Training for a Marathon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Cross the Finish Line

Training for a Marathon: Everything You Need to Know to Successfully Cross the Finish Line

So you’ve decided to start training for a marathon. First of all, congratulations! Training for and completing a marathon is on many people’s bucket lists and is undoubtedly a massive feat of athletic ability. That finisher’s medal will long hold a special place of pride and honor in your heart—can’t you just feel its weight on your neck now?! 

If you’re getting excited about running your marathon just from reading this introduction, we know you’ve definitely got the enthusiasm and drive to run 26.2 miles. But if you’re a first-time marathon runner, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I go about training for a marathon, anyway?” 

Not to fear—that’s where we come in! We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide that has everything you need to know to cross the finish line injury-free and with a smile on your face! Are you lacing up your sneakers yet? Are you getting antsy to get out there and pound the pavement already? Well then, let’s get to it.  

Training for a Marathon: Everything You Need to Know

  • Find the right training plan
  • Follow the right nutrition and fueling
  • Choose the right marathon training gear
  • Enjoy the journey

Finding the Right Marathon Training Plan

There are a million different ways to train for a marathon. In addition to long runs that increase in distance over time, many coaches and professional long-distance runners recommend adding a variety of different workouts to your plan when training for a marathon. These can include tempo runs, speed workouts, cross-training, yoga, walking, weight lifting, and more. 

But how do you know what will work for YOU and YOUR body if you’ve never trained for more than a half-marathon? The first step is to figure out which training style is best suited for you (and your budget). 

What Type of Training Plan Is Best for You?

Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a shopping list? Sure, you can walk into your local market and grab some random fruits and veggies (and let’s be realistic, probably a snack or two), but what happens when you get home? 

Maybe you were able to grab all the ingredients needed to make a healthy meal without putting much thought into it—and if you’ve been cooking nutritious meals for yourself for a while, this practiced act is likely second nature. But there’s still a good chance you grabbed a pile of random stuff that can’t be made into healthy meals. Just because you were craving pistachios, watermelon, crackers, and pepperoni at the moment does not mean they will magically turn into a nutrient-dense dinner. 

The same goes when training for a marathon. If you just did a workout you felt like doing every day with no structured plan of where you were running, how far, or for how long, you wouldn’t be able to “make a healthy meal” by the end of your training. If you’re a seasoned marathoner, maybe this a la carte training plan works just fine for you. First-time marathoners: keep reading on. 

Hiring a Running Coach

Many runners find it helpful to hire a running coach. If you’re nervous about any aspect of training for a marathon—nutrition, fueling, preventing injury, recovery, etc.—this is a great way to have a professional’s guidance available to you at all times. However, as you can imagine, hiring a personal coach can be pricey. 

Pros:

  • A training plan tailored to your experience level, athletic abilities, and goals
  • A customized nutrition and fueling plan specific to your body’s needs
  • Unlimited one-on-one access to a running professional with years of experience
  • Motivation and support

Cons:

  • The cost of a running coach can get quite high

Joining a Running Group

When training for a marathon, if you’re looking for a structured plan and access to a running coach without the high cost of a personal coach, joining a running group may be more your speed. Although you won’t get a training plan completely catered to you and your needs, you will have an awesome training plan with the added bonus of becoming a part of a running community. Instead of just one person holding you accountable, you will develop relationships with other runners—many of them seasoned—who will be able to answer your questions, provide guidance, and support and motivate you throughout your training. 

Pros:

  • Access to a running coach
  • Scheduled group workouts to keep you accountable
  • A community of supportive runners

Cons:

  • Although this option is cheaper than a personal coach, there is still a relatively high cost
  • Less flexibility in your training schedule

Note that there are also free running groups in many communities! While these programs may not be as structured as a paid running group or offer a full marathon training plan, they often meet once or twice a week to run together and create a sense of community. This is a wonderful free alternative if you’re seeking the support of other runners. 

Purchasing a Training Plan

If you’re training for a marathon right now, I’m sure you’ve done some research and come across online training plans. If you don’t have a budget for a coach or running group, you shouldn’t feel discouraged. The beautiful thing about running is that the overall cost is very minimal—especially if you’re training for a local marathon and don’t need to travel very far for your race. 

