Marathon Training: A Guide for Beginners

Embarking on the journey of marathon training can be an exhilarating yet daunting prospect, especially for beginners. It's common to feel a whirl of emotions — anticipation, apprehension, excitement, and even fear. After all, preparing to run a marathon, whether full or half, is a major commitment that tests your physical endurance and mental resilience. 

But, take heart. Every experienced runner had a first time. Every marathoner had a first marathon. 

The finish line at the end of those 26.2 miles (or 13.1 for a half marathon) might seem distant now, but with the right approach, guidance, and marathon training plan, it’s a goal within your reach.

So, how do you get started with that first step of marathon training? Let's lace up our running shoes and race into this guide.

When To Start Marathon Training

A marathon is no small feat. It's a long-distance race that spans 26.2 miles. If that seems like a gargantuan leap from your daily neighborhood jogs, starting with a few 5Ks, 10Ks, or a half marathon training plan might be wise. 

Remember, the marathon puts you at a higher risk for injury, so consulting with a physician before embarking on any training program is essential. 

Base Mileage: What It Is and How To Build It

Before marathon training, develop a strong base. Building weekly mileage too quickly can cause injury, so consistency is key. For new runners, start by working up to a base mileage of 20-30 miles weekly, and build up your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent to prevent injuries.

How Long Should Marathon Training Take?

With a consistent base mileage, you're ready to start marathon training. Most marathon training programs range from 12 to 24 weeks of training, gradually increasing weekly mileage to 50 miles. 

Beginners should opt for a longer plan — around 20 to 24 weeks, reducing injury risk, allowing adaptation to the training volume, and facilitating running technique and strength development.

How Often Should You Run While Training?

Marathon training doesn't mean you need to run every single day. In fact, most training plans involve just three to five runs a week. And remember, not every run needs to be a speed trial. 

Most of your runs should be at a relaxed pace, allowing your body to adapt to longer distances without strain. One of the most important ways to avoid injury is to listen to your body. It's okay to push yourself a bit, but knowing when to pull back and rest is just as important.

Understanding these key points about marathon training will help you start on the right foot. Remember, every experienced marathoner started just where you are now. The race may be long, but with the right approach and training plan, you'll be crossing that finish line in no time.

Beginning Your Training: Where To Start

Embarking on a marathon is a remarkable health and fitness commitment. But where to begin? The start of your journey requires some essential preliminary steps.

Consider enlisting a running coach or a training app, both offering valuable guidance, training plans, progress tracking, and motivation to help avoid pitfalls and meet your marathon goal.

Evaluate your running form, focusing on posture, stride, and footstrike, to enhance performance and lower injury risk. An experienced runner or coach can provide invaluable advice for improvement.

Setting a realistic race time goal is crucial. As a beginner, we recommend focusing on finishing rather than marathon time — getting to the finish line is an amazing feat! Still, having a rough and realistic time goal can offer a useful benchmark and motivational challenge.

Also, ensure you have the right running shoes to support your feet for the long miles ahead. They should fit well, provide good support, and be appropriate for your running style and the terrain you'll be training on. The right pair can significantly affect comfort and performance from training to the finish line.

What Are the Essential Elements of Marathon Training?

Training for a marathon extends beyond simply clocking miles. It is an intricate blend of various workouts, each designed to enhance different facets of your performance. This synergistic approach helps you optimize your speed, endurance, and overall strength, creating a robust foundation for your marathon exploits. 

Easy Runs

Think of easy runs as the cornerstone of your training. Aim for a comfortable pace, one where you can comfortably chat with a running buddy. Easy runs bolster your aerobic endurance and prepare your body for the more demanding workouts down the line.

Long Runs

Long runs are vital for boosting endurance during your training. Typically, these runs should occur weekly, every seven to 10 days. On long run days, keep your pace slow, allowing your body to adapt to increasing distances and enhance its energy management on your way to the full marathon.

Each long run should be just a mile or two longer than the previous one. Many training plans also suggest a slight reduction in mileage every three weeks. This essential pause helps avert overtraining and injury. 

For newcomers, the run/walk strategy, alternating intervals of running and walking, can be beneficial for covering longer distances without excessive fatigue.


Speedwork sessions are high-intensity intervals where you run shorter distances at a pace quicker than your marathon goal pace. These workouts serve to enhance your running economy and speed.

Three main forms of speedwork are tempo runs, fartleks, and interval training. Tempo runs, or threshold runs, are carried out at a "comfortably hard" pace, helping improve your lactate threshold. This enables you to maintain a faster pace for longer durations. 

