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What Should I Know About Marathon Training?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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Marathon training is a difficult and arduous process, even for seasoned veterans. For beginners, the process is even more taxing on the body. Fortunately, there are a number of marathon training programs and running exercises that can be done to help condition a body for the task ahead, and avoid injury.

The marathon is often called the ultimate endurance sport. It is 26.2 miles (approximately 42 km), of running non-stop. Most of the time, in order to win, this must be accomplished in little more than two hours. That means an average speed of nearly 13 miles (21 km) per hour.

Training for a marathon is something that is accomplished over time. Those only beginning to run should be patient and go into marathon training respecting what they are trying to accomplish. For those who have never run before or who have not been running for a while, it is best to incorporate training elements for 5k and 10k races at first.

Later, once the runner is comfortable with 10k races, he can move to half marathons, and finally marathons. This type of marathon training eases a person into the process and gets the body acclimated to running for distance, not speed. It is not necessarily required to run a marathon distance before the actual day of the marathon, but it can be helpful.

All marathon training programs should be followed to the best of one's ability. Marathon training is a daily, or near daily, commitment that often requires running 30 to 50 miles (48 to 80 km) or more per week. Deviating from this should only be done in the event of an injury. Of course, beginners will not start at this level, but as the time of the marathon draws closer, this should be the goal.

The key to marathon training is staying healthy. Watching for injuries is important for any runner. Therefore, listen to the signals that your body gives you. Aches and pains may mean something, especially if they become chronic or recurring. Joint and bone pains are different than muscle aches, which may be experienced after any type of exercise session. These types of pains, often lasting for days and getting worse with each exercise session, could mean that something more serious is taking place.

In some cases, marathons should not even be attempted until a runner has been running regularly for at least a year. This gives the body time to adjust to a very strenuous process. Once consistently running, the next task is to increase distance and speed up to marathon pace. As far as pacing is concerned, always run at a level you are comfortable with. Increased pace will come with practice as endurance is built.

As the time for the competition draws near, marathon training should also taper off a bit in most cases. This allows the body to be fully ready to give everything on race day. Even if not racing competitively, an official marathon event is a good chance to show yourself where you are.

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