Marathon Training for Beginners

There may be many people out there who are doing the London Marathon or other marathons next Spring/Summer who have never done a marathon before and are wondering just how to go about preparing for such a challenge. Here are a few guidelines:

1. Remember above all that for the vast majority this event will not be about speed, it’s about the ability to keep going as long as possible. It’s an enormous challenge, even for the very fit, to run for 26 and a bit miles without stopping. Therefore you should get used to running ever longer distances in training – anything up to 20 miles or even slightly more. Make sure though that this run is done at a heart rate of less than 75% maximum to build up your muscular endurance.

2. Given that this is an endurance challenge and not a sprint, there’s little point in performing, for example, 100 metre repeats. Interval training should be gradually introduced sooner or later in the training cycle but should focus on speed endurance as opposed to pure speed. This should only be done after a solid aerobic base has been established through lower intensity work. Intervals could be anything from around 1 km to 5 kms with enough recovery to get the heart rate down to below 75% max.

3. Injury is a big possibility in preparing for an event of this kind, especially for novices. Increase your total weekly mileage very slowly (max. 10% per week) and only gradually increase the length of the weekly long run. Every 4th week drop the mileage down again to allow for recovery and adaptation. I would also recommend some gym work, preferably under the watch of a qualified professional to identify and rectify any imbalances or weaknesses. Running long distances will find out any weak areas and cause injury inevitably unless everything is working properly in sync. I would also advise doing the majority of training off road on softer surfaces wherever possible to reduce the effects of impact as much as possible. It’s also vital to have well -cushioned running shoes. They may set you back around £100 or more but the alternative may well be to miss your important event through injury. Buy from a running specialist.

4. Eat real food and drink plenty of water and avoid gels and sports drinks etc. However make sure you keep salt and potassium levels topped up otherwise cramps can ruin your performance towards the end and force you to walk. Forget about carbo loading etc. – just get your body used to real food.

5. Avoid the pitfall of overtraining and doing too much of your training in ‘no man’s land’ – that zone where you’re not working hard enough to cause adaptation in your body and yet working too hard to call it recovery. Make sure every session has a purpose, even if the purpose is ‘just’ recovery. Recovery is where adaptation takes place and, if you don’t let it take place, you will just keep breaking everything down and not achieve adaptation and therefore not improve. Listen to your body and back off when it tells you, err on the side of caution always, one session or two missed won’t make that much difference.

6. Recover with GENTLE swimming, walking, cycling etc., massage, foam rolling. Don’t just train hard then sit around for the rest of the day doing nothing at all. Proper active recovery will see you ready to go again quicker.

I hope that helps. If anybody would like a free consultation to discuss their running goals and learn more about preparing for a marathon then please call David on 07504439555 or email me at

You may also wish to follow my fitness blog at (no, this is not a porn site as somebody suggested!)

Good luck!

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