Marathon Training

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Essential guide: how to prepare for a marathon

It takes a lot of effort and commitment to complete a marathon. For most people, running to this level is a challenge that requires pushing oneself to the limit. Whatever might be the motivation, pushing oneself both emotionally and physically necessitates proper planning.

As with a lot of things in life, it’s crucial to prepare your body and yourself well when preparing for a marathon. Check out our best advice on getting ready for a marathon.

What is a marathon?

A marathon is a distance of 26 miles (385 yards) run on foot (42.2 kilometers). It originally came from the 490 BCE Greek Battle of Marathon. In addition to being an Olympic sport for both men and women, marathons are performed worldwide on various terrain types by athletes of varying ability levels. Athletes must undergo a rigorous training regimen to build stamina and discover their physical issues.

The marathon is an occasion that many runners, from absolute beginners to professional athletes, make their way to. Training is essential to completing the 26.2 miles of a marathon’s challenging course, and it is much more critical for those who want to finish in a time they consider a decent one. 

Marathon Nyc
Source: Depositphotos.com

What is the average marathon time for a beginner?

A beginner should concentrate on finishing the race rather than on a specific time. Do not feel obligated to maintain the pace of Paula Radcliffe or Mo Farah; instead, stick to a training schedule that increases your running mileage and general fitness level in preparation for a marathon. An average beginner’s marathon time for men and women is approximately 4:30 and 4:45, respectively.

What are the best marathon times?

A “good” marathon time for both sexes and ages is 3:48:20. Breaking it down by gender, a good marathon time for men is 3:34:56, and a good marathon time for women is 4:08:09.

What should I wear for a marathon?

Running a marathon demands commitment, perseverance, and enormous stamina. But the appropriate attire is also necessary! What kind of weather is it today? What should your body be capable of? Before putting on your gym attire and heading out the door, you must be aware of all this.

Most marathoners choose to run in athletic shorts and loose-fitting technical shirts during the hot summer months. Wearing anything that can trap heat or moisture in your body is not a good idea, even though you should remain hydrated with sports drinks or water.

Your core temperature will rise in a heated environment, even when wearing clothes. Your body temperature may rise while you run while wearing clothing, which may cause you to move more slowly and hurt your general health.

Short shorts that suit the legs are best for marathon training because they let you move freely and let your legs take the impact of each running stride. Due to their ability to keep you cool and protect your skin in hot weather, running pants are also trendy. Lastly, wearing a running helmet is advised, especially if you’re jogging into the sun and don’t want sweat dripping in your eyes.

Marathon Clothing
Source: Depositphotos.com

What to wear in a cold climate

It takes some planning and consideration to run in cold weather, but it’s not impossible. Ensure your foundation layer is at ease. Many marathon runners layer up by donning a base layer first, then a thin layer. Despite the cold, running while sweating increases the chance of developing hypothermia. The idea is to wear clothing that absorbs sweat from the body and keeps you dry.

What to wear in the rainy season

You must have rain gear if you intend to run during the rainy season. A waterproof shell jacket and a pair of wide, stretchy pants should make up your rain gear. A hood inside your jacket is necessary. Bring a light-colored fleece vest or a thick, long-sleeved shirt and slacks with you for enhanced warmth and protection.

What should I bring to a marathon?

Your gear bag should have the necessities for different situations. Think of it as Dora the Explorer’s backpack. 

Most importantly, your post-run clothing and a pair of shoes are the two things you must bring. Nothing feels better than removing your worn-out shoes’ laces and socks after running 26.2 kilometers.

There should also be a selection of pre-and post-race snacks in your kit bag. Bring something you can comfortably carry into the start corrals with you for a quick energy boost and something to hold you over until you cross the finish line and can sit down.

Here is your list for your gear bag:

  • Food and water for the race
  • Post-race attire
  • Unworn underwear
  • Sock compression
  • After-race treat
  • Deodorant or body wipes
  • Cellular charger
  • ID, Ventra, credit cards, and health insurance cards

How many weeks does it take to prepare for a marathon?

Most athletes train for a marathon for 16 to 20 weeks. Following a tight training schedule that gradually raises the stakes and strengthens your fitness and stamina is crucial because your muscles and mind must be trained for the effort ahead as you prepare for the race. The training schedule must also provide you with at least three rest days each week to have adequate time to recover and mend.

Although 16–20 weeks is the normal rule of thumb, some athletes train for only 12 weeks, while others spend 24 weeks or longer. Finally, it comes down to creating an appropriate training schedule for you.

What is a good marathon training plan?

