How to train for a marathon

Marathons are tough – so tough that very few people ultimately complete one. Signing up for a marathon takes more desire than most have and completing it is an entirely different matter – plenty of people will quit the run before the finish line or even give up on running altogether.

If you’d like to run for a whole 26 miles (and a little something extra) to call yourself a tried and true marathon runner, it’s better to start training for this feat as early as possible.

The basics of marathon training

Running will, unsurprisingly, form the core of your training. Yet it is the specifics of your training runs that will make all the difference in the world when the race starts.

The point of marathon training is to train in a way that lets you gradually work your endurance up. How? For starters, you’ll have to run at least one marathon or half marathon per week – more experienced runners will benefit from multiple lengthy runs spread out throughout the week. Each of these training marathon runs has to last longer than the previous one which should boost your endurance plenty come race day. Of course, in order for this method to be effective, those preparing for a marathon ideally start training three or more months ahead of the race.

If you’re just starting out, merely finding out your limits will take a while – while the first long training run can push your limits, others don’t need to be as strenuous and are considered complete after the 26 mile mark. Speaking of pushing limits, you don’t have to do that with every run – all forms of running will increase your endurance regardless of whether you push yourself to exhaustion every time.

While marathon-style running is the most important part of your training, it’s far from the only thing you should be doing. Quick sprints and intensity-changing runs can greatly help your running ability even if it doesn’t seem like they accomplish much for the specific task at hand. Likewise, you can consider doing some weight lifting for the lower body: this will strengthen those all-important leg muscles and reduce the chance of injury somewhere down the road.

What about food?

Seeing as how us humans run on fuel, having your nutrition in line can be as important as actual training. On top of having a carefully selected diet, most marathon runners will eat during the run itself in order to provide the body with additional energy – the low intensity of the run means that the chances of regurgitating the food back are minimal.

The meal you eat before the run (or during it, if rules permit) should be light yet nutrient-rich: look for food with a lot of carbohydrates packed into something that’s small and slow to digest. But it’s not just the contents of the food: the timing makes a lot of difference as well since you don’t want to deal with digestive issues on top of a difficult run.

To avoid becoming a cautionary tale like all those marathon runners photographed relieving themselves mid-run, you’ll have to understand the amount of time needed to complete the race and plan accordingly.