Training for your first marathon can often feel overwhelming. Running 26.2 miles is quite a feat, and taking on this challenge requires hard work, time, and dedication. But trust us, it’s always worth it in the end!
Marathon training for beginners can be approached in a couple of different ways. Jumping in and just winging it (not recommended by any means) or doing some research, like you are today, to go about training in a safe and healthy manner.
Doing the latter allows you to take advantage of the fact that many before you have gone about training for a marathon in a less-than-ideal way and learn from their mistakes.
In this guide, we will give you 10 marathon tips for beginners to help you with your training and teach you how to run a marathon and cross the finish line with a smile from ear to ear.
Let’s jump right into our list of marathon tips for beginners!
10 Marathon Tips For Beginners
#1: Follow A Training Plan
The absolute opposite of winging it and just heading out for runs now and again is following a well-thought-out, professional training plan for your first marathon.
There is a wide variety of beginner marathon plans out there for you to choose from, depending on your current fitness level and available training time.
At Marathon Handbook, our coaches have created marathon training plans for every level, so choose which one works best for you to get started: Marathon Training Plan Database
A proper beginner marathon training plan will ease you into running by following the golden rule of 10% (meaning you will increase your weekly volume by a maximum of 10%), include cross-training and strength training, and fit everything together in a perfect jigsaw puzzle to prepare you adequately while reducing your risk of injury.
#2: Don’t Focus On Pace
For a first-time marathon, don’t focus on your pace! Have fun, run comfortably, and get across the finish line ready and eager to plan your next.
You’ve undoubtedly seen many marathoners running 3k and 5k tests, working out their projected finish times and marathon pace for training and competing. However, this is more appropriate for those who already have a first marathon finish time and are looking to pace train for their following one in hopes of a PR.
If you want an idea of how long you may take to finish your marathon, you could run a 3k test, but it would be to seek out a rough estimation. It isn’t necessary, as you’ll get a feel for your finish time according to your long runs as you progress throughout your training plan.
One of the best marathon tips for beginners is to run comfortably and not worry about pace and timing.
Enjoy your training, enjoy your marathon, and you’ll have plenty of time to worry about pace later on.
#3: Respect Your Rest Days
You’ll see that any marathon training for beginners plan, or any training plan for that matter, will have planned rest days.
Respect the appointed rest days, which are critical for your health and well-being. Ensure your body has enough time to bounce back from the stress and strain you put on it, training for your first marathon.
Training for a marathon is exciting, and you may feel energized and strong and want to head out every day of the week to pound the pavement. However, that will take an unwanted toll on your body in the long or short run, and a discouraging injury is the last thing we want during our training process.
Follow your training plan to a T, respecting your rest days. And, if you feel too sore, tired, or exhausted to go out, take an extra rest day here and there to ensure you are taking good care of yourself, and allowing your muscles, joints, and connective tissues to rest and repair, so you are in tip-top shape for your next session.
#4: Strength Train
This point can not be emphasized enough.
Strength training is essential for all runners, whether you’re a 100-meter sprinter, a marathoner, or an ultra-marathoner.
Beginner runners benefit significantly from resistance training as strengthening muscles results in a lower risk of injury and a quicker adaptation rate to running.
Stronger muscles = stronger runners.
Adding two days of strength training will be enough to complement your beginner marathon training plan. Ensure the workouts are total-body, including various exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, push-ups, rows, and planks.
For more information, check out our full guide on Strength Training For Runners.
#5: Warm Up & Cool Down
Two important marathon training tips for beginners are to warm up before any run or workout and cool down afterward.
Warming up primes your body and mind for the workout to come and assists in again, lowering your risk of injury, such as pulling a muscle by running on cold legs.
Warm up with 5-10 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging, depending on your fitness level, and then perform 5 minutes of dynamic stretches. These dynamic stretches can include floor sweeps, heel and toe walks, butt kicks, high knees, goblet squats, and Frankensteins, to name a few.
Dynamic stretches are just that, dynamic or stretching in constant motion. You never want to static stretch before running; leave that until after your run when your muscles are warm.