If you’re a novice to marathon running, you must get as much training as possible. If you’ve never run a marathon before, start training at least six months in advance if you have no prior experience. Every week, strive to run 20–24 kilometers (12–15 miles). Preparation for a marathon is critical because your body requires time to adjust to the physical pressure. Over time, it will endure throughout training and the race. The best long-distance marathon-training program should include the following elements:

  • Three runs every week.
  • Two days of cross-training are required (biking, hiking, or swimming).
  • Two resting days
  • Runs—a combination of long, medium, and short runs 
  • Choose the days that work best for you.

What’s the optimal marathon taper length?

The shortest taper for a marathon should generally take no fewer than 7 to 10 days, and the longest should last roughly three weeks. Most runners reduce their training progressively in the two weeks running up to race day.

How long should I run before a marathon?

In the end, the response differs based on the runner. The foundation of marathon preparation is long runs, and most marathon training regimens aim to increase your long run mileage each week progressively.

About four weeks before race day, when mileage peaks, the longest run before a marathon often occurs. Regardless of your running pace, this long run must last between three and five hours and cover at least 16 kilometers. Unless you are pursuing a specific high mileage training plan or are an expert runner, long runs more than 20 miles are typically unnecessary.

How many miles a week do I need to run to train for a marathon?

Running at least 25 kilometers per week is required to prepare for a marathon. When training for a marathon, you should run approximately 40–50 miles weekly if you want to finish in 4 hours or less. 

What is a good cadence for a marathon?

Simply put, cadence is the number of steps you take every minute. Your cadence is the number of steps you complete (on both legs) in one minute.

Your cadence can be determined by counting the number of times both feet strike the floor in one minute. It is simpler to count the number of steps one foot takes in one minute and then double that number to determine cadence. Since your running cadence might vary significantly based on speed, we cannot focus on a single statistic (it is constantly changing based on speed).

Your cadence could be 165 steps per minute if you’re running at a comfortable rate. In contrast, if you sprint or perform a series of quick repeats, your cadence may be 220 steps per minute! Clearly, we must analyze our cadence at the appropriate time if we are to obtain a significant number.

Your easy running pace is the basis for calculating your ideal step rate because running cadence is measured during an easy run and depends on speed. Instead of fanatically swearing adherence to 180 steps per minute, we’re going to adopt a more cautious approach:

  • Your cadence should be at least 160 steps per minute if your easy pace is less than 10 minutes per mile.
  • Your cadence should be 170 steps or more per minute if your easy pace exceeds 10 minutes per mile.
Marathon Boston
Source: Depositphotos.com

How many times a week should I run to train for a marathon

Running more is the best strategy to improve your running up to a point. Stress and rest are balanced by running. You won’t get fit if you run insufficiently. You get hurt when you run too much. This raises the issue, “How often should I run during the week?”

There isn’t a secret formula for how many days a week you should run, but some general rules might help you decide what’s best for you. Being consistent in your running is crucial to improving because every time you hit the road or trail, your body undergoes changes that make you a more effective and powerful runner, enabling you to run farther and faster.

However, rest is necessary for these changes to occur at their best. Your body will eventually deteriorate if you don’t give it time to recuperate from the pressure and stress running puts on it. Moreover, while everyone requires healing, some people require it more urgently than others do.

What to eat before marathon?

Knowing what to eat before a marathon could make all the difference in your performance.

Why? Because if you consume food that your body is still absorbing, you risk damaging your stomach, developing GI problems, and depriving your body of much-needed fuel.

On the other hand, you might also give your body the nutrition it needs to run 26.2 miles, especially if the last 10 kilometers are depleting its glycogen reserves. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance when eating is difficult. However, avoid eating so much that your stomach is still working hard when you step across the starting line.

To avoid indigestion, weariness, or stomach pain while running, eat a low-fat, high-carb, low-fiber meal around three hours preceding the marathon. Eat light the day before the race and stick to your favorite foods on race day.

Foods to eat 

For breakfast before the race, choose bread or toast, a bagel, or a sports beverage. You can eat fruits, lean meat, starchy vegetables, pasta, and rice three days before the race. Ensure to drink between 500 to 700 ml of water to hydrate three hours before the event.

Food to avoid 

Foods that are deep-fried and have heavy saturated fatty acids like pastries, red meat, and sausages should be avoided. Avoid dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk on race day. 

You need to avoid these, especially if you have digestive issues. Due to its dehydrating effects, several marathon runners forgo their morning coffee. Eating too many fats could affect how well you run in a race since the body expends more energy processing fatty meals.

What to eat during marathon?

Energy bars and bananas are great for refueling with carbohydrates during a race. Continue running while taking a few bites. Maintain your fluid intake. When water lost through hard breathing and sweating is not adequately replaced by fluid intake, dehydration results. In a three-hour marathon, you might lose up to 3 to 5 kilograms of water weight.

To avoid dehydration in a race:

  • Before the race, drink additional 300-600 ml of fluid.
  • Replace fluid loss by consuming 150-250 ml of fluid regularly. While running, sip on a few pints of water.

Sports or isotonic drinks and plain water are sufficient fluids for short runs lasting less than 90 minutes. Avoid sugary drinks like sodas, fruit juice, and syrups if possible. Because of the high sugar content, they may cause stomach discomfort and prolong the emptying of the stomach.

What to eat after marathon?

Sports drinks can help you rehydrate after a marathon. Isotonic drinks are favored because they have salt and sugar concentrations similar to the human body. In the 24 hours after a race, please avoid alcohol because it encourages dehydration.

Drinking only when thirsty won’t meet all your hydration requirements. A few hours after the run, your urine should be nearly colorless as a visual indicator. Grab a food high in carbohydrates, such as a banana burger, red bean bun, energy bar, or banana with peanut butter, within an hour of a race or marathon.

Have a balanced supper with lean protein (fish, poultry), carbohydrates, and good fats within two to three hours after the marathon.

Extra tip

Even more essential than what you eat is what you don’t consume when training for a race. It’s critical to avoid items that could aggravate digestive issues when exercising for long periods, as this is a common occurrence. 

How to recover after a marathon?

Let me start by congratulating you. You recently finished a marathon. Even if the challenging task is finished, healing is still a crucial step to take.

Recovery from a marathon is similar to opening a box of chocolates since you rarely know what you’ll get. Numerous factors, like the race’s difficulty, weather, wellness, and training season, might impact your recovery. Although everyone is unique, there are a few post-marathon recovery techniques you may use to hasten your recovery, so you aren’t forced to spend the entire week limping and avoiding stairs.

Post-marathon recuperation recommendations

You can do certain things to help your body heal from a marathon and prepare for your next one. Every post-race recovery strategy should start with analyzing the runner’s overall performance in the race, keeping in mind that every race performance is unique to almost everybody.

Immediately after the marathon

Prioritize refueling and replenishing your fluids. Sometimes the last thing we feel like doing after a strenuous workout is eating or drinking, but doing so after a run is crucial for giving your body the nutrients it requires to rebuild muscle. 

Around 30 to 60 minutes upon finishing your race is the optimal time to eat and drink. A slice of whole grain bread with avocado or coconut oil is a good idea, and electrolytes should also be consumed. Later, follow this with a filling dinner.

Take a dip in an ice bath. Although the medical evidence on ice baths has changed over time, they are still relevant today. An ice bath is a fantastic approach to instantly reduce inflammation and promote marathon recovery, especially if you think it’s helping. 

To make the ice bath tolerable, put on a jacket and fetch a hot beverage. For 10 to 15 minutes, soak. If you cannot take an ice bath, consider using compression clothing and freezable wraps to speed up recovery after your race.

Roll and stretch. After your run or race, spend some time foam rolling and stretching your muscles, especially those that tend to be overly tense. Muscle lengthening and lactic acid breakdown can aid in recovery.

A week after the marathon

Be active. After a challenging marathon effort, some athletes do shakeout runs while others prefer to take a few days or weeks off. Moving around to get the blood flowing again and provide essential nutrients to the muscles is advisable. 

Furthermore, paying attention to the messages your body passes you at every stage of your training cycle is crucial. After roughly 10 days, typical post-marathon aches and pains should go away; if they persist over that point, you should consult a doctor.

Plan for the next race. Once you’ve healed, having a second race on the calendar will encourage you to resume your training program. 

Putting sleep first. Your body requires sleep to fully repair muscles and aid in your recovery after a particularly taxing exertion. While we sleep, growth hormone is secreted, which helps to develop and repair muscles and reduce inflammation. 

After two weeks

Change your training regimen. Continue your regular jogging routine, but reduce your aerobic endurance and effort by about half. Deep muscle tiredness is possible, primarily if you’ve raced hard. While rest, recovery, and light workouts may be difficult for a dedicated runner.

Maintain your health. It’s nice to feel the rush of the marathon. However, give your body enough time to recover. The off-season is called that for a reason: now is the time to focus on things like flexibility and injury prevention. If you’re experiencing niggles or overuse issues, consider reducing or replacing certain run days.

Join a club. Mentally healing from the competition can be as tricky as physically recovering from a marathon. If you ran the first race alone, meeting other runners at a nearby store or club could be a significant change to keep you inspired and interested. This is particularly true if your race did not go as planned—other runners can assist you in getting back on track.

Conclusion

The marathon is a long distance, and your training should reflect that. Variety in training is vital, as is having a training plan that particularly prepares you for the marathon. For most runners, going out the door and jogging at an easy and steady effort with reasonable regularity and consistency will get you ready. 

The most successful workout program is one that you can follow and enjoy. It is far preferable to run four to five times each week rather than six times one week and nothing the following. Nevertheless, this guide is all you need if you are starting your marathon training as a newbie.

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