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Cross Training For Runners

8 Tips For Running your Best First Marathon

8 Mins read

Thinking of running your first marathon? Then you have come to the right place.

The marathon is a beast of a race and a difficult distance to master. It requires a lot of commitment, discipline, and time. This can crush anyone and is the reason so many runners gave up on their marathon goals early on.

But fret no more. My friend, I got you covered. It might seem hard, but you’ll get there sooner or later. It’s achievable!

In today’s post, I’m sharing a few training tips that will help you get the most out of your marathon training.

Build up to it

Having the right mileage base is the backbone of efficient and pain-free marathon training.

To be race-ready, aim to run four to five days a week with a minimum mileage of 20 miles before doing any serious marathon training.

What’s my best advice? Of course, work up to it as a newcomer to endurance by doing plenty of shorter distance events.

Once you have a few races under your belt, start serious training. Keep in mind that most marathon training plans range from 12 to 16 weeks.

Give It Three Months

Now you got the base. Keep in mind that there ain’t nothing as an overnight success. It takes time, patience, and lots of trial and error to get to where you want to go.

So how do you make sense of out it?

In general, you’d need to train for at least 12 weeks to be race-ready—especially if you’re a newcomer to endurance training.

The three-month period is long enough to safely build up endurance and conditioning, but not so long that your motivation will start to wane off.

So what’s the safest way to increase mileage?

That’s where the 10 percent rule comes in handy. Don’t force yourself even if you felt that you could do more. Abide by the “don’t bite more you can chew.”

Aim to gradually build your weekly mileage up to 40 miles over the three months leading up to race day.

Additional Guide – What’s The Fastest Marathon Time?

Fuel your Efforts

Proper marathon training isn’t just about the miles. You also need to get your diet up to speed.

The fact is, your nutrition is as much as important as your training plan.

To fuel your training, bulk up with high-carb, low-fiber foods (pasta, bread, grains, etc.).

Eat also plenty of good fats (avocados, oils, nuts, etc.) and lean protein (fish, meat, and chicken). Have more water and electrolytes; and more calories for endurance training.

Additional resource – Can you run a marathon on keto

Time Your Nutrition

Don’t ignore your post-workout diet.

Consume a carb-protein drink, such as a recovery sport shake within the recovery window—the hour following a workout.

Some example of good pre-run options includes a banana, bagel with peanut butter, or an energy bar.

I’d also recommend that you experiment with various types of fuel on your training days to see which ones work the best. Then choose to follow the same fueling strategy during the race itself.

What’s more?

Stay well-hydrated. Make sure also to drink plenty of water. Carry your water for long runs to keep you well hydrated.

Sidestep Injury

High mileage exposes you to injury. No matter how careful you are.

How you handle these aches and pains is critical for your marathon success.

Feel pain? Do something about it. Even a small niggle can turn into a serious injury that might derail your marathon training plan.

Use ice, take anti-inflammatory medication, and, most importantly, take enough rest days to allow the injury to heal. Pushing through pain achieves nothing but making things worse.

In short, there’s no room for It’s Okay. Proceed with caution.

What’s more?

Follow the 10 percent rule at all times, work on developing proper running form, and aim to build a strong to help you dodge injury and stay on track.

Running & Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Build Your Long Runs

Whether you’re looking to finish your first marathon or want to pull off a sub-3:00 event, long runs are key.

Other sessions—recovery runs, marathon-pace runs, and speed work—are also important but not as vital as the long run.

Here’s why.

Long runs help your body adapt to extended periods of running. They simulate real marathon running conditions, which helps to physically and mentally prepare for tackling the 26.2-mile beast.

Once you’re a few weeks in, start building up your weekly long runs. These should be performed once a week, extending the session by a mile or two each week.

Your first step? Start with a distance that you can run with ease—say eight miles—and then progressively build it up.

On the third or fourth week, scale it back by a few miles so as not to risk injury or burnout.

For example, you might run 10 miles on Saturday, 11 miles the next, then 12 miles, and then ten again before moving to 13 or 14 in the fifth week.

So how long should your long run be?

According to experts, build it up to 20 miles a session, but at a pace at 60 to 90 seconds per minute slower than your goal marathon race pace.

Complete at least six long runs (about 20 miles each), the last of which should be roughly two to three weeks before the event—during the start of what’s known as the taper period.

Additional resource – Guide to Marathon Des Sables

Taper Right

The few weeks leading to your race day are most vital.

That’s why all good marathon-training plans have a “taper” period. During the period, you taper or reduce your training volume.

This latter phase of training helps reduce accumulated fatigue and recharge your body after all the training. This, in turn, ensures that you’re well-rested so you can reach your full potential on race day.

Don’t know how to taper? Don’t worry.

This is how:

  • Three weeks out:Do your last 20-mile run three weeks before the marathon. Consider your last run as a “race rehearsal” for the event. Run it as if you are running a real marathon race and execute your nutrition and hydration plan, too.
  • Two weeks out:Reduce your training volume to roughly 40 to 50 percent. Resist the urge to run harder or longer, as doing so will only compromise your efforts. Excess energy? Cross-train, but stay low impact.
  • One week before the event: Cut your mileage to one-third of your normal training volume and keep your usual pace for the most part. Focus on recovery during the last week. Make surethat you’re soreness- and pain-free in the three days before the event.

