Tips From the Pros on How to Prepare for Your First Marathon

Tips From the Pros on How to Prepare for Your First Marathon


Your first marathon brings a lot of excitement; you’re eager to challenge yourself, take on your race and get moving. However, before you go flying out of the gates, you must properly prepare.

Tips From the Pros on How to Prepare for Your First Marathon


Your first marathon brings a lot of excitement; you’re eager to challenge yourself, take on your race and get moving. However, before you go flying out of the gates, you must properly prepare.

Enter early

“Something happens when you make a commitment, your energy and focus soars, optimizing the likelihood of you being at your best come the big day,” Brad Beer, Champion Triathlete, physiotherapist and Founder of POGO Physio, says. “Leaving entry till later diminishes the 'pull power' available to help you with your training when you enter early.”

Be consistent with your training


“It doesn't have to be perfect, but your training does need to be consistent,” Beer says. “Consistency will produce the best training effects while protecting you from the often times harmful and dangerous effects of 'cramming' your training if you haven't been consistent.”

Give yourself as many weeks preparation as possible


It’s important to give yourself as many weeks of preparation possible leading into your debut marathon, Beer says. “This allows you to progressively build up your training runs and overall training volume, thereby minimizing the potential for injury or illness if you do not allow yourself sufficient time to train.”

Have a training program that includes rest and recovery

“Too many people and many of my clients when they start with me have this belief that smashing themselves every day and always running hard is how you run faster,” Andre Obradovic, triathlete, marathoner, and USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, says. This is completely wrong.  All you end up doing is adding more stress to your life and getting sick and run down, he adds. “Initially running 3-4 times a week is plenty and we need to have recovery days in between where we do no exercise.”

Take a class or read some material


Consider taking a class or reading some material around how to run efficiently and with good technique, Beer says. “You do not need to be an Olympic Champion to benefit from simple running technique tips such as avoiding over striding.”

Train with a running friend

“Being accountable will maximize your chances of being at your fittest come the big day,” Beer says. “It is too easy to sleep in when it is dark, cold, or you're tired! You don't want to let your running buddy down now do you?”

Motivation is Key: Figure out what gets you excited about running a marathon

“We have many reasons and the reason needs to be solid and linked to an emotion as these emotions are the things that keep us centered and focused on our running and training,” Obradovic says. “Write down the things that get you excited and what these emotions are. Focus on these and when you are lying in bed not wanting to go for your run, think about these words.”

Dress like a runner

“Using the theory of en-clothed cognition, the research shows us that the more we dress and wear clothes that make us feel like a runner the more likely we are to adopt behaviors of a runner,” Obradovic says. “Wear a road ID or your running watch during the day, place photos of you running or crossing the line to your races in your office.” Embrace yourself and your personality of being a runner and you will be more committed to training and racing, he adds.

Focus on nutrition- Ditch the carbs and burn fat as your fuel


Obradovic says that many people he trains for a marathon use the excuse to eat rubbish and eat a lot. “Maybe you should ask yourself how that’s working for you. If you are overweight, think about this. No amount of exercise is going to help. You need to change what you eat,” he adds. “If you have to exercise to regulate your weight, your diet is wrong!”

Get a coach

Get a certified coach or marathoner to help you train and prepare. Nothing can prepare you better for the ins and outs of marathon training than by preparing with someone who’s done the time and helped others reach their running goal, Jacci Allanson, marathoner and Accredited Exercise Physiologist, says. “You may feel that coaches are only for pro athletes – they’re not. They’re a first time marathoner’s best friend!”

Surround yourself with people who’ve previously run marathons


Former marathon runners “can be a wealth of useful information about local runs, where to get supplies, what resources are available, their experiences, [and] the best running coaches,” Allanson says. “They’re great company on the long runs, and they may even run the event with you!”

Get good quality rest

“Your body adapts to the stress of running BEST when you REST. Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep and a few days off running each week,” Allanson says. “As you approach your event, having 2-4 weeks of reduced (and sometimes zero) kilometres makes all the difference in being fresh and prepared to run.” Also, being overloaded and training too hard all of the time can lead to injury even in experienced runners, she adds.

Train with supplements/fuel

“As you get ready for your event, try a few different fuels and supplements to see what works best for you. There are a lot of products on the market, including gels, chews, sports drinks and DIY fuel options,” Allanson says. “Your body will handle some better than others, and training is the best time to test them out.” See: 8 Protein Supplements That Actually Work

For your first marathon focus on finished, not fast

“Hearing more experienced runners talk about how fast they completed their last marathon may lead you to set a time goal for your first marathon,” Allanson says. “For your first time, the goal needs to be to cross the finish line. From here, you have a time to strive for, and not before!”

Exercise for injury prevention

“Anyone who has read Born to Run will have read the stats about 70-80% of runners injuring themselves every year, just from continuing to run with poor technique. Most runners will run, and not do much else,” Allanson says. “Including specific strength and mobility exercises several times per week will help to target your weaknesses, support you through your run and keep you running for longer.” Beer explains that it’s important to look after your running body. “Act on your niggles and strains [as] early as opposed to developing injuries which will cost you time in training and fitness, not to mention dollars and frustration,” he says.

Strength train


"Too many runners skip the strength training,” Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, Bowflex Fitness Advisor, and 60+ time marathon & ultra-marathon finisher, says. “Not only will a running-focused 20-30 minute strength workout help keep you injury-free, studies have shown it can also help improve your performance."



"Spend at least one day per week engaging in a cardiovascular cross-training activity such as biking, swimming, the elliptical, etc.,” Holland says. “This will give your body a rest from running while allowing you to continue to build your aerobic fitness."

Listen to your body


"Running exposes our individual weak links and you will undoubtedly face some bumps in the road during your training in terms of pain and discomfort,” Holland says. “The key is to listen to your body, identify the issue immediately, and take the steps necessary to fix it while continuing to train."