8 tips on how to successfully train for a marathon

Posted May 30

With marathon season upon us, here are eight tips on how to successfully train for a marathon brought to you by the experts. (Deseret Photo)

Running a marathon is something that many runners aspire to do. Some might even call it the epitome of running success to have completed the 26.2-mile challenge.

However, completing a marathon is not something that should be done without extensive training. In order to help you with your training experience, we and a few running experts have come up with eight tips on how to successfully train for a marathon.

1. Get good running shoes

The first thing you want to do when you begin training for a marathon is to get good footwear that is not only specific for running, but for your own body makeup and running pattern to help reduce the chance of injury.

Multi-marathon completer and Altra running shoes co-founder Brian Beckstead said, “When searching for the right marathon shoe, it’s important to remind yourself of your willingness to trust that product through 26.2 miles of pounding. I recommend getting a half-size bigger, and make sure you've trained in the same model during your long run.”

However, if you happen to buy a new pair of shoes at the race expo the day before, and are dying to race in them, Beckstead said it is possible if you take the insole out of your previous model and insert it into the new shoe. This will let you enjoy the cushioning of the new shoe while retaining the feel of the old one.

2. Build a solid base

Think of marathon training as building your home. Sure, when you see the finished product, it is all fine-tuned and spectacular, but without the solid foundation or base, all of it would crumble to pieces.

Start out by building your mileage and intensity gradually over several months or even years so that you will not cause injury along the way, or a complete collapse come race day.

3. Start with shorter races

If you want to run a marathon, it is wise to try shorter races, says Runner’s World columnist, author of, and 26-time marathon finnisher, Mark Remy.

“I always advise people to start with shorter races,” he said. “The half marathon, in particular, is a brilliant event. The half is no joke. It’s 13.1 miles of racing. So it’s long enough to be a real challenge, but not so long it’ll destroy you. Training for a half, and then running it, will teach you a lot—about your body, your mind, tapering, racing, recovering, and on and on. All that stuff is invaluable as you head into marathon training.”

4. Distance is key

As you move along in your training, you will need to add long runs in order to train your body to run for extended periods of time. These runs are extremely important, especially in helping to eliminate “the wall” that many marathoners talk about hitting toward the end of the race.

5. Don’t just run

Completing a marathon requires more than just being able to run long distances. It requires strength that can and should be acquired through weight training and bodyweight exercises. It requires mental toughness and focus that can be honed through things like yoga and meditation.

Sure, you may be able to muscle through the race on running alone, but adding other fitness and exercise regimens will only make it that much sweeter.

6. Practice good nutrition

Not only is good nutrition an important part of your everyday life, but practicing nutrition during training runs is crucial.

Depending on how much time you plan on spending out on the racecourse or training run, will determine what you will need to fuel on. For instance, if you plan on running it fast, in the 3-hour range, you will be burning mostly sugars, so you will need to fuel on things that contain sugar. If you will be out there for awhile, you will likely tap into your fat stores, and will need to bring things with a higher fat content.

Water is always necessary.

Don’t wait until race day to figure this out, though. Practice fueling during your training runs so that you know what your body can handle, so that come race day, you won’t bonk or watch the clock tick away as you sit in the porta-potty.

7. Pace yourself

Race day is an exciting time when you can finally show yourself and everyone else what those countless miles of training have done. Unfortunately, many runners will use up all that excitement and adrenaline within the first few miles, making for a downright miserable last 20 miles — if they make it that far.

This is where pacing comes in, according to Jorge Garcia, owner of Run Your Race Pacers of Utah.

“It’s very easy to get lost in the excitement of the race and go completely against what you had planned,” he said. “It is important to know what your body is capable of doing. Nobody knows your body better than you. Pace yourself like you did on your training runs. Stay calm and relaxed, and trust your training.”

8. Be patient

Not only is patience key while training for and running a marathon, but according to Remy, patience applies to deciding when to run a marathon.

“A lot of people want to run a marathon. That’s good! But many of them want to do it NOW. That is not good," he said. "Preparing for a 26.2-mile footrace, and doing it right, takes time. I’ve never understood why some people feel such urgency to run a marathon. What’s the rush? Marathons aren’t going anywhere. Take your time. Do it right.

"Once you finally do reach that starting line, you’ll be so much smarter, stronger and more confident. You’ll have a better experience because of that, and crossing the finish line will be that much sweeter.”

Arianne Brown is a mother of seven young children, and she loves hearing and sharing stories. For more of her writings, search “A Mother’s Write” on Facebook. She can be contacted at Twitter: A_Mothers_Write


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