Your first marathon training plan | Women's Running

Your first marathon training plan

Read Time:   |  June 14, 2021

A marathon is *the* classic distance and a hugely rewarding experience. Here’s how you can successfully train for your 26.2 miles...

Running a marathon is a huge achievement. Getting to the start line fit, healthy and fully prepared is a challenge in itself. If you’re planning to take on running 26.2 miles in the near future, you’ll need to dedicate yourself to training for a good few months. But it will all be worth it when you cross that finish line and receive your medal.

Marathons have been growing in popularity as more and more runners look to push themselves over longer distances. And, after saying they’ll only do it once, many go on to run more than one marathon. It’s good to remember this because it means that while it’s going to be hard work, there’s clearly something magical about the marathon that keeps drawing runners back.

If you are already a regular runner, you may need around 16 weeks of training to get race-ready for 26.2 miles. So have a look at your diary for the next few months. If you’ve got any time off planned that might make it hard to train, you may need to rejig your training. But this could simply mean starting marathon training a week earlier, to give yourself a better chance of success.

Training lingo explained…

Your training plan is made up of four different types of run:

Long run
Long runs are exactly what the name suggests; they’re the longest run of your week. Your long run will build in distance as your training progresses to help your body and mind prepare for running 26.2 miles.

Easy run
Many runners go too fast on their easy runs. To get the full benefits, it’s important to slow right down to as much as a minute per mile slower than you plan to run on race day.

There are many benefits to interval training. It can help you get faster, improve running efficiency and build mental resilience. Make sure you don’t go too fast – you don’t need to go at your top speed to get these benefits. And it’s important you’re properly warmed up before doing your interval sessions.

Tempo run
You’ll be practicing running at your goal pace for race day, as well as doing some quicker tempo runs to build your fitness.

It’s also good to do some cross training (swimming, cycling or gym classes) and some strength training (core exercises like planks or lower-body exercises like squats) alongside your runs.

Training FAQs…

Q. When do I buy my race day trainers?
If you have a favourite pair of running shoes and you don’t think they’ll make it to race day, get a new pair now. Rotate the new and old pair to get the use out of your current shoes while also bedding in their replacements. You can then decide which one would be best for race day.

Q. What should I eat on my long runs?
Once your runs get longer than about 10 miles, it will become more important to take on some carbohydrate. What you eat or drink will be largely dependant on your own preference. Some runners use energy gels while others prefer sweets such as jelly babies. Your long runs are an opportunity to experiment and find out what works best for you so that you can use it on race day.

Q. Should I do more than 20 miles before race day?
Running 20 miles as a long run is plenty to prepare you for the marathon. Any more than this and it may take you too long to recover in time for your race. Remember, you’ll be running the 20-mile long run on tired legs from all of your training, so it’s more like the last 20 miles of the marathon than the first. On race day, your legs will be fresh from your taper. If a 20-mile long run is likely to take you longer than 3 hours 30 min to complete, you’d be better sticking to 18 miles as your longest run.

Your first marathon plan

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Written by

Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor

Currently training for her second half marathon

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