How to Prepare for a Marathon: Best Practices for 26 Miles

Whatever your objectives, this is the right place for you if you're wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

As the fabled distance, the marathon is a target for many runners as well as an endurance test that necessitates careful planning. The sweet spot for most runners is somewhere between a time of two hours and change for elite runners and eight hours for walkers. Average races suggest that a marathon should be completed in fewer than four hours for men and four and a half hours for women. 

Whatever your objectives, being well-prepared is crucial to guaranteeing a positive experience and preventing harm. Running 26.2 miles is not healthy for our bodies, thus it is not a situation that allows for improvisation when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. You need to train frequently and do a range of exercises to get yourself mentally and physically ready for this distance. 

A marathon represents a personal challenge for many runners when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. You could wish to push yourself beyond your comfort zone or demonstrate your endurance. Maybe a friend persuaded you to do it. Perhaps your goals are to get healthy, lose weight, or promote a good cause.

Whatever your motivation, keep it close to your heart and keep it in mind throughout the upcoming months. Keeping your motivation high can allow you to leave the house even when your legs are tired or the weather is bad when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

How Long Will the Marathon Take?

how to prepare for a marathon

It can take a lot of time to train for a marathon, but it’s impossible to predict how long it will actually take to complete one. However, generally speaking, the length of a marathon (or any long run) relies on a number of different factors:

  • Distance
  • Course adversity
  • Crowded running course
  • Weather circumstances
  • Your hydration and diet
  • Your level of running
  • Your typical speed

Although a marathon’s official length is 42 km (26 miles), most races provide a variety of distances to accommodate runners of all abilities when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

A 3.1-mile (5 km) event. This race is a great one to start with. With the proper amount of preparation, even complete beginners can be prepared to compete in a few months over a short distance. If you’re unfamiliar with the 5 km race, you might be curious about how long it takes to cover this distance. Anything under 25 minutes is considered an excellent finishing time by many runners. A 5k may often be completed by a walker in 45 to 60 minutes. 

A 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) event. If you have some prior running experience, you might wish to try the 10-kilometer marathon. But how long does it take to complete a race of this length? The average runner may complete it in 60–70 minutes with a few months of consistent training, while the exact running time cannot be predicted. If you jog or move quickly while walking, you might be able to do it in 70 to 80 minutes when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. 

A half marathon (13.1 miles or 21 kilometers). Professional runners can complete a half marathon in just over an hour, but slower runners or walkers may need over three hours.

42-kilometer (or 26.2-mile) marathons. For elite athletes, a marathon may take more than two hours to complete; for slower runners or walkers, it may take six or more hours when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

You should speak with your doctor before learning more about marathon training. If you get the go-ahead, think about using a training schedule to direct you on your trip. Remember that maintaining a healthy diet is just as important as exercising, so make a plan to do both.

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Developing a Training Program

how to prepare for a marathon

Complete marathon preparation is crucial, particularly if you’re a newbie. If you haven’t run many marathons, you should start training six months before the big event when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Set a weekly distance goal of 20–24 km (12–15 miles). It’s important to train for a marathon because your body needs time to physically adjust to the beating it will receive during both the race and the training. 

The best training program for a complete marathon should include:

  • Three weekly runs
  • Two days of cross-training, including biking, swimming, and hiking
  • Two days of rest
  • There should be a mix of short, rapid runs, medium runs, and long runs during the running.
  • Choose the days you want, but make sure there is a day of relaxation after each lengthy run.

Know your limitations. You are much more likely to get hurt running a marathon 26.2 kilometers than you are jogging around the neighborhood every day. Be sure to speak with your doctor before beginning any fitness regimen when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Begin early: Before beginning a marathon training program, it is generally advised that aspiring marathoners run constant base mileage for at least a year.

Don’t undervalue the significance of consistently running at least 20 to 30 miles a week before committing to training for a marathon because boosting weekly mileage too soon or too quickly is one of the most prevalent causes of injury when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Begin modestly: It’s a great idea to train physically and mentally for your first marathon by participating in a few shorter races, such as 5Ks, 10Ks, or even half marathons.

There are many different types of marathons, from low-key, low-key events on country roads to spectator-lined, tens of thousands-strong metropolis races. Run a few shorter events, support a buddy in their race, or volunteer at marathons to help you become accustomed to the race atmosphere and determine your preference when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

In contrast to choosing a “destination” event, choosing a local marathon can provide you with a “home field advantage” by allowing you to run on familiar roads. This can help you stay motivated in the months building up to race day.

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The Main Components

how to prepare for a marathon

The main components of marathon preparation are: 

Base mileage. Over time, increase your weekly mileage by jogging three to five times per week.

Long Runs. Run for a long time every 7–10 days to help your body become used to big distances.

Speed work. To improve your cardiac capacity, practice interval training, and tempo runs.

Recuperation and rest. Resting enough helps keep the body and mind healthy.

