Training for a Marathon: The Basics


Studies suggest that daily low-intensity running, even for five to 10 minutes, is sufficient to extend your life by several years compared to not running at all. Also, long-term runners run not only to live longer, but to feel better every day.

Running can also be a great parenting tool where children can learn about different values like endurance, dedication, and self-care. Visit this site for more parenting and health tips.

One achievement many running enthusiasts look forward to is participating in the marathon. A standard marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards or 42.195 kilometers long. This distance is already a challenge, even for seasoned runners, so they must train extensively for this particular race.

How do you train for a marathon? What are the factors essential to marathon training? What should you do before and after the race? Do you need to bring multiple water bottles when running a short course?

This short guide provides readers, including amateur and experienced runners, a rundown on the basic elements of marathon training, the preparations needed, and the important post-race activities to complete this feat.

Essential Elements of Marathon Training

When training for a marathon, you must first understand four primary training elements:

  • Base mileage: Many marathon training plans can cover a 12- to 20-week program. Trainees should build a weekly mileage of up to 50 miles (80.47 kilometers) within this period leading up to the race day.

Running three to five times per week is sufficient and should mostly be done at a relaxed pace where you can still carry on a conversation.

  • Speed work: Speed work is an optional training that can help increase your aerobic capacity and make your runs easier. You can perform speed work through the following:
    • Interval runs: These runs are a set of repetitions of short-distance runs at a faster pace than usual and with recovery jogs in-between. An example is a one-mile run repeated four times at a hard pace, with five-minute walks or slow jogs between repeats.
    • Tempo runs: These workouts are usually performed over a four- to 10-mile range (6.44-16.09 kilometers) and run at a sustainable but challenging pace. Tempo runs help your body and brain get used to challenging activities over extended periods.
  • The long run: This type of run should be done weekly and extended by a mile or two each week. After three weeks, scale back the run by a few miles to avoid overtaxing your body and risking injury.

Perform these runs at a slower pace than usual to build confidence and let your body get accustomed to longer distances.

  • Rest and recovery: The greatest enemy of aspiring marathoners is injury, while the best protection against it is rest.

Rest days help your muscles recover from extreme workouts and prevent mental burnout.

Two or three weeks before the marathon, consider scaling back on your overall mileage and running difficulty to let your body rest for race day.

During your rest days, you’re not supposed to run. But if you’re itching for activity on those days, consider cross-training, such as walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, or other low-impact activities.

Before You Start Running

Before you run the marathon, observe the following tips during training so that you won’t have a difficult time in the actual race:

  • Practice good posture: Maintain an upright posture by keeping your head lifted and shoulders relaxed and level. Keep your pelvis neutral, and don’t lean forward or backward at your waist, which some tired runners often do.

Mind your shoulder placement, especially on long distances, since rounding your shoulders forward too far can tighten the chest and restrict your breathing.

Swing your arms back and forth naturally from the shoulder rather than the elbow joint, and keep your hands relaxed without clenching them into fists.

  • Manage your running pace: Maintain a comfortable, conversational pace during each workout. Slow down if you can no longer speak in whole sentences.

Increase your oxygen intake by breathing through the nose and mouth. Also, do deep belly breathing to prevent cramps or side stitches.

After running, do some easy walking or jogging to cool down. Performing light stretches afterward can also help prevent your muscles from tightening.

  • Take steps to keep safe: Take reasonable steps to keep yourself safe and injury-free. Before your actual run, perform warm-ups and walk or jog for about 5 to 10 minutes. You can also do running drills or dynamic stretches as warm-up exercises.

Most of all, follow running safety advice, such as the following:

  • Ensure you are sufficiently visible and observe traffic when running on roads.
  • Carry an ID when running so you can be identified quickly in case of an accident.
  • Don’t run alone at night. Find a running partner or group to improve safety.

Hydrating and Fueling Tips

If you’re worried about bringing too much or too little fluids on race day, there’s no need to fret. Nearly all marathons provide water and aid stations along the road.

Consider using a hydration pack or belt when bringing your own water or sports drink on race day. Purchase the pack in advance so you can train and get accustomed to running with it.

During training, remember that you’ll be doing several long runs without aid stations along your way. With this situation in mind, consider the following tips:

  • Practice carrying your hydration pack, belt, or handheld bottles.
  • Perform long runs on short courses so that you can stash water in one location along the way.
  • If possible, plot your route to pass drinking fountains and ensure they are turned on.

Recovery After Racing

After crossing the finish line, drink several cups of water or sports drink to refresh your tired muscles and walk a bit to cool down those muscles. Do some light stretching and eat foods with simple carbohydrates afterward.

Simple carbohydrates get broken down quickly by the body to convert to energy. Foods containing simple carbohydrates include fruits, milk products, table sugar, candies, and soft drinks.

After race day, take a week off before resuming your regular running schedule. Make sure to take time to adjust back to your usual distance and frequency.

Recovery also includes the following:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating well-balanced meals
  • Treating any injury or condition you got during the marathon

Furthermore, strengthen your immune system as it may have weakened immediately after the race.


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