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Marathon training schedule for beginners

Maybe it’s always been on your bucket list. Maybe all your friends are signing up. But more important than why you’re running your first marathon is how you’re going to prepare. Solid prep is the only route to an enjoyable, injury-free marathon debut. Luckily, we have the perfect guide to get you across the line – no matter your level right now.

 

Running a marathon is fun (no, really). The atmosphere of the race, being surrounded by other runners as you roll through the kilometers cheered on by friends and strangers alike gives you an intrinsic feeling of accomplishment and encouragement. The pure elation that arrives as you cross the line is incredible and unforgettable. The weeks and months it takes to get you to that point, however, are less… erm, exciting. It’s estimated that it takes the average beginner about 15 weeks of training to get themselves mentally and physically prepared for a marathon. 15 weeks - hundreds of hours and kilometers to then run 42.2 km in around 4 and a half hours (the world average marathon time). To help you get race ready no matter what ‘level’ of beginner you may be, we’ve created a modular plan below so you can start with as much (or as little) time as you may need / have.

 

If it’s your first marathon, we recommend you start at the beginning – 16 weeks out from the marathon, but however many weeks away your marathon may be, we’ve got you covered (yes, even no training at all, though disclaimer up front, this a bad idea). Before you begin, we’ve listed a few things for you to make sure of for your training plan to get off to the best start possible.

 

Note: If the marathon may seem too much for you for now, see our half-marathon training guide  for getting you prepared for the half marathon, after which, you may want to pick up your marathon training where the half marathon guide ends.    

 

 


 

The Marathon Training Guide

 

Below are the breakdowns of marathon preparation for starting from 4, 3, 2 and 1 months/month out, to not training at all (which you should 100% not do).

Think of them as a weekly breakdown of how far you should be running to make sure you’re covering enough distance to be ready for the run of your life.  

Some guides have you mixing your running schedule with interval trainings or hill sprints, Fartleks or track runs, but as this is our beginner guide, we’ve just focused on the numbers needed to get you over the line.

     

    Key to the guides 

    • Rest: Take it easy on these days. It’s all about listening to your body. If you want to do some mixed-sports training on these days because you feel good, that’s up to you, however it’s better to make sure you give your muscles and joints a chance to recover. Stretch and do an activity like yoga or Pilates. Or simply nothing at all. Remember, rest is training too.
    • Mixed: One day over the weekend should be dedicated to another kind of sport to compliment the running you’re doing. This can be anything from hitting the gym to swimming, cycling to recreational sports with friends. The idea is that you at least push yourself to sweating point, and as a rule, the session lasts more than 30 minutes. Other than that, it’s up to you what your mixed day exercise may be!
    • Saturdays and Sundays: Can be switched as needed, with the long run more important than the mixed workout (if time permits only 1 training over the weekend).

     

    4 months out (16 weeks left) 

    Well done! You’ve got time on your side and so this is all going to be a breeze come race day. This first month is all about helping you get into the rhythm and habit of exercising regularly.   

    Total distance covered this month: 101km / 62.76m // Total distance covered to end of month: 101km / 62.76m

     

    3 months out (12 weeks left) 

    Things are starting to shape up nicely. Sure, there’s a lot of running this month, but you should now be into a habit with it and seeing how it all comes together.

    Total distance covered this month: 168km / 104.4m // Total distance covered to end of month: 269km / 167.1m

     

    2 months out (8 weeks left) 

    The biggest month of running in your whole plan. Stick with it and treat the almost-marathon at the end of the month as a trial for the real deal. Once this month’s done, there’s only one left before the race.

    Total distance covered this month: 234.5km / 145.7m // Total distance covered to end of month: 503.5km / 312.9m

     

    1 month out (4 weeks left)  

    The home stretch! With 3 weeks to go, you’ll be tapering out your training sessions after a few big runs, then running less (the hard training work will be behind you). From there, it’s just maintaining this peak level of fitness ahead of marathon day. Be sure to check that you’re prepared for the final week with all of your gear and food, and then count down to the big race with a smile on your face!

