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Even if you've been running regularly for years, and even if you've completed numerous half-marathons already, the big 26.2 miles can be a daunting prospect! How do you prepare, what should you know about the "day of", and do you need to gain muscle and lose fat before attempting a marathon?

Preparing For Your First Marathon: Run!

Running regularly is, ultimately, the best way to prepare for a marathon. You'll ideally have been running four to five times a week for years, achieving somewhere between 15 and 40 miles, before you attempt your first marathon. Increase your mileage over time, of course, in order to prevent injuries. It would also help if you have already completed several shorter runs, including some half-marathons, before. Work on a relaxed stance and a good posture during your training sessions. 

Most experienced marathon runners will not advise anyone who hasn't regularly made time for running — regardless of their general fitness levels — for less than 10 weeks to three months to attempt a marathon, so you'd be wise to take this as your minimum. With less running under your belt, go for a half-marathon instead. 

You'll also want to do strength training at least twice a week, and work on losing fat if you are overweight. Muscle mass will decrease with age while your percentage of body fat goes up, however, and anecdotally, I have several friends in their fifties and sixties who occasionally complete marathons and do half-marathons all the time. On that note, they've additionally told me that joining an urban running team really helps them build camaraderie and stay motivated, so this is perhaps something you'll want to consider too. 

Your Gear: What Do You Need To Wear During Your Marathon?

Your running shoes will be the most crucial part of your equipment — invest in a good pair, and break it in well before your marathon, but do not run in worn-out shoes, either. 

As for the rest of your gear, this will depend on the weather on the day of your run. Synthetic clothing that wicks moisture is generally recommended, but because this can also cause friction burns, you'll want to consider using ointments on spots that will get rubbed a lot while you run. 

A water bottle is another essential part of your gear. You will not just want to eat something that includes carbs and some protein about an hour before you start, you'll also need a source of hydration during your marathon. Experienced runners will advise you to practice carrying your water bottle on you in the way that works best for you before the day itself. You will usually receive a sports drink during the marathon itself in addition to the water you bring. 

Enjoy The Experience

This marathon is for you — so keep the reasons for which you wanted to run it in mind as it begins, and don't forget to enjoy the experience. Show up on time in the right gear and having eaten and hopefully slept well, and do some light stretches before you begin. Once your marathon starts, keep a slower pace than you could attain; a marathon goes on for a really long time, and you'll need to save your strength. Don't forget to regularly rehydrate as you run. 

You can do this!

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