Running a Marathon for Beginners

Running a marathon for beginners can seem like a daunting task. Fear no more! With these 9 top tips, you'll be crossing the finish line with your arms held high!

Running a Marathon for Beginners

India Lewis
  • Post by India Lewis
  • Last updated: January 23, 2018

Since the day you mentioned you were going to run a marathon, everyone around you has become an expert, right?

Seasoned runners and armchair experts alike want to pass on their essential tips for marathon survival, but in this article, we give you the only top tips you need to help you run your first marathon and enjoy the experience!

A marathon is a challenge even for experienced runners. If you’re just starting out, consider aiming for something challenging but achievable like a 10k or even a half marathon.

1. Follow a Training Plan

You are going to be running 26.2 miles, that’s a long way, but you’re going to need to accumulate a lot more miles in training and preparation for the big day.

By following a progressive training plan that’s designed to get you from where you are now (even if that’s firmly rooted to your sofa) to where you want to be, you give your body the time it needs to adapt to the increasing workload and stay injury free.

2. Set Yourself a Realistic Goal

Okay, let’s cut to the chase here; your goal as a first-time marathon runner should be crossing the finish line, not completion within any set time target.

Sure, it’s good to have a motivational goal, but attempting to follow a training plan that’s designed to get you round in a set time by running each mile at a set pace is not the way to go if you’re a marathon beginner.

Stand on the start line with the goal of enjoying the experience – you can chase down Mo Farrah on your next marathon!

3. Learn to Listen to Your Body

Progressive training plans are designed to minimise the potential for running injuries, but it’s much more important to listen to your body than to follow a plan to the letter.

Running can (and most probably will) become the focus of your life, especially when you’ve set yourself the goal of completing a marathon, but if a niggle in your knee or a blister on your toe is making it difficult to stick with the programme, let it go.

Rest, recover, and then pick up where you left off. Avoid the temptation to double-up the workload to catch up; you’ll only end up injured again.

Important note: Never do more than the mileage on your training plan.

Newcomers to marathon training often find it hard to taper, but believe the experts on this one – less is definitely more in the last few weeks before an event.

4. Cross Train

Following on from the above, running is not the only way to improve your running fitness.

Cross training is the most effective way to limit the risk of developing overuse injuries and it helps to keep training fun.

A blister on your toe might be preventing you from putting on your running shoes, but it needn’t prevent you from working on your core strength and running posture with a yoga or pilates programme.

5. Learn How to Fuel Your Body

You are going to need to take on fuel and fluids to complete 26.2 miles, so learn how and when to do it – before the day.

There are plenty of energy bars and gels on the market designed for sports use so experiment with a few in training and find out which ones work best for you.

Waiting until you’re thirsty before you drink or you’re completely drained of energy before you refuel is not the way to go, so develop a habit of eating and drinking every few miles to make sure your energy levels stay high.

Important note: It may seem counter-intuitive to stop at a water station during a marathon, but stopping for a moment to actually drink water is a far better idea than just spilling it all over yourself – or choking on it!

6. Know the Route

You don’t need to know your way around the entire race route without a map, but it’s a good idea to know how much of it is flat and how many hills you’ll be climbing.

If you’ve only ever trained on pancake-flat terrain, hills will sap your energy in no time, so make sure you’re ready to take every element of the route in your stride.

7. Try Out Your Race Kit

Many marathon newbies have made the mistake of wearing brand new kit for the first time on race day.

Sure, you want to have shiny new lightweight running shoes and sparkly sweat-stain-free clothes for the big day, but you need to have tried out everything you’re going to wear on the day – even your underwear – to make sure nothing is going to start rubbing or becoming uncomfortable once you’re 13 miles in.

Get familiar with your kit on a few training runs and make sure nothing is untested on the day.

8. Do Your Own Thing

It’s only natural that you’re going to feel nervous on the day of the race, but don’t let those nerves lead to self-doubt. You may be a first-timer, but that doesn’t mean the other runners around you are all experts.

They may swear by certain rituals; they may query why you’re not slapping on the Vaseline, eating six bananas, or packing an emergency plate of pasta into your bum-bag, but don’t let any of it lead to doing anything you don’t normally do.

You’ve trained, you’ve practised your way of doing things, and you’re ready – do your own thing!

9. Believe in Yourself

No one likes the idea of being overtaken by a runner dressed as a rhinoceros, but the key to completing and enjoying your first marathon is to do it your way and at your own pace. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the adrenalin rush of flying off the start line, but there’s no fun in struggling to survive the last 10 miles after “flying and dying.”

Know your pace and stick with it, no matter what others around you are doing, and remember that you’ve already done the hard part by putting in the miles to get to that start line.

The last 26.2 miles of your marathon journey are the fun miles, so make sure you take the time to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy every step.

As you can see, with a little training, running a marathon for beginners is totally doable! Make sure you check out our marathon race day tips before you toe the start line.

Brooks Running