Online marathon training plans, when created by an esteemed running professional, are a great way to get quality training for a fraction of the cost. Purchasing plans from running gurus like Hal Higdon or Greg McMillan can provide you with all the structure you need. Some publications, such as Runner’s World, even offer free marathon training plans

Pros:

  • An already-laid-out training plan cuts down on research time
  • You will know exactly how many weeks you need to train and exactly which workout to do each day

Cons:

  • You will still need to find a running group or train with a friend to get a sense of community
  • You won’t have access to a coach for questions that come up about strength exercises, nutrition, fueling, or recovery

Making a Plan: What Training for a Marathon Looks Like

If you are training for your first marathon, we highly recommend you find a training plan that goes 18–20 weeks. Although you don’t technically need four or five months to train for a marathon, the extra weeks help account for illnesses, injuries, or life events that get in the way and ensure that missing a long run or two won’t completely derail your training. 

That being said, you should not start training for a marathon without establishing your aerobic base first. It’s so important that your body gets used to mileage well before you start your training. You should be running a few times a week and doing core- and leg-focused strength workouts leading up to day one of your training so that your muscles are well-prepared for the stress you’re about to put them through. 

Although each marathon training plan is a little bit different, each is made up of some or all of the following workouts. 

Long Runs

Each weekend, you will be doing a long run that gradually increases in distance every week. These are the bread and butter of marathon training. Many novice marathon training plans start at five or six miles and cap off at 20 miles around week 15, decreasing in distance every three weeks or so to allow your body to recover and improve. Three or four weeks before the marathon, these long runs taper off to allow your body time to prepare for the big race. 

These workouts should not be missed. If you cannot do them on the weekend, try your best to fit them into your schedule during the week. That being said, you should never do a long run when you are sick or injured—for the longevity of your training, recovery and rest trump running every time.

Tempo Runs

Tempo runs require you to run at different paces and effort levels to get your body accustomed to different speeds and put you more in tune with your abilities and limits. These workouts can include lactate-threshold runs, race-pace runs, and progression runs. 

If these workouts sound too complicated for you, don’t be discouraged! There is no shame in training for your first marathon with no time goal in mind and simply set out to cross the finish line. If this is the case, make sure to complete the mileage and focus on that—not how long it takes you to do so. 

Easy/Slow/Recovery Runs

Easy runs are 30 seconds to one minute per mile slower than your goal marathon pace. If you don’t know what your marathon pace should be, just run as slow as you want! Even walk if you have to. The important thing is that you aren’t pushing your body too much during these workouts. 

Cross-Training

Cross training is any form of aerobic exercise that uses slightly different muscles than running. These can include swimming, biking, rowing, and walking. Some people even add yoga or pilates to their training schedule to cross-train. Incorporating these workouts help to strengthen surrounding muscles and prevent injury. They also break up your running workouts and add diversity to your training! 

Strength Training

Although strength training is an essential part of preventing injury while training for a marathon, you may be surprised to learn that long-distance runners often overlook this type of workout. We highly recommend that you incorporate 1–3 days of weight lifting into your weekly training regimen. You can even find strength training programs made specifically for marathon runners online. 

Rest

Rest is arguably your most important “workout.” It’s an absolutely essential part of any complete strategy when you’re training for a marathon. You should be resting twice a week and taking that recovery time seriously. If you are feeling restless and want to do some movement, consider going for a walk, stretching, or adding a yoga or pilates class to your recovery days. These movements are gentle and will help elongate your muscles, preparing them for your next hard workout. 

Races

Many runners who are preparing for a marathon find it helpful to do a couple of races during their training. This is a great way to test out what it feels like to run your goal pace during an organized race and experiment with different fueling methods and pre- and post-race rituals. Consider running a half-marathon about halfway through your training—ideally around the time of your 13-mile long run. You can also add a 5k or 10k, but make sure you aren’t completely replacing your long run weekends with shorter distance runs, or your long-distance training might suffer.

Nutrition and Fueling

Food is fuel when training for a marathon, which means that the nutrients and calories you consume are just as important as the miles you log. Nutrition can be broken down into two categories: training and race day. While these two segments are slightly different, both are equally important to your performance. 

