By Kelsey Allen
Running 26.2 miles is quite an accomplishment and isn’t a goal you can reach with just a few days’ preparation. Training, nutrition, equipment and clothing, stress and time management, and motivation are all a huge part of getting your body and your mind ready. The following list offers plenty of tips, tools, and resources to ensure you will make it to race day feeling ready to run without putting your health in danger.
With so many ways you can train for a marathon, you should select the technique that works best for your body and personality. This list offers suggestions to get you started.
- What’s the Best Way to Train for a Marathon?. This helpful and informative article provides all the basics to help you decide on the right training program for you.
- Yasso 800s. In order to judge how fast you will run your marathon, or just to give yourself an idea of how close you are to your goal time, use this mathematical equation based on how fast you run your 800s.
- The Less-Is-More Marathon Plan. Check out this proven plan that only allows three running days a week but increases speed, endurance, and efficiency.
- Active Trainer. Get a training plan, use the free online log for your runs, and even get a personal coach with this online trainer.
- The Marathon. This article offers great tips on choosing a training technique and offers four training schedules for the beginner, intermediate, advanced, and competitive.
- Lab Report: The Marathon Plan. Take these suggestions for ways to improve your training plan and ensure you are in top shape on the big day.
- Marathon Training Program. This program offers two stages of training starting with 19 weeks of build-up and finishing with a 17-week schedule that completes the week before your marathon.
- Marathon & Beyond: Sports Science Research. This article offers a scientific look at how various aspects such as genetics and nutrition affect running performance and offer a scientific approach to training that may improve your marathon performance.
While nutrition is important for anyone, if you are going through the rigorous training for a marathon, you need to be sure to follow these tips for a healthy and safe way to eat.
- Hydration. Staying hydrated while training and during the marathon is extremely important. Be sure you are hydrated before, during, and after your runs to maintain energy, regulate body temperature, and reduce the stress of running on your body. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink–by then it is too late.
- Balance. Runners should maintain a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats for the best nutrition to keep their bodies healthy.
- Energy food. During longer runs of 10 miles or more, replenish your lost energy with energy foods that are easy to carry with you such as energy bars and gels.
- Iron. Distance running takes lots of iron from your body, so be sure to eat plenty of foods with iron such as red meat and spinach. Women should be very careful they they are replenishing their iron and may benefit from an iron supplement.
- Don’t eat these. Limit foods high in unhealthy fats and fried foods. Not only are these foods not healthy to eat, they won’t give you the necessary energy and nutrients your body needs during training.
- Before runs. A light snack full of carbohydrates prior to a run keeps your energy up and gives your body the fuel it needs. Have a whole-wheat bagel, banana, or an apple.
- Sports drinks. For runs over 60 minutes, have a sports drink along with water to replenish your body of what you are losing during the run.
- Caffeine. Studies have shown that for distance running, caffeine can enhance your performance. About 300 milligrams prior to your race should be plenty to get any benefits.
- Carb-loading. Eat lots of carbs just prior to a hard workout, then follow your workout with more carbs as soon as possible to replenish your energy. Carbs replace the glycogen loss in your muscles and boost performance. Overall, while training, try to keep your carb intake to around 65% of your calories.
- Fueling. When training or on the day of the marathon, you will need to fuel your body to keep it functioning well.
Stress and Time Management
Learn to manage both the stress and the time commitment of training for a marathon with these resources.
- Form a routine. Getting into a routine that provides you time for both what you must accomplish as well as your training schedule will allow you to feel like you aren’t neglecting anything.
- Be flexible. Control what you can, but when those things pop up that you can’t control, like injury or weather, learn to adjust as necessary.
- Performance Page: Pre-Marathon Miscues. This article outlines mistakes you should avoid prior to the race so that you are mentally fit for completing the marathon.
- Top 10 Stress Relievers: The Best Ways to Feel Better. Use these tips to take the stress out of your life. If you are training for a marathon, you’ve already accomplished one–exercise.
- Time Management: How to run a marathon and still have time for sex. This article does an excellent job of both mapping out a training program that doesn’t rule your life and also describing why making time for the rest of life is important.
Tips for Training
Training isn’t just about the running. These tips will teach you how to take care of yourself so you are prepared both physically and mentally for the actual marathon.
- Stretch. Stretching helps prevent injuries, so don’t forget to stretch both before and after each of your runs.
- Yoga. Practicing yoga is an excellent cross-training exercise for runners as it improved flexibility, strength, and mental focus.
- Practice hills. Hill training will boost your power. It also benefits your training by teaching your body to run fast (during the downhills) while your body is feeling tired.
- Cross train. You don’t have to run every day to train for a marathon. Participate in other activities such as swimming, cycling, walking, or training machines and you will reduce your chance of burnout, prevent injury, and build other muscles running doesn’t work out.
