A marathon is on a lot of fitness enthusiasts’ bucket lists, but many fail to complete a race or to even prepare themselves properly for the long haul of the 26.2 miles. We’re going to lay out all you need to know from the training and running itself to the proper nutrition, supplementation and recovery that will propel you to be able to run maybe your first marathon or shave some time off your last.
Let’s get to work!
The most important part of marathon training is the actual ability to run. Before even starting to train for a marathon, you should be used to being able to run for 30 consecutive minutes without breaking. The distance here isn’t all that important – mainly focusing on your endurance and cardiovascular fitness from a starting point.
There are many different marathon plans available, but for this plan, we’ll use a 16-week layout of pyramid training. By this we mean we’ll start off just running a couple miles per day and progress to running just under the 26.2 miles at the peak of your hard running weeks. It will be beneficial to on rest days to practice yoga, strength train, or do agility training. Here’s what the layout will look like:
You may be wondering why you never run the full marathon distance until the day of the run. This is because that type of repetitive running will wreak havoc on your central nervous system as well as physically wearing you out before the big run.
Week 13 will be the biggest week for runners because on Saturday you will run your first 20 mile run and have that underneath your belt. This will be a great psychological advantage and in the back of your mind during the actual marathon that you’ve already run for 20 miles before and that you can do it again with just a few more to add to the total!
Your nutrition plan should be carbohydrate-dense as well as a good amount of protein with some fats, around a 50/35/15 ratio. Complex carbs will be necessary for fuel because of your workouts that will be hours on end of non-stop running. Pre-workout nutrition is the most critical because it will enable you to fuel your body and provide you with energy to post your best running times. This will consist of primarily complex carbs like sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta or quinoa.
Adding in a light protein like tilapia or chicken will help with digestion and make you not feel overly full but properly fueled. Post-workout nutrition will consist of high GI carbs (quick carbs) like fruit, white potatoes or white rice as well as either lean protein (tuna/chicken/tilapia) or whey protein.
Getting some extra protein in your system through whey protein (for after workouts) and casein (to recover at night) will be very crucial. A lot of runners, especially those used to eating every couple of hours, will get hungry while training on the longer running workouts.
Gels have been very popular in the running world and are in small packets that you can access during your runs. They’re made up of some simple sugars and carbohydrates to enable you to get a quick boost of energy and to curb hunger while running. Using 3 or 4 of these on the day of the marathon ensures you are giving your body the proper nutrients throughout the entirety of the run, though make sure you test these out in the run-up to the main day.
Marathon Training Gear
Proper running shoes will make a world of difference – go to a running specific store and get yourself properly measured for the type of runner you are. Whether you are neutral or an over-pronator, the proper shoe will help keep you as comfortable as possible.
If you suffer from shin splints, compression calf sleeves will provide added support and blood flow to ward off some of these symptoms. Many runners carry a pouch full of water bottles and electrolyte filled drinks (although there will be drinks on the course) to ensure they are properly hydrated throughout the 26.2 miles.
Running a marathon may sound like an impossible feat, but it can be done! Follow this plan and stay on point with your nutrition, recovery and supplementation and you will be on your way to this milestone of a run. Keep at it, keep yourself motivated and get running!