How to prepare for a marathon

Running a marathon is a big challenge. You will test your limits and you will need to maintain a strong motivation. If you plan to run the marathon for the first time, you should start training for it around 20 weeks before the actual race. This assumes that you are already training and are in a good physical condition.

Your marathon preparation will consist of 3 different training elements:

  1. Running volume: You should run 3 to 5 times a week including the long run. Aim to build up your running volume to 70 km per week during the months before the actual race, especially if you’re a beginner. You should always run at a speed that is comfortable enough for you to be able to talk during the run to ensure you are not close to your VO2max (a person’s maximal oxygen consumption or maximal oxygen uptake). To not risk injuries, most training programs recommend an increase of volume of max 10% per week while some athletes can tolerate a higher increase (1). Don’t underestimate the importance of building a solid running ability. It’s better to be a little extra trained rather than under-trained when you’re about to run a marathon since it’s a very long race.
  2. Long distance running: To increase the distance that you can run in a single training, you should have a long run every week. Increase the distance of the long run every time. This progression will help you prepare for the long race and stay injury free on race day. As I’ve previously mentioned with regards to strength training, progression is an important element in any training program. To get used to the pace that you aim to run at during the actual race, you should practice your long distance running ability keeping that regular pace.
  3. Speed training: Use interval training and high-speed running to increase your cardio ability. Interval training is important to increase your VO2max. This number reflects the aerobic physical fitness of the athlete and is important especially for the ability to sustain endurance exercise.

Rest and recovery time: An adequate amount of resting time will allow you to avoid injuries. Rest day means you should not do any kind of running, while if you want to do some physical activity, it is OK to lift weights or do other activities that are not high impact cardio like running.

Here is an example of a full training program to prepare for a marathon assuming that you can run at least 10 km:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 1 10 km Interval training 10 km 10 km
Week 2 10 km Interval training 15 km 12 km
Week 3 10 km Interval training 15 km 14 km
Week 4 10 km Interval training 15 km 12 km
Week 5 15 km 15 km 15 km 17 km
Week 6 15 km 15 km 15 km 20 km
Week 7 15 km Interval training 15 km 23 km
Week 8 15 km 10 km 15 km 20 km
Week 9 15 km 15 km 15 km 27 km
Week 10 20 km 20 km 15 km 31 km
Week 11 20 km 20 km Interval training 34 km
Week 12 20 km 25 km 15 km 30 km
Week 13 20 km 25 km 15 km 37 km
Week 14 20 km 25 km 15 km 40 km
Week 15 20 km 25 km 20 km 40 km
Week 16 20 km 25 km 20 km 37 km
Week 17 20 km 25 km 15 km 34 km
Week 18 20 km 20 km 20 km 30 km
Week 19 25 km 25 km 20 km 30 km
Week 20 25 km 25 km 20 km Race day!

Did you ever run a marathon? How did you prepare for it for it? What did you wish you’d done differently in your preparation or running? Leave your comments and advice below!

If you have any questions or are interested in a personalized marathon preparation, you can book an appointment with me or call me at 0703948587.





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