Running a marathon may be the most challenging experience the human body can face in the fitness world. It has been compared to boxing 10-12 rounds. Each sport is going to have different factors each with unique levels of exhaustion, but few things compare to the stamina and specific plan for running a marathon.

Training for a marathon requires a few pre-requisites. Before you are going to get into the “law school” or “physical therapy school” of actually training for a marathon, make sure you meet these criteria:

You have been running steady for a year

  1. You average 30+ miles per week
  2. You are not facing chronic injuries common to runners that could cut your training short or cause major problems for your body in the future

If you can honesty say you have been running long enough, log enough miles per week, and don’t face any major injury risk, then you are ready to start training for a marathon. If you are training for your first marathon, your training will be less intense than a runner who wants to better their Boston Marathon time from previous years. Chances are, if you have competed in a Boston Marathon in the past, you are not looking for advice on how to train for a marathon.

Let’s focus on first time marathon runners:

Start With Half-Marathons: If you average 20-30 miles a week, a half-marathon is a necessary beginning. Running has always been a baby-step process. Nobody gets in shape fast enough to go from nothing-to-marathon in 4 months. Maybe you’ve run some 5Ks or 10Ks and you did great. Progress to a half-marathon. Get 2-3 under your belt before you begin training for a full marathon.

Warm Up: You don’t have to stretch your muscles before you begin running, but you should warm up. Try some hip-high leg lifts and lunges to get your muscles ready for the upcoming run. Always stretch after a run when your muscles are nice and warm. As you progress to longer runs, do more stretching to counter tightness and lack of flexibility, and also to help prevent injury.

Find Your Climate: Look ahead to what type of weather you will be in the middle of as you run your marathon. Try to train in similar temperatures and altitude.

Run, Run, Run: It’s imperative that you get your 30 hours (minimum) per week. As you begin, your weekly mileage can be in the 20-30 range. Build up your runs until you are getting 35-45 each week. For long runs start at 8 miles and peak at 20.

Slow To Fast Tempo: When you run 7-10 miles, try the slow to fast tempo method to prep your body for a marathon. Jog the first mile or two, then run at a moderate to somewhat quick pace for 2-5 miles. As you finish your day’s run, during the last 4 miles, try to make each mile a little quicker than the previous one. The final mile should be very close to the pace you will run in the marathon. This is a great way to train for a marathon, because you’ll take your body through all the paces you will experience in the race.

Rest: Running is tough on the body. Give yourself plenty of rest days (2-3 per week) and feel free to ice any sore or inflamed areas. If pain persists, see your doctor.

Know what you are getting into when you decide to train for a marathon. Allow for plenty of time for runs, and surround yourself with a good support group of family or friends.