If you’re planning to run your first marathon, congratulations on setting yourself a fantastic goal! Completing a marathon is an amazing feeling, one that you have to experience to truly understand. It elevates your self-esteem and delivers a sense of achievement few other activities can bestow.
But how can you go from the average office worker to marathon runner without years of training? With determination, the time to train and by following the tips on this page, that’s how!
Get yourself checked out
Regardless of how young or old you are, how active or how extreme your hobbies are, you need to be checked by a doctor before you prepare to run your first marathon. Talk to them about what you plan to do and have them check you over before you start training.
The four elements of marathon training
There are four primary training elements for any long distance or endurance sport. They are the foundation of everything a runner does to prepare themselves for their event.
You will need to follow these to effectively prepare to run your first marathon.
- Base mileage
- Stamina run
- Speed and cardio work
Base mileage is all about getting yourself out there and getting the miles under your belt. Designing a training plan that includes three or four runs a week at least 12 weeks before the marathon helps build base fitness. It is from this base that all your work will be built upon.
The stamina run takes your base mileage and pushes the boundaries. Schedule a stamina run once every seven to ten days for best results. A stamina run is performed slower than base mileage but gradually builds the distance. So if your base run is 10k, your stamina run should begin at 12, then 13, 15, 16, 18 then 20 and keep going.
This trains the mind to cope as well as the body. These runs also teach your muscles to metabolise fat as fuel as well as use carbohydrate. That’s an essential skill for marathon running.
Speed and cardio work
Mixing tempo and interval training once you have good base fitness can round out your running. It is optional, especially if you don’t have long until your marathon, but it is useful.
Tempo training is performed at a faster pace than base running but for much shorter distances. It teaches your body to cope with a different pace and hotter, harder work.
Intervals involve a base run with short half sprints. So run at base pace for five miles, then run fast for one mile, then back to base for five, run for one and so on. Repeat these intervals four or five times before warming down.
The hardest part of training to get your head around is rest and recovery. The idea of sitting around and not training when the sun is shining outside is tough. However, recovery is an essential part of training and allows your body to repair the damage it has sustained and build in those improvements you demand of it.
Recovery is subjective and will be different for everyone. Some people can run every day, others cannot. Regardless of how you feel, schedule rest between all training runs as much as possible. You simply cannot prepare to run your first marathon without adequate rest.
Preparing to run your first marathon will be hard, but with determination and the right support, it can be a life changing experience. Good luck with it!