Complete your First Marathon Training Plan

Complete your first marathon

Having completed a half marathon, many runners look ahead to a new challenge and the logical next step is to complete your first marathon. The marathon tends to hold an almost mythical status in that it is long enough to require a serious and dedicated effort and at the same time is within the capability of pretty much everyone. (Though most people don’t believe this). Use our ‘Complete your first marathon training plan’ and too will achieve this iconic milestone.

Much of the same training goes into the marathon as is necessary for the half marathon, but your long-distance runs become the most critical part of your weekly training routine. A good formula for establishing a marathon goal time is to double your half marathon time plus you add ten minutes. So, if you were able to complete a half marathon in two hours, a good marathon goal time would be 4 hours, 10 minutes.

Some training plans out there will encourage you to run 5 and 6 times per week. If you are an experienced runner, that is fine but if your first objective is get around the course in relative comfort then four days a week will be sufficient. Just like the half marathon training plan, a big focus will be your long running day and secondly your speed workout day to build endurance and leg speed respectively.

Food Intake to Complete Your First Marathon

As you increase your mileage, you need to ensure that your body is being properly fueled. Otherwise you will start feeling lethargic and lacking energy and become susceptible to colds and niggle little injuries.

Eat a balanced diet, rich with color. That means, if it is colorful, it is good. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Muscles need glycogen, which becomes depleted over long periods of strenuous exercise. Glycogen is found in carbohydrates. It is a good idea to eat foods rich in carbohydrates, like pasta, the night before a long run and the night before the marathon – often called carb loading. After your long run, a protein rich meal is important as protein is the key ingredient in repairing and building muscle.


Hydration to Complete Your First Marathon

Hydration is always important for runners, but it is critical when one prepares for a marathon. Always drink plenty of water, both before (last drink should be approx. an hour before the start, so you don’t get a stitch or have to stop for a loo break) and after your training runs, and throughout the day. A healthy adult should aim to drink approx. 2 liters of water per day. For your long runs, place water along the course, so you may take a drink or two throughout the run. All marathons have water stations. Take at least a sip of water at many of those stops.


Stretching Before & After Your Run

Finally, always stretch before and after you run.

For me I start with neck twist, shoulder rotations and work my way down through all the joints until I feel loose. This typically takes 20 minutes. After a long run, you will hurt. Period!. But this is a good pain – its comes from a pain of being active and pushing yourself. Always remember as you get fitter and stronger this will reduce. Besides, the pain from injury and being unable to run is always much worse! After a long run, your muscles contract, so stretching them out is vitally important as you prepare for your next day.


Importance of Rest During Marathon Training

As you prepare for your first marathon, you will put your body under lots of new stresses. So the importance of rest days cannot be over stated. Sleep is the greatest secret weapon of marathon training, so ensure you get as much as possible. In between your running days, your body will recover and these are as important as the running days. On these days you should aim to try and stretch for just 10 mins to keep building suppleness into your body.

Now that you know what needs to be done, count 13 weeks back from your marathon and you will be ready to begin the plan. Please note this plan is build around the assumption that you will have completed a half marathon at some stage over the previous 4 – 6 weeks and have a certain level of strength already.


Complete Your First Marathon Training Schedule

Week 1
Day 1-3.7 mi. (6K)-Easy pace

Day 2-6.2 mi. (10K)-Tempo Run-Warmup, 8K (5 mi.)-Under 56:00, cool down

Day 3-3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy

Day 4-12.4 mi. (20K) run-2:05


Week 2
Day 1-3.7 mi. (6K)-Easy

Day 2-Track Workout-4×800 meters-5:15 for each. 400 meter recovery between each one. 8K total

Day 3-3.7 mi. (6K)-Easy

Day 3-13.6 mi. (22K) run-Aim for near the same pace as last week


Week 3
Day 1-4.3 mi. (7K)-Easy

Day 2-Track Workout-Ladder-400 m-2:35, 800 m-5:15, 1600 m-10:30, 800 m. and 400m. 10K total. Try to run as fast coming down the ladder as going up (jog ½ of your last interval for recovery) 10K total.

Day 3-3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy

Day 4-15.5 mi. (25K)-2:32


Week 4
Day 1-4.3 mi. (7K)-Easy recovery run

Day 2-8×400 m.-2:30 pace.200 m. interval in between. 8K total

Day 3-3.7 mi. (6K)-Easy

Day 4-13.6 mi. (22K) run-Aim for faster than Week 2


Week 5
Day 1-3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy recovery day

Day 2-3×1600 m. intervals-10:25 each. 800 easy jog between intervals. 10K total

Fri.-3.7 mi. (6K)-Easy

Sun.-18.6 mi. (30K)-Steady pace-Complete the workout


Week 6
Day 1-3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy recovery run

Day 2-4x 800 m.-5:10 each. 400m jog in between. 8K total

Day 3-3.1 mi. (5K)-Very Easy

Day 4-Run a half marathon time trial to test your fitness


Week 7
Day 1-3.1 mi. (5K) easy

Day 2-3x1600m.-10:20 each

Day 3-3.7 mi. (6K)-Easy

Day 4-18.6 mi. (30K) run-Aim for faster than Week 5


Week 8
Day 1-3.7 mi. (6K)-Easy

Day 2-8x400m.-2:20 each

Day 3-5 mi. (8K)-Easy

Day 4-12.4 mi. (20K)-2:00


Week 9
Day 1- 5 mi. (8K)-easy

Day 2-4x1600m.-10:20 each-800m in between. 10K total

Day 3-3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy

Day 4-20.4 mi. (33K)-Complete the workout and you can complete a marathon


Week 10
Day 1- 3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy

Day 2- 6×800 m.-5:10 each- 400 m. in between-10K total

Day 3- 4.3 mi. (7K)-easy

Day 4-15.5 mi. (25K)-2:27


Week 11
Day 1-3.7 mi. (5K)-Easy

Day 2-2x3200m.-19:40 each-10K-Total

Day 3-3.1 mi. (5K_-Easy

Day 4-18.6 mi. (30K)-Aim for your fastest time


Week 12
Day 1-3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy

Day 2-6.2 mi. (10K)-Tempo Run-Warmup, 8K (5 mi.)-Under 55:00, cool down

Day 3-3.1 mi. (5K)-Easy

Day 4-9.3mi. (15K)-Steady, relaxed pace


Week 13
The work has been done, now in the final week before the big day it is time to ensure your body is fully rested. Do nice easy stretches every day to stay loose and perhaps 2 x 6K runs at a nice easy/steady pace. I normally go for a massage early this final week to flush out any knots or tightness in my legs and back.

Final thoughts before you complete your first marathon.

  • On the morning, you will be pumped with adrenaline, but remember to stay calm.
  • Do not go off hard with everyone else. Stick to your race plan.
  • Make sure you have plenty of charge in your watch for tracking your time.
  • Know what you will wear to the start line. It’s important to stay as warm as possible till the off (relevant to cooler marathons).
  • Do not experiment with new gels for the first time on the day of the race.
  • Lastly and MOST importantly enjoy the occasion.

Here are a few additional tips for getting ready for your first marathon.

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