Fartleks, on the other hand, are unstructured workouts that involve alternating your pace throughout the run. In contrast, interval training involves more structured quick, short bursts of running interspersed with recovery periods. This repeated fast running and rest cycle dramatically enhances your running economy and speed.

During speedwork, proper warm-ups and cool-downs are vital. Begin with at least eight to 10 minutes of slow jogging and stretching to gradually increase blood temperature and enhance blood flow to your muscles. Likewise, a similar cool-down aids in muscle recovery, helping your body adapt and prepare for the next workout.

Strength Training

Along with your running workouts, your marathon training plan isn't complete without strength training and cross-training. These workouts enhance overall strength, help you maintain proper running form, and aid in injury prevention.

Strength training, particularly focusing on core strength, can significantly augment your running performance. Incorporating exercises like planks, squats, or lunges into your routine can enhance stability and efficiency. 

Cross-training activities like swimming, cycling, or yoga can help diversify your fitness, improve endurance, and encourage recovery.

Understanding Marathon Pace

One of the essential aspects of marathon training is discerning your marathon pace — the pace you aim to maintain throughout the marathon. Generally, this should be slower than your speedwork pace but faster than your easy runs.

Remember, long-distance running, especially marathons, is as much a test of mental endurance as it is of physical endurance. Stay patient, trust your training, and embrace the journey that leads you from the starting line to the marathon finish line.

How To Prevent Injury and Burnout

Embracing marathon training with enthusiasm is great, but remember that rest days are vital. They allow your body to recover and adapt to the stresses of training, preventing overtraining, burnout, and injury.

Running is a high-impact activity that can stress the body significantly, so incorporating injury prevention strategies into your regimen is crucial. Make sure to warm up before each run and cool down afterward. Wearing Incrediwear calf sleeves during and after runs can provide additional support. 

Our sleeves, made with semiconductor-embedded fabric, ergonomically support the calf and shin to soothe discomfort and support blood flow. They also encourage healthy oxygen flow to the muscles during runs and support the recovery process during rest periods.

Always listen to your body — even if that means missing a run in your marathon training schedule. If you experience pain beyond regular muscle soreness, take it seriously. Rest, or seek professional healthcare advice if needed.

Nutrition and Hydration for Marathon Runners

Marathon training not only requires physical training but also a focus on proper nutrition and hydration. As a marathoner, carbohydrates will be your best friend. They're your body's primary energy source during long runs. Incorporating a variety of carbohydrate-rich foods in your diet, like pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables, can provide the fuel you need for your training runs and race day.

Hydration is equally crucial. Dehydration can hinder your performance and pose serious health risks. 

You lose fluids through sweat as you run, so replacing those fluids by drinking before, during, and after your workouts is important. On longer runs, you might also consider hydration solutions that include electrolytes.

And let’s not forget about energy gels. These are concentrated sources of quick-acting carbohydrates. They're often used during long runs and races to replenish carbohydrate stores that deplete as you run.

Final Preparation for Your First Marathon

As the marathon countdown begins and training winds down, the anticipation builds. The final weeks are all about tapering, reducing mileage to let your body rest and prepare for race day. 

Hydration is also essential, so drink plenty of water leading up to the race, and fuel up with a simple, carb-rich breakfast on the day. Keep yourself hydrated during the race using a hydration belt or water stations along the route. 

And remember, a marathon is a test of endurance, not speed. Begin steadily, pacing yourself to conserve energy for the duration.

Whether you have your sights set on the Boston Marathon or your local race — the main goal is to finish. Feelings of race-day anxiety are natural but try practicing mindfulness and deep breathing as you visualize the race, acknowledging the hard work you've invested in training. This is what you’ve been training for — you’ve got this!

Crossing the Finish Line With Incrediwear

Embarking on your first marathon is an exhilarating journey, a test of mental and physical endurance. With these training tips, you're on the right track to a successful and safe marathon experience. 

Remember, the race doesn't end at the finish line. Rest and recovery are just as important as the miles you put in during training. Explore Incrediwear's range of products, designed to provide ergonomic support, support healthy oxygen flow to your muscles, and maintain your performance while helping to soothe muscle soreness post-race. 

Begin your training on the right foot, and cross that finish line stronger than ever.


Running Technique is an Important Component of Running Economy and Performance | PMC

Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles | Mayo Clinic

Relationship Between Blood Flow and Performance Recovery: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study | PMC

Runners, Here’s How To Fuel Up and Stay Hydrated | Cleveland Clinic

Write a comment

All comments are moderated before they are published