After your runs, cool down with an easy walk and then static stretch (holding each stretch for 45 seconds minimum). Be sure to include post-run stretches for your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves, IT band, and any other muscle you feel you have used during your run.
Be sure to complete these steps, as they are essential to a complete and healthy workout.
#6: Learn How To Fuel and Hydrate Properly
During your marathon, your body will need fuel and hydration to push you through those 26.2 miles.
Fueling and hydration must be well-practiced during your long runs to be sure of what your fueling strategy will be the day of, and that it works.
There are two different aspects to this one of our marathon tips for beginners.
- Carbohydrates for fuel
- Fluid for hydration
Both of which must be taken throughout the entirety of your marathon.
As for your carbohydrates, here is a good rule to follow if you are unsure of how much to take in per hour:
Weight in kilos = number of grams of carbohydrates consumed per hour
Therefore, if you weigh 70 kilos or 154 lbs., you would need around 70 grams of carbohydrates per hour during your race to feel energized and avoid hitting the famous “wall.”
Check the nutrition labels on whatever fuel you are using to calculate your needs per hour. For example, most energy gels contain anywhere from 20-25 grams of carbohydrates per package, so if this 70-kilo person relied on gels, they would need to consume 3 gels per hour throughout the race.
Gummies, bars, jelly beans, and even solid food, depending on your preferences, can be calculated for your fueling strategy.
Electrolyte-carbohydrate-filled sports drinks can help you fuel and hydrate simultaneously.
As for hydration, if you want to be accurate, you can take a sweat test to calculate the amount of water you sweat per hour. Just make sure when you take the test, you are performing it in similar conditions to your race, so your sweat rate will be the same.
Whatever your result may be, sip, and don’t chug your hydration as you run to avoid any tummy trouble.
Practice your fueling and hydration strategy during every long run. Therefore, when you get to your race, you have it perfected and know precisely what works for you.
#7: Get The Right Running Shoes
A comfortable running outfit, a fancy GPS watch, and a fun visor are all great additions to your marathon gear. However, there is one piece of equipment that must fit to perfection.
Your running shoes.
Choosing the perfect pair of running shoes can sometimes be overwhelming as you look at the walls and walls of options.
Before you head out to make one of the most important purchases of your marathon, do some research beforehand about how running shoes should fit, what to look for, and what to avoid.
We have some excellent guides on finding your perfect running shoes to take the pressure off you.
Also, your local running store experts may have the equipment for gait analysis. With that information, they can also lead you in the right direction regarding the type of shoe that will work for your particular gait.
In addition to the perfect shoes, ask for specific running socks, as these can help avoid blisters, hot spots, and other nagging foot issues.
#8: Get Ahead Of Any Niggles
Piggybacking on our respecting our rest days tip is to be in tune with how your body reacts to the training program.
Sure, if you are a beginner runner and you are increasing the volume in your training for your first marathon, you will feel sore and tired as your body adapts to this new stress.
However, there is a big difference between feeling sore and tired and feeling pain.
If you feel pain, visit a physical therapist to ensure everything is okay. You want to get ahead of any potential injuries.
This is why warming up, cooling down and strength training are so important. They are devices along with foam rolling, ice baths, sports massage, and cross-training that can help decrease your risk of injuries throughout the process.
Most beginner marathon training plans will also include cross-training.
Cross-training is any exercise in addition to your training that is not running. Some examples include cycling, swimming, elliptical, rowing, and yoga.
Cross-training in your marathon training plan is designed to allow you to continue to work your cardiovascular system without the high-impact stresses and pounding of running.
Choose something you enjoy for these sessions. It will give you a chance to add variety to your training while taking care of your body at the same time.
#10: Enjoy Your Race!
Even though this isn’t a training tip, per se, it’s an important race-day tip worth mentioning.
You have worked so hard over the last months or years to get to this point, so enjoy it!
Look around you, take in the sights and the energy of the crowd, and run for fun. This is your first marathon going down in the history books, so make it a great memory.
So, are you ready to take the plunge? After these marathon training tips you are ready to go. Check out our marathon training plans and get started right away!