How Do You Train For a Marathon?

July 9, 2015

Making the decision to run a marathon is a huge physical, mental, and time commitment. As race day approaches, you will find yourself spending more of your “free time” hitting the pavement than relaxing. Many marathoners will tell you that once you’ve crossed that first finish line, there is really no turning back.

So what exactly goes into training for a marathon? In short, a lot. Training for a marathon can be an all-consuming experience but one that is healthy, challenging and satisfying. If you are training for your first marathon, you probably have a lot of questions about the best way to reach your end goal. Take a look at some of the most common questions and answers surrounding marathon training.

What marathon training program should I use?

There are a variety of marathon training programs that take into account experience and overall goals. For example, one marathon runner may simply want to reach the finish line through a combination of walking and running, while another one may be aiming for a lofty (fast) finishing time. Pick a marathon training plan based on your desired end result. Some popular marathon training programs include:

How long does it take to train for a marathon?

Marathon training programs range from 14 to 30 weeks. A first-time marathoner should aim for 16 to 20 weeks of training. It may seem like a LONGER training program is smarter for first-timers, but overtraining can actually hurt chances at optimal performance. Expert marathon trainer Jenny Hadfield recommends planning on a 20-week marathon training schedule to allow for the flexibility to move long runs around or recover from illness or go on vacation.

How many days/miles per week should I be running?

In general, beginning marathoners should work up to running 35 miles per week split between about 5 days, with one day being the infamous “long run” that is anywhere from 10 to 22 miles. Those who are more experienced marathon runners and want to improve their finishing time should aim for 40 to 55 miles per week, with at least one long run and one day off.

What sort of diet should marathoners eat?

Runners need plenty of healthy carbs in order to fuel themselves the way needed to perform at their highest level. Both men and women require between 2000 – 2500 calories every day, and when you are training for marathon you should consume an additional 100 calories for every mile you run. So on the days that you run a 20-mile long run, you should basically be doubling your caloric intake.

What else can I expect during marathon training?

The time you spend training for your marathon is going to dip into the rest of your life and WILL impact your family and free time. It could even impact your work. Your house will probably be messier than you normally keep it. You will probably turn down some weekend dinner invitations because you have to wake up before the sun to get your long run completed. Remember that the feeling of accomplishment will outweigh anything you might have missed during your training.

Where else can I find marathon training resources?

The actual running portion of marathon training is just one part of the bigger picture. To reach your marathon goal, you will need to come up with a routine that works best for you that includes sleep and diet. To read more about all things marathon, check out some of these trusted resources: