A Guide for Beginners: Prepping for Running a Marathon

It’s a life goal for many casual athletes -- running a marathon.

While it sounds amazing, but many automatically assume it’s too difficult, takes too much time, or is for more serious runners only.

We are here with the truth -- anyone can train for and complete a marathon.

If you’re willing to put in the training, you can certainly run a marathon, no matter what your starting fitness level. Read on to learn more about running a marathon, from how to get started to what to do on race day.

Follow the following steps to get started, and before you know it, you’ll be out enjoying your training runs, looking forward to your first race.

How Long Does Running a Marathon Take?

What is the average time to run a marathon? It’s a question many first-time runners might be curious about, but there’s actually not a simple answer. You’ll need to cover 42.2km, or 26 miles, and everyone runs at a different pace.

Average runners can expect to finish in around 4-5 hours. Once you have done some longer runs and have a good idea of your average split time (that is, time per mile), you can multiply that by 26 to get a rough idea of your finishing time.

That being said, you may find yourself losing speed in the second half of a race as you start to tire. Other factors that will impact your speed include the course elevation, weather on the day, and bathroom and water breaks. Very crowded races are often slower as well, due to course congestion.

In short, don’t worry about a ‘good’ marathon time for your first race— just finishing is a huge accomplishment and something to be very proud of!

How Long Does It Take to Prepare for a Marathon?

If it is your first marathon, allow at least 12-20 weeks to train. This is dependent on your base level of fitness, so those who are already running and physically active will be able to prepare in less time.

But, how do you become a runner? Well, simply lace up your shoes and get going– it’s that simple.

When booking your first race, look for one at least four months in advance. Although it can be tempting to travel for a race somewhere else, you’re likely to have better results if your first race is a local one.

Stick to your routine, wake up in your own bed, and take advantage of the ability to drive or run parts of the course in advance, to see what it’ll be like on the day.

If you need some help with finding a race, check out some of the largest marathons in the US.

Have a Training Plan- and Stick to It

If you’re ready to prepare for your first race, great choice! To give yourself the best chance of success, use a marathon training plan to train each week.

There are plans for those new to running or for more advanced runners. Generally, each week will include one or two long training runs, a few shorter runs, and a few rest days. As you progress week by week, the training runs will increase in distance. You can also opt to add in some cross-training, such as weight training, cycling, or swimming.

This lets you safely build up to the marathon distance in a way that gives your body enough time to recover.

the hardest part of training for a marathon

Wear the Right Gear

Luckily, running is one of those sports that doesn't require much equipment. All you really need is a decent pair of running shoes and comfortable athletic wear.

When looking for running shoes, it is worth investing in the best pair you can afford, as they are going to need to go the distance and you want a pair that fit well. If there is a running specialty shop in your area, try to go in for a shoe fitting.

Experts can look at the way your feet pronate, or the natural way your foot moves when walking and running, and can recommend the right shoes that offer arch support and comfort. Avoid the temptation to go for the ‘stylish’ shoe and select the pair that best fit your feet.

Running Clothes 

With running clothes, look for non-cotton materials, as you want clothing that will wick away moisture and sweat, not trap it. Nylon is a good choice, as is polyester. You might want to look for clothing with pockets or zippers if you’re likely to be our running with your keys or phone.

Although not essential, you may also want a fitness tracker that you can use to track your distance. Or, download an app such as Map My Run, which works well for tracking mileage, split times, calories, and you can even leave notes to yourself after each run.

Overcome the Mental Hurdle

Believe it or not, long-distance running is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. It can be daunting to go out on longer runs, so it really helps to stay focused and tell yourself that you can do it.

Many runners give up because it’s ‘too hard’, but don’t fall into that trap. Break it down, day by day, mile by mile, and try to keep your mind engaged. Listening to music or podcasts while running can be a good way to do this, as it keeps your mind distracted from the task at hand.

You can also keep a record of all your runs, as it can be encouraging to look back and see how much you’ve accomplished. Consider also having an accountability buddy, and motivate each other when you’re feeling uninspired.

Even if you want to stop, keep pushing yourself and you may find you eventually hit your stride and get into the running zone.

the mentality of a marathon runner

Pay Attention to Any Aches and Pains

It is normal to have aches, pains, and muscle soreness when running, especially after long runs. Try a bath soak or doing more stretching to help with this, and it will normally go away on its own in a day or two.

Adding resistance work into your routine, such as with resistance bands, is also a good way to build up strength and give your muscles ample oppo

However, any pain that is more acute, out of the ordinary, or that’s impacting your ability to run can be a concern. Always talk to your doctor for advice, but if you experience pain in the joints, such as the knee, a knee stabilizer can be a good way to give your body additional support.

Check Your Diet

A long run can burn over 1,000 calories. If you’re feeling sluggish or lacking energy on your runs, it may be because of your diet.

Runners need to eat a balanced diet to have the energy to power through long training runs. Talking to a nutritionist is always helpful, but here are some great suggestions of what to eat as well.

It helps to keep healthy, high-energy snacks around the house, such as fruit, almonds or nuts, boiled eggs, or peanut butter and toast.

Struggling With Motivation? Join a Running Group

If you find it hard to get out the door each morning, a running group might help you. Running groups are often free to join and can be found in communities across the country.

Look for a group with runners about the same speed as you to help with pacing. The social aspect of the groups might encourage you to go along, and having training partners can make you more accountable.

Focus on Your Recovery

Don’t neglect the recovery days in your training plan– they are vital for giving your body time to recover and rebuild muscle. Without enough recovery time, you’ll be prone to injury and exhaustion.

To aid with recovery, try wearing compression socks, as they can help ease muscle soreness and get you back on the road faster. Stretching after each run and eating healthy, filling meals will also help your body bounce back.

On Race Day

Congratulations— you’ve made it to race day! Wake up with enough time to make a nutritious breakfast and not feel rushed, and wear familiar clothes and shoes that you’re used to training in.

Stay hydrated, arrive at the starting point with plenty of time to go, and take the time to stretch and warm-up.

Once you get started, enjoy the experience! Pace yourself, stop for water as needed, and listen to your body, slowing down when needed.

marathon race day

Start Your Marathon Training Today

Contact us for your marathon running gear needs. Once you’re prepared with the essential gear, a training plan, and the motivation to succeed, running a marathon can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

The hard work, sweat, early-morning starts, and pain will be worth it when you cross the finish line for the first time and feel the joy and pride of accomplishing such an amazing athletic feat.

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