Training for a marathon is a bucket list item for many people, but it can be a daunting goal to undertake. Simply finishing a marathon requires a high level of aerobic fitness and endurance. There are plenty of programs out there that can help you get from your couch to the finish line of a 5k, but is it possible for someone that has never run before to successfully complete a marathon?
Find a Training Program
It might be hard to believe, but many healthy people could train for a marathon in as little as 6 months. Most training programs are broken down into segments: couch to 5k, 5k to 10k, 10k to half marathon, and half marathon to full marathon. Each of these training segments will build on your previous accomplishments, making it easy to progress to a harder runs each week. If you committed to each of these programs, you could be ready to run a marathon in as little as 24 weeks.
Throughout your training program, you will slowly increase your mileage each week. It is important to note that you should not try to do too much too quickly. You should increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week.
Keep to a Consistent Schedule
While it is important to run several times each week when training for a marathon, it is equally as important to make sure you have rest days to let your muscles recover during workouts. Most programs will have you running 3-5 times each week. You will do a few shorter runs spread throughout the week and a longer run once per week. Depending on your level of endurance, you might choose to do a longer run every 10 days instead of each week.
The important thing here is consistency. Training for a marathon is not something that can be put off until the last minute. You will need to start slow and slowly build up your stamina. This will make the training process more pleasant and help to prevent injuries.
Run a Few Shorter Races
Like with anything in life, you will get better at running races the more you do it. Before you attempt your first official marathon, you should take part in several shorter races. The crowds, the adrenaline, and the atmosphere can make running an official race a completely different experience than your practice runs. If you break your training into 4 segments, you should try to run a race every 6 weeks, progressing from a 5k to a 10k to a half marathon and finally to your goal: a full marathon.
Different races will have different vibes. Some people like quieter races through country roads and others love the chaos of a crowded urban environment. By trying out a few shorter races (5ks, 10ks, or half marathons) you will be able to see what type of race environment you thrive on. When it comes time to sign up for the big race, you should try to sign up for a marathon that is similar to your favorite short race.
Learn to Pace Yourself
One of the biggest things that new runners struggle with is maintaining a constant pace. Most inexperienced or recreational runners will find that their pace drops towards the end of their long runs. If you are getting tired and slowing down towards the end of your race, you should try to slow down your pace by 15-30 seconds per mile. If you are too tired, you will struggle to finish the run and you will not enjoy the experience.
Fortunately, it can be fairly straightforward to determine your goal pace for an upcoming marathon. You can use your half marathon pace as a guideline. Make sure that you are running your half marathons at a consistent pace. If you are slowing down during the race or exhausted at the end, you should try to start your next long run at a slower pace. Shorter runs can be done more quickly to help build endurance, but you should practice running at your marathon pace for your long runs.
Keep an Eye on Your Diet
While it is important to stick to a training program, it is equally as important to eat a healthy, high protein diet and stay hydrated before and after your runs. When you are training at a high level, it is important to keep your body properly fueled so that you are ready to go for your next workout. Check out our other blog posts to learn more about high protein snacks that you can incorporate into your meal plan.