Training Nutrition

One of the most important aspects of training is staying hydrated. To discover how much water you need before, during, and after you run, calculate your sweat rate. This will help you determine how many fluids and electrolytes you need to support your training.

When you begin training for a marathon, you will start to notice how different foods affect your mood, energy, and endurance before, after, and during your workouts. Although nutrition is a science, each runner is different and should honor their bio-individuality. If you read on a blog that eating an entire sweet potato with some almond butter is best before a long run but you find yourself feeling nauseous after eating just that, stop eating it! What works for others will not necessarily work for you. 

It is your responsibility to figure out the ratio of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) that work for your training. Remember that as your marathon training ramps up, your caloric intake will increase as well! Fuel your body with the foods it needs at that moment to recover from or prepare for your next workout. 

According to sports dietitian Alexandra Cook, running burns 100–120 calories per mile. Use this formula to calculate how many calories you should be consuming each day—and don’t slow down on rest days! Even if you aren’t training, your body is working hard to recover and needs fuel to operate at an optimal level. Each meal should include protein, carbohydrates, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Produce provides micronutrients and antioxidants, which prevent oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body stimulated by prolonged exercise. 

Above all else, listen to your body and don’t be afraid to eat when you’re hungry (which will likely be all the time). You’re putting in some serious work—treat yourself to delicious, nutrient-dense meals! 

Race Day Nutrition

On race day, it’s very important to stick to the nutrition plan that you have developed over the past 4–5 months of long runs. Eat the same breakfast approximately 2.5–4 hours before the race starts to give your stomach time to process your meal. 

Five to fifteen minutes before the race starts, start your fueling with a gel and a few sips of water. Plan to consume 30–60 grams of carbohydrates per hour throughout the race. Use your pre-determined combination of energy gels, chews, and bars to achieve this. 

You should know where the fueling and hydration stations are along the course and have a plan for when and where you are intaking fuel and fluids. Don’t be afraid to ask a seasoned runner for advice on fueling weeks, or even months, prior to race day! It’s important to figure out what works best for you and your body so that those 26.2 miles can go as smooth as humanly possible.

Choosing the Right Marathon Training Gear

Finding the right gear for your marathon training can make or break your race day performance (just ask any male runner who has suffered from jogger’s nipple). When you’re running 26.2 miles, there are a lot of opportunities for discomfort. Here are our top tips for finding the proper training gear prior to race day. 

Running Sneakers and Socks

It’s no secret that finding the right running sneaker is crucial to the comfort and ease of your training. Experts say that your running shoes should be replaced every 300 to 500 miles. Make sure that you are keeping a running log to track exactly how far you are running so you have a better idea of that 300–500-mile checkpoint. 

As far as brand and design of sneakers go, many runners live by a certain model, but everyone’s arch, gait, and pronation are different. Your training terrain will also play a part in which sneaker you choose. The best way to find a good running shoe is to visit your local running store and talk to one of the employees. They will evaluate your pronation and gait, ask you about your training, and recommend the running sneaker they believe best suits your needs. 

Choosing the right socks to run in is also an extremely important—and sometimes overlooked—part of training for a marathon. Good running socks provide extra padding and comfort and help prevent blisters. There’s a variety of running socks available on the market that come in different fabrics, thicknesses, and heights. 

Running Outfit

The clothes you choose to run in depend on many different factors, including where you are training, where you are racing, and in which seasons and climates. Training for the Boston Marathon in Maine during the winter is going to require a drastically different attire than training for the Honolulu Marathon on Oahu during the summer. 

Do your research on brands, fabrics, and what is appropriate for different types of weather. Be sure to train in different outfits and choose your most comfortable pieces for race day. It takes a lot of trial and error to know exactly what to wear in any given weather, and you are likely to have some days where you miss the mark. That’s okay! Try your best and make sure to, at the very minimum, dress appropriately for extreme weather and temperatures.  

Accessories

If you are running in the hot sun or cold winter temperatures, make sure you have the proper headwear. Baseball caps and visors are a great way to block the sun while beanies and fleece-lined headbands provide extra protection against the snow. And don’t forget sunscreen on any exposed skin—no matter the season! Sun is sun whether it’s summer or winter. 

