Marathon training for beginners


Signing up for your first ever marathon is an exciting moment – but it can also feel a little daunting. Getting race fit will involve some big lifestyle changes and being prepared to make some sacrifices to reach your goal. Our beginner’s marathon training tips will help you understand everything you need to know about preparing for your first ever marathon.

Beginner’s marathon training tips

Before you lace up and stretch your legs for that first practice run, read our beginner’s marathon training tips to help you make the most of your preparation.

Disclaimers first While it’s always fantastic to sign up for marathons, it’s sensible for absolute beginners to think seriously about whether running a marathon is the right thing for them.

You might have a friend or colleague who’s encouraging you to join them on a marathon in a couple of months’ time. While it can be tempting to sign up to the next marathon that comes up, it’s also important to have an honest look at your fitness. If you rarely run, making the transition to a marathon in just a few months is a huge leap. While it’s technically possible, it’s generally best to give your body more time to adjust to the stress of training.

If you’ve never done long-distance running before, why not start with a local 5k race near your home to get a feel if long distance running is for you, and then build up from there? It’s also a sensible idea to talk to your GP about your marathon-running plans. They’ll be able to give you a quick check-up and advise you on the best approach for you.

Choose a beginner marathon training plan

While more experienced marathon runners often have their eyes set on a specific race time, beginners should be training to simply complete the race. We’ve put together a beginner marathon training plan which is available here.

Your typical training plan will last from 16 to 20 weeks, depending on your prior level of fitness, personal commitments and running experience. Over the course of four to five months, you’ll gradually ramp up the intensity, distance and speed at which you run, helping your body adapt to the physical requirements of the marathon and getting you fit in the run-up to race day.

Training plans don’t just include running sessions – you’ll also have plenty of rest days to help your body recover from the changes you’ll be putting it through. There will also be other kind of exercises involved in your training to help with all-round fitness and conditioning.

Choose equipment wisely

Besides the 26.2 miles of the marathon itself, you’ll be covering huge amounts of ground in your training too. You’ll therefore seriously benefit from good quality equipment which is designed for long-distance running. The difference between, say, a pair of basic training shoes and a pair of purpose-designed road running shoes is enormous, and can have a big impact on the quality of your training and your risk of injuries.

If you’ve never had your running style analysed before, visit a running store where trained staff can analyse your gait and recommend shoes designed to reduce the strain on your feet and joints. It’s also worth investing in running clothing and other accessories for a more comfortable run.

Get social and consider joining a club

There’s enormous value in running with other people – they can motivate you, give you tips and encourage you if you’re feeling tired or nervous about the marathon. If there’s a club near you, it’s definitely worth at least going along for one session to see if it’s for you. You might even make a new group of friends on the way!

Use technology to your advantage

Today, there are plenty of smartphone running apps which help you log runs, map your routes and get tips on every aspect of training. Try one out, and if it works for you, incorporate it into your training schedule. The great thing about running apps is they can be a big motivator, showing how you’ve improved over time, and helping you set goals and keep to them.

Think about your diet

Diet is a very important part of any beginner’s marathon training. You might have envisaged yourself eating mountains of pasta and other carb-heavy foods. While it’s true that you might eat more carbs in the final week or two before the race itself, you’ll mainly just be following a classic balanced diet, with a mix of all the major food groups on your plate. It’s also worth remembering that, to get the most out of your training, you may have to reduce your alcohol intake (if you drink).

A change in lifestyle

Signing up to run a marathon is a brave and exciting thing to do. While the final race itself is undoubtedly a highlight, marathon training is also about embracing a positive, fun lifestyle as you get race fit. By following our beginner’s marathon training tips, you’ll get the most out of the experience.