Base Mileage

how to prepare for a marathon

Most training programs for marathons last 12 to 20 weeks. Aim to increase your weekly mileage to 50 miles for first-time marathoners over the four months preceding race day when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

It’s adequate to run three to five times every week. Most of these runs ought to be completed at a leisurely pace. Running should be done at a relaxed pace that allows for discussion.

Never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% from week to week when creating a base mileage.

Long Runs

how to prepare for a marathon

The following phase is to prepare for a weekly long run. The long run should be extended by one or two miles each week by doing this once every seven to ten days when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Scale it back by a few kilometers every three weeks to avoid overworking your body and endangering damage. For instance, you might run 12 miles one weekend, 13 miles the next, 14 miles the following, 12 miles once again, and then 15 miles the following weekend.

These runs should be completed at a significantly slower speed than usual to help you gain confidence, prepare your body for longer distances, and learn how to use fat as fuel when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Maximum distance: A 20-mile long run is typically the high point of most marathon training programs. So where do the final six kilometers on race day come from? With the right training, your body will benefit from being in top physical condition, from the rest you provide throughout the tapering period, and from the excitement and encouragement of the crowd on race day when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

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Speed Work

how to prepare for a marathon

You can include speed practice as an optional component in your training plan. Your aerobic capacity may grow, and your easy runs may feel just that—easy! The two most common types of speed practice are intervals and tempo runs when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Intervals are a series of times over a predetermined, brief distance that is run at a pace that is significantly faster than usual, with recovery jogs in between. For instance, you could run 4 X 1-mile repeats at a fast pace, followed by 5 minutes of slow jogging or even walking.

Depending on where you are in your training, tempo runs are longer than intervals and typically range from 4 to 10 miles in length when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. They are run at a hard but manageable pace. This type of exercise helps your body and mind to persevere through difficult activities for an extended period of time.

Always start and end any speed session with a few easy miles to give your body a chance to warm up and cool down when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Rest and Recuperation

how to prepare for a marathon

Run-free days prohibit running. They aid in preventing mental exhaustion and allow your muscles to recover from strenuous workouts. Injury is the number one nemesis of all would-be marathon runners, and the best defense against injury is rest when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Cross-training is a fantastic alternative if you’re dying to get moving on your rest days. Walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, yoga, lifting weights, and any other activity that doesn’t have the same high impact as running can be used as cross-training.

In the two to three weeks before your marathon, drastically reduce both your overall mileage and the severity of your runs to give your body time to recover when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

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Maximum Aerobic Speed

how to prepare for a marathon

The running speed at which a person uses the most oxygen (VO2 max) is called maximum aerobic speed, or MAS. One of the fundamental building pieces of your training program is this. In fact, it serves as a gauge for advancement and gives you the ability to set your own speed, particularly during intervals. By being aware of your MAS and training in accordance with this parameter, you can enhance the energy that your body derives from the oxygen it consumes when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. This process, known as aerobic metabolism, releases energy relatively gradually and frequently, enhancing endurance.

Be careful not to mix maximum acceleration with sprint pace when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. You might be able to outrun your MAS.

Calculating MAS

how to prepare for a marathon

Your MAS can be determined in a number of ways. To get an accurate calculation, you can either get it done at a gym or visit a blood lab. You can, however, assess your MAS independently if you so choose. Simply conducting a stress test in the field is all that is required when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. The half-Cooper test on level, smooth ground is the simplest and most popular way to accomplish this.

The Cooper-half test

You must run as far as you can in six minutes after warming up. Divide the distance (in meters) by 100 to determine your MAS.

Meters Traveled / 100 equals MAS

Your MAS, for instance, is 10 km/h if you ran 1000 meters.

Interval Training

how to prepare for a marathon

Running at a high pace is interspersed with periods of rest during an interval workout. They are crucial for progress because they exercise your cardiovascular system, as well as your muscles’ strength, energy, and responsiveness when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Finally, interval training is a great strategy to improve your breathing so you can take in more oxygen when running.

It is advised to train intervals twice weekly and switch up the order of exercises for each workout when following an eight-week marathon training schedule when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Always begin your interval workout with a 20-minute warm-up and end with a 10-minute cool-down.

For the best results and to prevent falls, interval training should be performed on level, everyday terrain.

Endurance Training

how to prepare for a marathon

Obviously, endurance exercises are necessary when training for a marathon. As your training continues, alternate two interval exercises with jogs lasting 50 minutes to two and a half hours. You can practice breathing throughout these exercises and figure out what pace you should run for extended distances when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. They also provide you the chance to practice the mental aspect of running a long marathon.

You have the option to run on roads or trails, with a lot of little elevation increase, and with or without music. But bear in mind that you should tailor your exercises to the demands of the marathon you intend to run when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

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how to prepare for a marathon

Almost all marathons have hydration stations and rest stops along the route.

If you intend to carry some water with you on race day, purchase a hydration pack or belt well in advance and practice running while wearing it.