When you’re running far distances, the goal is to add as little weight as possible. However, we know that there are essentials that you want to bring with you (keys, money, phone, etc.) for convenience and safety. We highly recommend that you invest in a running belt to carry your belongings, especially if you are often running by yourself. If you find that you need extra water during your long runs, a hydration belt is also a great option—many even come with special pockets for energy gels!

Tips to Enjoy Your First Marathon

You’ve spent months training for a marathon, calculating calories, and logging miles. Now it’s time to put your endurance to the test and complete your first marathon! Don’t stress too much about finishing within a certain amount of time—just take in the adrenaline, cheering, and the pride you feel once you cross that finish line. Above all, you should have fun. After all, that’s why you started marathon training in the first place, right? Learn our top ten tips for a happy 26.2 miles in our blog post, “10 Must-Haves for a Fun First Marathon.”

Continue Reading: Training for a 5k to Marathon

Why a Fitletic Hydration Belt is the Best Choice in Running Belts

Why a Fitletic Hydration Belt is the Best Choice in Running Belts

As a long-distance runner, you’re no stranger to the struggle of staying hydrated throughout your workout. Although certain climates and temperatures certainly put you at a higher risk of suffering from dehydration, it doesn’t matter where you’re training or what the weather is like—it’s not safe or enjoyable to try and go an entire run without drinking water. Perhaps you’ve recently moved to a rural area with fewer public water fountains along your running route, or maybe you’re simply sick of lugging your heavy water bottle on your runs and are seeking a better solution. No matter the reason behind your search for higher hydration, Fitletic’s hydration belt is the ultimate training tool to take you from base runs to race day.

It’s no secret that carrying anything on a run is a huge pain. From car keys and cash to cell phones and credit cards, you need a belt that can hold more than just energy gels without slowing you down (although our belts have those, too!). That’s why Fitletic’s running belts are specifically designed with you in mind. After years on the market, our hydration belts have evolved to adjust to runners’ needs.

Why YOU Should Choose a Fitletic Hydration Belt

  • Fits your large smartphone and more
  • Quick-draw water bottle holsters
  • Water-resistant material
  • Reflective accents for safety

A Large Pouch for Your Smartphone and More

For example, cell phones have increased in size, so have the dimensions of our pouches. Accounting for their cases, each Fitletic hydration belt can accommodate the iPhone XR, Samsung Galaxy S9+, and other similar-sized phones. We believe that every runner should feel safe knowing that their phone is close by in case of an emergency—having access to music, podcasts, and audiobooks doesn’t hurt either! Quick-Draw Bottle Holsters

Quick-Draw Bottle Holsters

The most important element to a hydration belt is undoubtedly its water bottles. No one wants to deal with leakage or lose their containers because they aren’t properly secured. That’s why our water bottles and holsters completely eliminate leaking and are guaranteed to remain tightly fastened throughout your run, no matter the speed or distance. Fitletic hydration belts feature two eight-ounce water bottles with quick-flow race caps for single-handed use. BPA-free and dishwasher friendly, our water bottles are safe to use and easy to clean. Our quick-draw holsters sit on the side of the belt and include bungee cords that loop around the necks of the bottles for added stability.

Water-Resistant Material

Made of neoprene fabric—a synthetic rubber most commonly used to make scuba suits—Fitletic’s hydration belts are designed to keep your valuables safe from sweat and light rain. Push yourself during your workout in the humidity or an afternoon rain shower without the fear of causing water damage to your cell phone and credit cards.

Reflective Accents for Added Safety

We know that your commitment to training means you’re willing to put in miles at all hours of the day. Whether you’re hitting the pavement before dawn to ensure that you get a full workout in before heading into the office or trying to fit in a run before you call it a night, running in the dark can be a major safety hazard. The reflective accents on Fitletic’s hydration belts protect you when sharing the road with sleepy drivers and cyclists at odd hours.

What Makes Fitletic’s Hydration Belt Superior?

  • Silicone grippers
  • Integrated bib toggles
  • Soft dual-adjust waist
  • Dura-comfort technology

With all the hydration belts on the market, it’s hard to decide which features are crucial and which designs will work best for you. But what if we told you it’s possible to have all the essential elements that make up an incredible hydration belt, plus more? Fitletic has taken countless runners’ recommendations and spent years perfecting its current model. Long gone are the days of running belts worn around the waist—our cutting-edge design fastens around the hip bones in a way that eliminates bouncing altogether. In fact, Fitletic was the first company to release a hip-hugging hydration belt, ever. And no other running company packs all of the same features into one belt like we do. Still not convinced? Read on to discover Fitletic’s unique hydration belt elements that set us apart from the competition.

