12 Best Marathon Training Tips from Experts

Featured Article, Fitness, News and Advice, Workout Plans
on September 9, 2014
marathon training tips

Over a half a million runners crossed the finish line in 2013, according to Running USA. Now with fall marathon season underway, here are 12 rules to follow to ensure race day success. Good luck!

1. Get with the program.

“There are many generic marathon training plans you can get online, but it’s worth spending a little time and money to get something that is geared more specifically towards you and your needs and is appropriate for your current level of running fitness and experience. Many runners discount just how taxing the act of running is and do too much too quickly, too soon. You can get injured that way. It’s not possible to “cram” for a marathon.”

—Matt Forsman, USATF-certified personal running coach (www.marathonmatt.com)

2. Stick with it.

“Get your training schedule organized and be as consistent as possible in getting the workouts done. I see a lot of enthusiasm in those first few weeks when motivation is at its highest. But as the months go on and excitement wanes, it can be easy to skip workouts. Get a paper or online diary and schedule your workouts and at the beginning of each week decide when you’ll be running and then stick to the plan.”

—Julia Jones, co-founder of Up & Running online running courses (www.upandrunningonline.org)

3. Set your fuel strategy.

“While training is important, practicing what you are going to eat/drink during your marathon can be just as important. It’s better to feel bad on a training run because you drank/ate too much or too little than to find out on race day that what you thought would work didn’t. There are many great types of solid and liquid protein/carb nutrition made especially for marathon race day. Try a handful of them on your long training runs and see what suits you best.”

—David Allison, USATF-certified running coach at Marathon Coaching Consultants in Phoenix, AZ (http://marathoncoachaz.com

4. Reward yourself

“If I get through a hard run or a run that I was going to skip or if I’m able to make all of my training runs for a month, I treat myself to a reward for fighting through. The reward can be anything, but some of mine have been a new pair of running shorts, new songs to load on my mp3 player, pizza and beer on a Friday night, or a mani/pedi. It keeps me motivated with my training.”

–Denise Sauriol, 19-time Chicago Marathon Finisher and founder of the coaching program Run For Change (run-for-change.com)

5. Rest, please!

“Adequate rest is as important as the training. Running is a stress on your body, so you need to recover appropriately. Incorporating regular, full rest days is as important as the training itself. This may mean one or two full rest days in a weekly training period for newbies or the inclusion of a full rest day after nine or ten (consecutive) training days for more experienced runners.”

–Gary Berard, Manhattan-based RRCA certified running and marathon coach (www.gbrunning.com)

6. Respect the distance

“Don’t get too hung up on time goals the first time tackling 26.2 miles. Try to simply focus on getting in the kind of shape where you can cover the distance. Save the time goals for your next marathon.”

–Matt Forsman

7. And plan your outfit…way before race day

“Every long run should be treated as a dress rehearsal for race day. This means wearing the outfit you’re comfortable with for 26.2 miles. And try not to focus on the entirety of the distance. Break it down into small, bite-sized chunks. This makes it more manageable mentally.”

–Matt Forsman

8. Drill, baby, drill!

“Don’t make your whole training program just running. You need to train the body as a whole and that includes working on running style, posture, and activating your feet. You can do this by adding in drills to your running workout once a week. After warming up with a 20 minute slow run, complete 100 meters of each drill: skipping, knee lifts, and front and back kicks. Complete the series four times.”

—Julia Jones

9. Pick up speed

“If you have a time goal, then you need to run that pace—or faster—in some of your workouts. Incorporate your marathon pace into your long runs early on. For example, if you are doing a 16-mile long run, try to run four to six consecutive miles at your goal marathon pace. Then, every other week, try to run a couple more miles in your long run at goal pace. Build up until you’re running about 10-14 consecutive miles at goal pace during your 16-22 mile long runs.”

—David Allison

10. Embrace the slow

“Less experienced runners often have difficulty digesting the concept of slow, easy running, particularly during long runs while marathon training. Easy running promotes desirable cellular changes and helps develops the cardiovascular system.  These physiological benefits also build a solid base from which higher-intensity training can then be performed.”

–Gary Berard

11. Think tough.

“After having completed 54 marathons and counting, I realized the marathon is 51% mental and 49% physical. It’s the last quarter of the marathon (and your long runs) where your legs are telling your mind that you want to stop. That’s when you pull from all of those training runs where you wanted to quit but fought through them. So when you want to throw in the towel during a workout because it’s too hot, the route is too hilly, your mp3 player died, your training partner couldn’t make the run, seize that challenge and power on. It will pay off once you’re at the end of the marathon and you can pull from that mental toughness you acquired during training.”

—Denise Sauriol

12. Build a support team.

“Get your family or significant other on board. Make sure they become a part of the process. It really helps to have allies along your marathon journey, especially if you live with them!”

—Julia Jones