Tips for training for your first marathon

I’m currently on running reserve but I still think about running almost every day.  I have a lot of friends running marathons for the first time this fall and it got me thinking about my first marathon…and then the official first marathon.  I wanted to share some marathon training tips for your first marathon.


  1. Realize that training for a marathon is time-consuming.  It’s not just something you can blow off and it takes some serious commitment and there is a sacrifice of time.  If you don’t start off knowing this, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. The first step is to figure out if you have time to dedicate to training and how many days a week you’re willing to spend running.
  2. A training plan is very important.  It started with the urge to run a marathon but after that I was clueless.  I searched the internet for free training plans.  It’s not hard to find a training plan and there are a lot of different methods out there for you to try.  I used the novice 1 plan from Hal Higdon because I only wanted to run 4 times a week because I did other workouts besides running. Follow your plan so you’re building your mileage at the correct rate to avoid burn out and injury.
  3. Decide if you’re trying to have a time goal.  I didn’t start off with having a time goal.  Honestly, I never had a time goal.  I knew I wasn’t going to BQ (Boston Qualify) so my main focus was just to finish the marathon and feel good about myself.  Therefore, I didn’t incorporate any speedwork into my plan.  I don’t recommend anyone who is running their first marathon try for a time goal.  I think it’s important just to get the mileage under your belt so you know how your body will react.  You can try for time on the second attempt so you can learn from your first experience.  But if you’re going for time, be sure to incorporate some time of speed work into your training plans which can be fartleks, intervals, and tempo runs.
  4. Respect the long run.  I learned the importance of the mid-week long run and the weekly long run very quickly.  Those are the runs that help you build your endurance and set you up for marathon success.  26.2 miles is a long way to run, and these runs help you feel more comfortable when those miles start to add up.  I don’t recommend skipping these runs.  These are must do runs for many reasons, like the next tip.
  5. Use your long runs to test your fuel and hydration.  What works for one person might now work for everyone. There might be Gatorade on the course, but you know that won’t work for you.  Your long runs are there so you can practice carrying all of your stuff, testing out your hydration needs and knowing when and what you need to eat.  You don’t want to find out on race day that something doesn’t agree with you.  Potty lines can get long and gross.  Your long run will also let you test out your pre-race meals.  This is just as important as what goes on during the race.  Having the runs while running is a real thing; don’t take it for granted.  Use your long runs not just to train your legs but to train your mind and body.
  6. Keep your diet clean.  Yes, you’re running all these miles and you should splurge on a meal every once in a while.  But make sure you’re refueling with the proper foods so that your body can recover quickly.  Recovery is key after every run.  Try not to take on the mindset of I did this so it’s ok for me to eat this.  I did have a pancake problem after running which is fine, but when I was running a marathon every weekend, those calories started to add up.
  7. Don’t forget about strength training.  You will be tired and may not want to do any extra workouts, but strength workouts will keep you from getting injured.  Don’t neglect those hips and core because you’re going to need it to make it through.
  8. Remember to have fun, even when it’s not fun.  Everyone hates running at some point doing the run, but when we cross the finish line all that hard work has paid off.  Even if you decide to never do it again, you will be proud and remember all the work you put in to get to that point.  Enjoy it for it is and just stay focused.  Some runs will be harder than others, but it’s all going to get you to the same point.  Just remember you can do it and hard work does pay off.

Do you have any tips for training for your first marathon?