April 10th 2011

How to run a marathon

So, you think you want to run a marathon? The good news: it’s not as hard as you think. The still good news: you can do it.

A little time, a little motivation, and a lot of training, and you’ll get there. Just follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way.

When embarking on training for a marathon, the first thing you need to know and realize is that people differ greatly in ability.

If you’ve never run before, then this isn’t the program for you. You want about a year’s worth of running foundation underneath you, and should comfortably be able to run at least 3 miles/5 kilometres.

If that doesn’t sound about right, then start with a Couch to 5km plan.

Along with running about 5km with ease, you should be running at least 3 times a week, and knocking out minimally 15 miles per week.

Having done a few races, too, will help you out also.

So once you’ve laid down the foundation, here are the integral components to making your plan work.

Long Runs

The long run usually occurs on the weekend, starting from 6 miles, with the highest at 20 miles. Out of all of the runs in the week, this is the most important. From week to week, they get progressively longer, so skipping them skips a portion of the training process. After a few weeks of building, the long run is reduced to allow for a week of rest before you build again. Rest is just as important as running and training in any program.

Do your long runs at a comfortable, slightly slower pace. You should be able to talk easily. The goal of these runs isn’t for speed, but instead finish the distance.

If you can’t finish it running, finish it walking instead of abandoning the run altogether. Walking gives your body a chance to take a rest, and you’ll be able to get back at it easier than if you push it.

Cross Training

Cross training is a form of aerobic exercise that allows you to use different muscles than you would for running. The best forms of cross training are swimming and cycling, but walking is good, too. It is also a good way to help you recover from a long run.

Shorter Runs

When running in the middle of the week, it should be done at an easy pace, but a little faster. Typically, the amount that you run during the week coincides with your long run (IE two shorter runs at 5km each, one 7km run, and a weekend run at 17km).

Rest Days

Rest is just as important as running, as I mentioned earlier. Evidence shows that during the rest period, your muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. If you’re constantly tired and fail to rest, you will fail to reach your potential– and ultimately, your goals.

Here are a few training guides to help you get started.

Marathon Training from Runners World

Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Guide

State of the Art Marathon Training

Boston Athletic Association Marathon Guide

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Andrew loves art and design, and pursues his studies in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He loves seeking out new artists and giving them their dues, and in his spare time, focuses on his own abstract sculpture.