- Rest day. At least one day a week, don’t do any exercise. The day before your long run is an excellent day for rest so you are ready for the tough upcoming work-out.
- Train in similar clothing. If you train in similar clothing to what you’ll be wearing during the marathon, you will feel more comfortable during the race and not have any unexpected issues with rubbing or weight of the clothes.
- Train the same time of day. Some runners enjoy running at the same time of day so that their training experience is as similar as possible.
- Run the marathon location prior to the race. If you have the opportunity to run the marathon course prior to the race, you can get a feel for the lay of the land with much less pressure.
- Short to long races. While training, run smaller races and gradually increase so that you are running races incrementally longer as you approach the full 26.2 miles.
- Listen to your body. If it hurts stop or rest. Don’t push yourself too hard or you will injure yourself and you may miss out on the marathon all together.
Tips for Race Day
From knowing the race course to dealing with the inevitable pain, follow these tips to help you succeed on the big day.
- Sleep. Be sure to get a good night’s rest the night before the race. If you are having a hard time drifting off with all the excitement going on, follow these tips.
- Ibuprofen. Take some ibuprofen before leaving for the race to counteract any aches and pains you may get during the run.
- Know where. Know where the start line is located so that you are not wandering around lost when everyone is running.
- Arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to park and get to the starting line without worrying you’ll be late. Chances are traffic will be heavy the morning of the marathon. Arriving early also allows you to get there and center yourself and do your warm-up before starting.
- Know the course. Be familiar with the race map before you run so that there are no surprises along the way.
- Hills. Be aware of hilly areas and pace yourself so that you are not exerting yourself too much prior to hitting the hills.
- Water. Don’t go past any chance for water. Be sure to stop for water breaks so you can keep hydrated.
- Layers. Start out wearing layers. The temperature at the beginning of the race may be cooler first thing, and your body will warm up as you run. Make sure you can keep your body temperature regulated with layers.
- Timing chip. If you plan to run in several races and want official times, rather than renting the timing chip each time, buy your own.
- Walk. Take walk breaks if necessary, especially at the beginning of the race, so you will have the strength and energy to finish the race you planned.
- Pain. Pain comes and goes during the race. Don’t focus on the pain, instead, repeat a mantra, turn on your iPod, or practice guided imagery to shift your focus.
Whether high tech like a GPS watch or low tech like duct tape for blisters, this list of equipment will help you train for your big day and help you stay healthy and safe.
- Heart rate monitor. Monitor your fitness progress, ensure you aren’t over-training, and keep to your goals with a heart rate monitor.
- Pedometer. Keep track of how far you run, how long it takes you, and how many calories you burn with a pedometer.
- iPod. Keep yourself entertained and motivated with music, podcasts, or whatever works to keep you running.
- iPod armband. Don’t forget this piece of equipment to keep your iPod in place and the wires under control.
- Running watch. For a relatively inexpensive price, you can get a running watch that includes a stopwatch, lap counter, and a history of your runs to help you train with more accuracy.
- Light. If you will be doing any night running, a light like this one will keep you safe and ensure drivers see you.
- Shoe wallet . Chances are good you will need to leave your house or car when you go for a run. Get a shoe wallet to keep your key secure.
- RoadID. Keep all your emergency contact information on you with this ID strap that can go on your ankle, wrist, or shoe.
- Sunscreen. No matter what season, always apply sunscreen before going on your run to keep your skin healthy.
- Sunglasses. If you are running in the daytime, invest in a good quality pair of sunglasses to keep your eyes protected.
- GPS watch. Invest in one of these watches to calculate speed, distance, pace, and calorie consumption as well as save past run history, set goals, and more.
- Duct tape. If your running is rubbing blisters on your feet, try using duct tape to protect them and ease the pain.
- Anti-chafe. Use an anti-chafe stick to help prevent chafing anywhere hot spots occur.
While looking good is probably not too high on your list, clothing is still an important part of running. You need to be comfortable and safe, so read this list for great ideas on what to wear.
- Shoes. Probably the single-most important piece of clothing or equipment you will have for running is your shoes. Choose them carefully and don’t scrimp when you get to the cash register.
- Socks. Wearing good quality running socks is important to keep your feet in good shape, provide arch support, guard against blisters, and wick away moisture.
- Shorts. Find shorts made for runners that feature comfort, range of motion, back flap for energy food or gels, brief liner, and breathability.
- Skort. The latest trend for running women is to don a skort for more comfort and range of motion. Be sure to get one that wicks away moisture to help keep you dry.
- Tops. Freedom of movement, moisture wicking, breathability, and maybe a reflective tape or logo are all great qualities to look for when buying a running top.
- Reflective clothing. Running early in the morning or at night, you will want to be seen. Wear some reflective clothing to boost your visibility.
- Gloves. Frequently, runners experience cold hands as the blood leaves their extremities during a long run. Put on a pair of gloves to keep your hands warm–summer or winter.