Beyond The Marathon

You just finished a few marathons and feel like you’re ready for more challenges? Go ultra.

These ultra beasts will push your body and mind to the breaking point. So only consider stepping in after competing in a bunch of marathons, obstacle course events, and other endurance races. Your inner game plays a huge role in ultra events. So be careful.

Note: If you have already crossed the finish line on some of these races, then congrats, and I urge you to email me because I really want to learn more about the training you went through in order to get ready for these crazy events.

  1. Marathon des Sables

Also known as “Marathon of Sands” in English, This crazy race takes place in the breathtaking Moroccan desert in North Africa and is one of the cruelest footraces on Earth. It’s also one of the well-organized multi-day endurance events in the world, but don’t worry, it’s not a death sentence, so it’s still within reach.

What to expect

The MDS is a 6-day race that will test your endurance as you make your way through a 154-mile hellish trek under some of the most inhospitable conditions on the planet. So this race is not really for the faint-hearted.

During the event, you have to run the equivalent of a full marathon each day of the race on the sand in hellish desert temperatures. Plus, it’s a self-sufficient race. So participants have to carry their own supplies and the necessary items for desert survival. Make sure you’re really ready for this so you won’t waste your money, or God forbid, get lost in the desert.

  1. The Jungle Ultra

The Jungle Ultra Marathon is a 140-mile race from The Andes to the Amazon. The racecourse consists of tough jungle trails, mountain roads, and village tracks as participants lead their way down from 10500 ft in the Cloud Forest to Amazon Jungle below.

What to expect

This endurance event will have you partake in a five-stage race covering roughly 140 miles through the humid and merciless Peruvian jungle, wetting your feet in 70 tropical rivers and streams before you reach the finish line.

It’s not all. You are expected to make it through the jungle while carrying your own supplies, a hammock to sleep in, and fight off hordes of hungry bugs and temperatures in the ’90s. MacGyver’s survival ability required.

  1. Badwater Ultramarathon

This is one of the grandfathers of the modern ultrarunning craze. This even goes way back to the mid-’70s, and it is, still, one of the toughest and most challenging footraces on earth.

What to expect

During the event, you will have to cover a 135-mile through Death Valley, the hottest spot in the U.S,  during July, the hottest month, so expect scorching temperatures over 125 degrees.

The race kicks off below sea level, then climbs up to 8,300 feet to the trailhead at Mountain Whitney.

  1. Antarctic Ice Marathon

People pay good money to compete and run in the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the only official marathon run on mainland Antarctica and is a member of the Association of International Marathons & Distance Races (AIMS).

Taking place at 80 degrees south, just a few hundred miles from the South Pole at the foot of the Ellsworth Mountains, the Antarctic Ice Marathon also is the world’s southernmost marathon.

What to expect

This is a truly Antarctic challenge with conditions comprising ice and snow, with average temperatures between 0 and -10 degrees F. Plus, the whole event takes place at an altitude of 2300 feet. Getting adapted to the heat changes is key for avoiding massive heat loss.

  1. North Pole Marathon

On the other side of the planet, the North Pole marathon has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the most northernmost marathon on earth.

What to expect

The North Pole marathon takes place at Russia’s Bareno Ice station in the geographic North pole and will have you running across Arctic ice on the top of the world. You’ll be mainly racing on 6 to 14 feet of ice— the only barrier between you and the salty Aortic ocean below—to complete 26.2 miles in one of the remotest parts on earth.

  1. Hardrock 100

If you are into mountain races, then this one is for you. The Hardrock 100 takes place in San Juan, Colorado, and is held each July since 1992.

What to expect

The Hardrock 100 is the premier ultra mountain race, with an average altitude of roughly 11,100 feet above sea level, the highest point reaching over 14,000 feet atop Handles peak. The racecourse circles around the San Juan Mountain Range of southern Colorado.

During the event, expect to suffer from altitude sickness, with symptoms including headaches, dizziness, and a plethora of other trouble.

So it’s not, really, your typical 100-mile trail run. And what makes it extra hard is that you are expected to finish the whole course in under 48 hours. Otherwise, you would be disqualified. The route is already hard, plus racing with time. What a combo!

  1. Spartathlon

One of the most famous and grueling endurance events held annually in Greece since 1983.

What to expect

The Spartathlon is s a non-stop 153-mile that kicks off in Athena, Greece’s capital, and wraps up in Sparta, the legendary city.

The racecourse simulates the road that the Greek messenger Pheidippides ran in 490 BC to alert the Spartans and ask for help against the Persian army in what’s known as the battle of Marathon.

So you will be, lit really, taking on a legendary path and celebrating thousands of years of tradition.

What makes it this even really challenging is that you have only 36 hours to finish the course, so if you failed to make it to one of the 75 control points along the course, you are disqualified.

As a final note, keep in mind that the legendary Pheidippides died of exhaustion shortly after finishing the whole course himself.


Ain’t no mountain high enough. Ain’t no races long enough. Of course, once you feel up and ready to take on the challenge. The rest is just details (and paying for the hefty race fees).

It is still doable. Believe that someday you can compete in one of those. In meantime, prepare your best!

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