Of course, you will run a lot of lengthy distances without the convenience of aid stations while you are training when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Here are a few tried-and-true methods to think about:

Carry water in portable bottles, a hydration pack, or a belt.

Run lengthy distances on a route with a few small loops so you can store water somewhere along the way.

Make sure water fountains are on during the cooler months when planning your long-run route.

The night or morning before your run, hide water bottles throughout your path.

Fueling Up

how to prepare for a marathon

You’ve certainly heard of the phenomena known as “hitting the wall” or “bonking,” which many marathon runners encounter at the 20-mile mark.

Glycogen, your body’s main energy source during the marathon, has a limited amount of storage space. Over the course of your marathon, this amount will be drained, and as it does, your muscles will start to feel heavy and fatigued when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Consuming tiny amounts of carbohydrates will help keep you from reaching the dreaded wall even though no amount of nutrition consumed throughout the race can completely replenish your depleted glycogen.

The simplest to bring and frequently the easiest to digest are energy gels or chews, although a few pieces of fruit or an energy bar would also work when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Aim for roughly 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour for any run lasting more than two hours.

As with anything else, it’s important to experiment with different fuels during your training runs to determine which ones your stomach tolerates the best. This way, you can fuel securely on race day.

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how to prepare for a marathon

What equipment do I need when running? This may be something you’re considering if this is your first time running a marathon. Yes, getting the appropriate gear is part of training for a marathon when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. The good news is that since running is a relatively low-maintenance sport, you won’t require much equipment. However, the following crucial factors should be taken into account if you want to ensure your safety and ease of completion of the marathon: 

Shoes. Find a pair of supportive running shoes that fit you well. They should be made exclusively for running and not for any other sport or cross-training. A nice pair of shoes will make jogging more comfortable and help prevent injuries when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Clothes. You may want to invest in supportive sports bras, running shorts or leggings, as well as a t-shirt or tank top that wicks moisture. Avoid wearing cotton clothing and opt for synthetic alternatives.

Running accoutrements. Your runs’ safety and quality can be greatly improved by using the right running equipment. Think about wearing a watch, a running belt, an armband carrier, a visor or hat, running sunglasses with UV protection, and sunscreen. 


how to prepare for a marathon

Regular training and a healthy diet are both necessary for marathon preparation. At least 10 weeks before the big occasion, start consuming a healthy diet. Here are some pointers to keep you in shape when wondering how to prepare for a marathon.

Consume more carbs. The body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source. They need to account for between 60 and 70 percent of your daily calorie intake. As they are processed more slowly and provide you with longer-lasting energy, try to eat more complex carbohydrates and less simple sugars when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Whole grain foods such as cereal, brown rice, oatmeal, bread, pasta, and vegetables also include complex carbs. 

Proteins and fats. Don’t overlook the other two major macronutrients, as they are as vital to a healthy pre-marathon diet. Protein, which should make up roughly 15% of your daily caloric intake, is crucial for the development of muscle when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Less than 30% of your daily calories should come from fat. Choose healthy fats wherever possible, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and oils like coconut, avocado, or olive oil.

Hydration. Consideration of hydration is essential in addition to a meal plan. Your main source of hydration should be water, which you should consume at least 6 to 8 glasses of each day when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Sports drinks might help you replace your electrolytes if you’re running longer distances.

Mental Preparation

how to prepare for a marathon

Training and a balanced diet are only two aspects of marathon preparation. It’s equally important to prepare your head to handle the distance, whether it’s 5 km or 42 miles when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. One research from Staffordshire University in the UK found that 14% of racing success is attributed to mental toughness!

Here are some pointers to help you improve your mental health:

  • To mentally prepare for a marathon, try mindfulness.
  • Running with friends is more enjoyable and inspiring.
  • To keep your attention on the task at hand while running, choose a brief phase. 
  • Talk to friends who have participated in races if you are feeling apprehensive about the marathon to get advice and encouragement.
  • Reward yourself occasionally for your efforts with a massage or new running accessories.
  • Remind yourself of the advantages of running for your health.

How to Prepare for a Marathon: Final Thoughts

how to prepare for a marathon

If you’re in good health, it will take you around six months of training to go from couch potato to marathon. But it’s crucial to make the move gradually when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Start with 5 km, then increase to 10 km, and gradually work your way up to a half marathon before taking on the full marathon.

Although training for a marathon can be a demanding experience, it also has the potential to change your life. This kind of exercise tends to serve as a reminder of how much better life is when you routinely exercise, follow a good diet, and set objectives. So, when the marathon day finally comes, keep in mind your training schedule when wondering how to prepare for a marathon. Maintain your pre-run diet, put on your coziest pair of running shoes, and get plenty of rest the night before. Avoid starting out too quickly, maintain your composure when things get challenging, and cross the finish line with the knowledge that you just accomplished a remarkable athletic feat.