- Hat. Whether you are keeping cool on a hot day or staying warm on a cold one, be sure to wear a hat to help maintain your body temperature.
- Sweat bands. Training for a marathon will likely bring on a sweat. Keep your face and hands dry with sweat bands.
- BondiBand. Be sure you can safely see where you are going by keeping your hair back with this handy headband.
The energy and time commitment of training for a marathon can eventually get you down. Guard against any loss in motivation with these safeguards in place.
- Running group. Join a running group to keep yourself on a schedule and find support from a whole group of runners with similar goals to yours.
- Running partner. Sometimes it is easier to let yourself down than someone else. Take advantage of this by having a running partner so you can keep each other motivated to keep going.
- Support network. Create a supportive group of family and friends who are behind you while you train for the marathon. They will be there to share both the lows and the highs.
- Watch running movies. On a rest day, instead of your usual running, watch a running movie to keep your motivation high.
- Find a coach. Consider having a coach not only to help you plan your training program, but to help keep you motivated and on track.
- Use a planner. If you’ve got a physical plan of your workouts, it is easier to see what has to be done right before your eyes.
- Don’t worry about backsliding. If you have a bad week or two, don’t throw in the towel just because you had a little misstep. Instead, focus on getting back into the groove and picking up where you left off.
- It won’t always be easy. Use this as a reminder when training gets difficult so you realize that if running a marathon was an easy task, everyone would do it.
- Find Your Running Motivation. This is a good article for the beginning runner that will help you keep going when you feel like you should stop.
- 10 Ideas to Get You Exercising. If you feel like you’ve hit a wall, take some of these suggestions and get back on track.
There’s nothing like hearing from others to motivate your own running and ensure you are staying on track with a healthy program. Read these inspirational and entertaining blogs from other marathon runners.
- A Passion for Running. This 40 year-old marathoner blogs about his experiences and accomplishments with both running and life.
- The Running Chick with the Orange Hat. Find out about this runner’s marathon training, her personal bests, race reports, and the ups and downs of running.
- Feet Meets Street. This blogger chronicles his marathons, his training, and various random–and frequently humorous–observations on life.
- Runner’s Lounge. Written by Amy and Tom, two people with a passion for all things running, this blog not only provides valuable information for runners, but also an online community for those who share their passion.
- The Internal Pigdog. Explaining the name of his blog, Brian Morrissey writes, "The internal pigdog is what makes people not want to go on….This blog is about fighting the pigdog." Don’t miss this blog if you are needing some motivation to keep moving.
- Run Bulldog Run. Follow the amazing accomplishments of Steve Speirs on his blog where he documents the details of his runs.
- Running Towards Fitness. This sub-four hour marathoner started out 70 pounds overweight. The blog hasn’t been active for a while, but the motivation and accomplishments of this runner are worth reading.
- Marathon Mommies. This collaborative blog of marathon and half-marathon moms will keep you informed and motivated with your own running goals.
- Club Pretty. These three women train for their first half-marathon together and document their progress through the big day. The blog is no longer active but a great resource for beginners looking for motivation.
- 26.2 Quest. Follow along as this runner went from having 90 extra pounds to running a half-marathon to his current efforts to run his first marathon.
Online Tools and Resources
From tools to help you map your run to music that matches your running pace to guides with tons of help for marathoners, these online resources will help you run a safe and healthy marathon.
- BreakingtheTape.com. This resource for runners includes news, blogs, a forum, and links to other running sites.
- JogTunes. Support indie artists and get great running music that matches your pace at this site.
- 25 Celebrities Who’ve Run a Marathon. Just for fun, take a look at what kind of company you keep as a marathon runner.
- MarathonGuide.com. Get press releases, find out about upcoming marathons, read articles, and get great tips on gear and training at this site.
- Distance Running Tips. This site, put together by a long-time runner and his coach with over 30 years of experience, you will find tips, tools, a personalized coach, running news, and more.
- Smart Coach. This tools from Runner’s World allows you to enter information about your past runs and how you would like to start training to receive a training program that is individualized to your ability and goals.
- MapMyRun. Use this tool to create a map of your runs, find a run, or log your training information.
- Run the Nation. This site offers several tools to help with your running including a body fat calculator, race pace calculator, workout calorie counter, and more.
- RunningAHEAD. With this tool, you can log and track your runs, and then analyze them to make sure you are staying on track with your goals.
- Runworks Running Calculator. Enter the data from your last run into this calculator to find your level of fitness and help predict how you will do in longer races.
- Runbayou: VDOT Calculator. Similar to the previous calculator, this one finds your level of fitness based on your last race. This calculator also provides paces for five different running zones to help you create the perfect training routine.
- Runningmap.com. Use this tool to map your runs, plan for future runs, and even share your running maps with others.
- Running4Women.com. This site offers lots of tools for women to use when training including a body mass index calculator, heart rate monitor, and a pace calculator.