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Running tips: How to train for a marathon

Whether you’ve been running for years or have just started pounding the pavement, if you want to add a marathon to your bucket list and join the ranks of 26.2-mile finishers — welcome and congratulations for taking on this challenge! We’ve got expert running tips for you to not only complete a marathon but to feel good doing it. Here’s how!

Woman practicing for marathon

From recreational runner to marathoner

Crossing over from recreational running to an organized marathon training plan can seem overwhelming, with all the plans, books, and advice available. That’s why running experts David A. Levine and Paula Petrella wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Marathon Training (Alpha, May 2011), to provide training tips that will get you race-ready and across the finish line successfully.

Two questions you must answer

  1. What’s your current level of endurance? Have you been running for years or are you just starting? Your level of endurance will determine the length of the program you need.
  2. What’s your goal? Is it to finish in four hours or to gain confidence in yourself? This is important, so you can narrow the focus of your training plan.

Marathon training programs

Complete Idiots Guide to Marathon Running

Find a marathon training program that best suits your answers to the questions about your level of endurance and goal. Good places to start are,, and, of course, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Marathon Training. Most plans are not women-specific, so it’s important for women to add – yes, I said add – 10 to 15 minutes to the tapered days.

8 Fitness training tips to run a race >>

Nutrition for marathon runners

Nutrition is a crucial factor in fueling your training runs, recovery and performance on race day. Common nutritional sources for fueling during runs are gels such as E Gel or GU or any other electrolyte/carbohydrate mix that are easy to use, digest easily and can be found in grocery markets or specialty fitness stores. Common foods for pre- and post-run nutrition are pretzels, bananas and trail mix. Experiment with different foods while training – not on race day – so you can determine what you enjoy and can tolerate while running. Hydration is also key to performance, so don’t get behind on fluids.

What to eat after exercise >>

Running tips to keep you running

Levine and Petrella cover a comprehensive view of marathon training in their book, but here are their quick tips for marathon running success.

1Get support

Running a marathon is one of the greatest challenges and accomplishments you can accept. It’s easy to find local running clubs in your area.

2Vary your route

Map your route at and change it frequently to prevent boredom.

3Focus on reasons to run

When you’re tired or feeling unmotivated, revisit the reasons you like to run, want to run and do run. It will boost your motivation to lace up your shoes, give you energy while running, and it can even increase your fitness.

5 Reasons you should be running >>

4Track your running progress

Another way to stay motivated to run is to track your progress by journaling how you felt, your challenges for that day and your improvements.

5Plug in

Upbeat music can keep you moving, as can running podcasts to hear cutting-edge information on running.

Tune up your fitness with music >>

6Prevent running injuries

There’s more to marathon training than just running. Do sport-specific exercises to strengthen weak areas and correct common running imbalances. Talk to a running expert for exercises specific to your body and training.

7Race well

Race day has arrived! Trust in your training plan and your hard work – you are ready and can do this! Wake early, have your usual pre-run meal and stick to your routine. Enjoy the camaraderie with fellow runners, the cheering from the spectators and the friendly help from volunteers as they clap and cheer you to your 26.2-mile finish!

8The finisher’s tunnel and beyond

Once you’ve crossed that finish line, grab water or a sports drink from the volunteers and walk around for 10 to 15 minutes. Eat within 30 to 45 minutes after the race to replenish your muscles and entire body. Congratulations! You successfully ran a marathon!

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