Ready to Embark on Your First Marathon? Put One Foot in Front of the Other with these Four Essential Tips

To millions of Americans, the marathon is more than a race: it’s a symbol of self-discipline and commitment to reaching a long-term goal. Less than 1% of people living today can say they have conquered this remarkable achievement. Still, each year, over half a million marathon hopefuls across the nation will, after several laborious hours, cross that glittering finish line.

If you’re thinking of joining the ranks of the elite, you know you’ve got more than just 26.2 miles of pavement stretched out before you. The road begins months in advance, and starts when you decide to take the first step.

Here are some training tips for your marathon debut.

Train to Fit Your Lifestyle

Advice on training plans is as plentiful as the World Wide Web will allow. You can find training plans that will ease you in over 20 weeks, or ones that have you ready in as little as 12 weeks. Some boast the most “6-mile or less” days, or the most total rest days.

Our advice? Find a training plan that works for you and your family. Training for a marathon is all about getting into the right habits, and habits are easier to form when they more closely align with your normal routine. Plus, the more your marathon training plan resembles your regular exercise plan, the less likely you’ll suffer an injury..

training for your first marathon

Find a training plan that works with your schedule and starts with runs (or walks) similar to your current activity.

Don’t Shy Away from Long Runs

Although you can find advice to the contrary, avoid tips from charlatans who profess that you can “run faster with fewer miles.” Marathon virgins need to face the uncomfortable fact that a marathon is a very, very long, long, loooooong run.

Let’s allow this reality to sink in, shall we?

Now that we’re all staring down the same gun barrel together, let’s jump back into your mileage strategy.

Get comfortable running long distances well before the Big Day. Make sure at least 2 – possibly even 3 – of your training days include a 20 or 21 mile jaunt.

You should also be gradually increasing your weekly mileage as you approach race day. Adding that extra endurance during training will give you the boost you need to keep pushing when you need it most. Add your extra miles to your longest or second-longest running days of the week.

Level Up with Cross Training

The best marathoners think outside the white lines. Prepare for your marathon by including several different types of exercise to build endurance, speed, strength, balance, and overall fitness for one of the greatest athletic feats you’re likely to undertake.

Swimming and training for your first marathon

Swimming is a great way to stay active on those non-running days.

Not only does cross training get you in better shape, it gives your body a chance to properly recover between runs. The joints, tendons, and muscles you’re straining while pounding the pavement need a break, and cross training is a great way to do that without sacrificing a day of exercise. This is especially true if you’re nursing an injury.

Shake it up with different kinds of activities. Try swimming, bicycling, rowing, rollerblading, or even yoga.

Get the Most Out of Your Gear

Think of your marathon as another project to complete. You need to assemble the right materials to maximize every minute of your prep time.

Your marathon clothes should be comfortable and time-tested. Don’t show up to race day with brand new gear and shoes bought right off the shelf. This is a recipe for rubbing, chafing, and painful blisters.

Avoid cotton in your clothing. Cotton isn’t very breathable, and it tends to soak up the sweat like a sponge. Instead, opt for moisture-wicking materials and lightweight performance gear.

Keep in mind that once you’re huffing and puffing, your body temperature will rise. Take a look at the weather before getting dressed, and whatever temperature it says, plan for weather that’s 20 degrees warmer. Is it going to be 72˚ today? Dress like it’s 92˚.

Lastly, although you don’t have to get new running shoes before training for your first marathon, it might be a good idea. Inspect your current shoes for wear and tear. If the sole has lost some of its support and the shoes are in rough shape, then it’s probably time to go shopping. You can make an appointment with your foot and ankle specialist to talk about the best shoes for your training plan. Bring your current footwear in so that your doctor can make an assessment of your gait and help you with a recommendation.

Dr. Bob Baravarian and the UFAI Education Team

Dr. Bob Baravarian and the UFAI Education Team

For almost fifteen years, University Foot and Ankle Institute and their nationally recognized physicians have been providing the most technologically advanced medical care for the foot and ankle with the highest success rates in the country.

As a teaching institution, University Foot and Ankle Institute’s Fellowship Program is among the most advanced in the nation.

We at UFAI are driven to get our patients back to their normal activities with the highest level of function, in the least amount of time, using the least invasive treatments possible. From start to finish, we are with you every step of the way.

The UFAI Education Team works to help empower our patients and website visitors with the most up-to-date information about foot and ankle conditions, treatment options, recovery and injury prevention. Our goal is to pass on truly useful information to our readers.

We hope you enjoy our work and find it of value. Please let us know!
Dr. Bob Baravarian and the UFAI Education Team

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