Silicone Grippers

You know those silicone strips around the ankles of your favorite pair of running leggings that are there so they don’t slide up when you’re moving? Imagine those silicone grippers lining your running belt so it doesn’t bounce around while you’re on your run. Now pinch yourself, because you’re not dreaming—Fitletic has incorporated this simple, yet brilliant design into all of its hydration belts so you can run far and wide, completely bounce free.

Integrated Bib Toggles

You’ve heard it time and time again—you’re going to race like you train, so you better train like you race. We recognize that our hydration belt isn’t just for the days leading up to your competition, it’s a big part of your race day too! That’s why we added easy-to-use bib toggles to attach your number tag. Just loop the cords through your bib holes and secure tightly—goodbye, fussy safety pins!

Ultra Soft Dual-Adjust Waist

We believe your running gear should never be working against you. That’s why our Ultra Soft Dual-Adjust Waist is made of a material that stretches with you as you move. Unlike other companies that use synthetic webbing in their belts, Fitletic was the first to come up with a hydration belt strap that is made of elastic webbing. Our belts are available in S/M and L/XL sizes with two regulators that allow you to adjust the belt further into a bigger or smaller size so it fits you just right.

Exclusive Dura-Comfort Technology

Thanks to our materials, shape, and construction, we can’t even think of how to improve our hydration belt to fit better. Fitletic’s belt design is the ultimate way to carry water, which adds a lot of weight, especially when the bottles are full. Dura-Comfort technology means we’ve found a way to make our belts both durable and comfortable—it’s simply the best way to wear hydration available today!

Grab Your Fitletic Hydration Belt and Get Running!

Whether you’re looking to increase your hydration during your runs or simply find a better running belt for your training needs, Fitletic’s hydration belts have everything you need when training for your next big race.

Hydra 16 Hydration Belt

Our Hydra 16 Hydration Belt takes the traditional style of a water-bottle-equipped running belt and elevates it with advanced features that distinguish Fitletic’s products. With an eight-ounce bottle and exterior energy gel loop on either hip, just strap on the Hydra 16 and you’ll be ready to go for miles—literally! If you’re looking for something with a little less weight, the Hydra 12 Hydration Belt holds two six-ounce bottles. “During the last few miles of a race it’s so critical to have hydration with me every step of the way. I’ve bonked on a race before and it’s the worst feeling ever. Thanks to Fitletic, I had some extra gels packed in my hydration belt that saved me so I could finish another race!” – Nathan Maxwell

 

Fully Loaded Water and Gel Belt

We get it, carrying water on your run isn’t always your top priority. Sometimes carrying other items—like energy gels—is more important. If replenishing your carbohydrate stores is a higher priority during your mileage, consider Fitletic’s Fully Loaded Water and Gel Belt. With a twelve-ounce water bottle on one side and four exterior energy gel loops on the other, this belt is perfect for those who need the gear to support their fuel intake. “Some ultraruns are easier than others. Having all my nutrition and hydration at my center of gravity allows my arms to help balance over precarious terrain. Knowing I have that extra gel or electrolyte easily accessible gives me peace of mind so I can concentrate on the task at hand.” – Rob Marens Fully Loaded Water and Gel Belt So, what are you waiting for? Grab one of Fitletic’s state-of-the-art hydration belts today!

running guide

10 Must Haves for a Fun First Marathon

10 Must Haves for a Fun First Marathon

Feat. image @thecookierunner (IG)

It’s official – marathon season is officially here! From your local race in the city you live, to the World Major’s going on all around us, wherever you look there is marathon fever! 26.2 miles is no walk in the park though, and the right preparation could be the difference between having the race of your life to a very uncomfortable jog.

10 Must Haves for a Fun First Marathon

  • Great Playlists
  • Effective training
  • Proper hydration
  • Healthy nutrition plan
  • Visualization
  • A support system
  • Practice
  • Protection from weather
  • Proper technology
    (more…)
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