re just trying to go into the next one a little more prepared…not to worry. We’ve got 5 essential marathon training tips to get you ready to go the distance!

Training for a Marathon: Up Your Fitness

training for a marathon


A regular 16 or 20 week marathon running plan is not much time to build up the strength and distance required for a marathon.  There are a few details it will help to work out before you even get to week 1.  Take some time to get into training mode before you start.

  • Dial in your basic schedule for the week.  Which days will you do speed work, cross training, preparing for the long distance running, technique drills? Get yourself into a roughly regimented routine.
  • Find which combo of shoes and clothing work for you.  What you are most comfortable wearing?
  • Find those hot spots.  Do you find after a few regular runs that you have aches in your Achilles? Cramps in those quads? Niggles in your knees?  Knowing which areas need a little TLC before you start piling on the miles puts you ahead of the curve in keeping injury at bay.

Training for a Marathon: Distribute Mileage Throughout the Week

training for a marathon

Believe it or not, focusing too much on that long run can actually be counter-productive. Your goal is to make it to the start line injury-free, so training runs should be more about quality than quantity!

  • Distribute miles throughout the week.  Don’t spend an entire week recovering from your long run.  Don’t dig yourself so far into fatigue that you can’t focus on form.
  • Train with a variety of workouts.  Include speed runs, tempo runs, hill work and technique drills.   All are crucial for a successful marathon attempt. Here are a few ideas!
  • Build mileage slowly.  It makes your body more resilient over time and miles.

Training for a Marathon: Plan for Something to Go Wrong

training for a marathon

While 20 weeks is a short time to prep for a marathon, it’s still 20 weeks of time that your training can get derailed during.  Build mobility and injury prevention into your plan from the beginning.  This will help you get back on track faster if and when the unexpected strikes.

    • Spend 2-5 minutes of focused time foam rolling each tight spot.  Quads, achilles and calves are all common problem areas for runners.
    • Do mobility work a minimum of 2-3 days per week, no matter what.
    • Do mobility work daily on hot spots.  Areas of soreness or any regular knots need to be addressed daily.
  • Training for a Marathon Tip 4:  Run With a Group

    training for a marathon

    Run buddies can help hold you accountable, prevent burnout over so many miles and generally keep you motivated to improve.  The key is to mix it up and find people that can both push you harder as well as keep you in check on the long run.  Those might not always be the same people.

    • Run with someone faster than you.  Every once in a while, get out of your comfort zone and chase your speedy friends.  Avoid doing this for every run as it can grind you up and cause injury.
    • Run with someone slower than you. Especially during the long run, it’ll keep you from taking off too fast.  Ideally your long run pace allows you to comfortably speak in full sentences.
    • Run with those that keep you motivated.  New people bring new workout ideas, new routes, and freshness to your runs.

    Training for a Marathon Tip 5: Cross Train

    training for a marathon

    Cross-training is not a dirty word!  Exploring a full range of motion is imperative to strong running. Don’t limit yourself to just one activity.  Your options could include biking, swimming, group sports and strength training.  Or just get out and play! Play a game of tag or dodgeball with your kids, go roller skating, pick up a hula hoop, or jump on a trampoline.

    • Take your body through a full range of motion.  A well-rounded athlete will have an easier time trying new exercises designed to improve running form and efficiency.
    • Challenge your midline stability.   Core strength is essential to proper running form.
    • Teach yourself a new set of skills.  Enhanced balance, coordination, and strength come from trying something different and asking more from your body.

    Keep these tips in mind and you’ll no doubt be in good shape to get out there and earn your miles! For sticking with us to the end,  we’ve got a free marathon training guide for you to download! Training tips, planning advice, race day logistics and tons more. Eventually, the hardest part of training might just be choosing which awesome race to sign up for!