    Total distance covered this month: 152km (+42.2 for the marathon) / 94.4m (+26.1 for the marathon) // Grand total distance covered to end of month: 697.7km / 433.4m

     


     

    The “do not do this” marathon preparation guide 

    You signed up to run a marathon. But you did no training to prepare for running that marathon. Now you’re a day out from the marathon. What can you do? Firstly, and let’s be very clear about this, you have made a mistake. Running a marathon with no training is a terrible idea and you should make up any excuse to get out of it. If you’re still in with no training, here are our survival tips:

     

    See a doctor.

    You may not listen to them, but at least talk to them and get a check-up to make sure you are not in a high-risk group for experiencing cardiac complications (a risk of the marathon that should not be underestimated, especially on no training). 

     

    Go slow.

    The race is long and with no training, you’ll likely find it hard to press through the walls you’ll hit. With that in mind, go slow and pace yourself to last the distance. Don’t be afraid to walk parts if your body is telling you to.

     

    Music.

    One way to make sure your pace isn’t too fast is to listen to music with a max of 80-100 beats per minute (a moderate track). Making sure the music is also interesting will further help your run as it will distract you from your body and the time of the race. Note, however, not all races allow runners to listen to music, so check that in advance. The sound of silence can be even louder if you were expecting to run accompanied by Rihanna or The Gallagher Brothers.  

     

    Find a pacer.

    Someone you think looks around the same fitness level as you, and stay just behind them. Be warned: looks can be deceiving, so if they are going too fast for you, peel off and find someone else.

     

    Drink water when your body tells you.

    You likely are reading up on all the advice for running a marathon you can at this point, and so will see guides telling you to drink a certain amount of water at a certain time. For you, it’s different. With no training, you should drink and eat whenever your body tells you to. Stick to that rule.

     

    Pack muscle-warming rubs and chafing cream.

    They might be the best friends you’ll have ever had in your life.

     

    Other than that, you’re on your own more than most others running the race. See our last few tips for all runners below.

     

    Kit yourself out for success

     

    The importance of high-comfort, high-performance running gear should not be underestimated – both for training and racing. If you’re new to pushing your limits at this kind of distance and mileage, then we recommend a shoe engineered for extra support. Even if you don’t normally need extra support shoe for shorter runs, extra support can help you overcome accumulated fatigue during training and failing muscles come the big day.

     

     

    The Cloudace
    Maximum support that’s anything but slow. Our most advanced application of Cloudtec® ever works with the shoe’s unique Speedboard™ to propel you forward – through weeks of training and over the line come race day.
    See the details
    The Cloudflyer
    The is the ultralight cushioned support shoe for long runs. If you’d like a lighter option come race day without sacrificing support, this is the shoe for you.
    See the details
    The Performance-T
    Soft to the touch, sweat wicking and so light you’ll forget you’re wearing it. This racing tee also dries extremely fast. Wash it after a morning training run, hang it up and it’s ready to go again the next day.
    See the details

     

    What to pack on race day (some extra tips and tricks for all runners)

    The modern marathon is a well-structured and organized event, usually having an aid and food station every 5-8km along the course. However, some carry less of what you need than others, so read up before you start on what each aid station provides (water, electrolyte drinks, fruit, salt pills, chocolate, massages). Usually, they should have each of these things, but, for the sake of argument, if a race only had water stations, here are the very basics you should have in your pack or pockets for during the race:
     

    • 2 x gel pack (at least, and ideally gels containing magnesium or potassium)
    • 2 x protein bars
    • 4 x Band-Aids
    • 1 x lip balm (can also be used for chafing)

     

    From here, your guide’s complete and it’s all about running the race you’ve been training (or haven’t been training) for, and recovering the best way possible. Luckily, we’ve taken care of that for you too with our our guide on “how to recover from a marathon”. We also recommended reading our piece on “what to expect from your first marathon” to further prepare yourself for the fun that lays 42.2km ahead of you.

     

    Good luck, and as we say, run on clouds!

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