How To Prepare For Your First Marathon

The marathon is a legendary distance of 42.195 km. Of course, this running cannot be improvised, especially when you start on the distance. Inevitably, this preparation requires seriousness, knowledge and sacrifices in training. In the world of sport, a quote often comes up, namely “Hard training, easy competition”. This is the whole point of this article and it is all the harm we wish you for your first marathon.

10 practical tips for success

Tip no. 1: swallow kilometers to be ready on D-Day

Registering for your first marathon is easy, finishing it in good conditions is not given to everyone. Although the practice of the marathon has become more democratic, this event is not to be taken lightly. The objective is of course to cross the finish line but above all to have fun during your race, to probably keep an unforgettable memory.

For this, the work is done upstream. It is advisable to prepare for it physically at least 1 year before the deadline, or even more if you were sedentary. All means are good, namely swimming, cross-training, tennis or team sports. The more active you are, the greater your chances of success.

Of course, 1 to 2 months before D-Day, it would be necessary for running to occupy a prominent place in your schedule. 3 times a week, you will alternate distances, coatings and the intensity of your training.

To put the odds on your side, be progressive! Do not hesitate to insert a few competitions every 2 months between your training phases. You can start with 5 km, 10 km, half-marathon before attacking your first marathon.

Tip n° 2: equip yourself correctly so as not to flinch

No need to spend a fortune on equipment but it is necessary, at least to have good running shoes to embark on your first marathon.

Brands like Asics, Saucony, Adidas or New Balance have largely proven themselves. Go to a specialist store to get advice from an expert. (Editor’s note: the Lepape online store, a sports specialist, offers a wide choice of quality clothing and shoes, free delivery from 90 € of purchase).

Despite beliefs, buying a pair of running shoes cannot be improvised. Depending on your objective, your size and the anatomy of your foot (supinator, pronator, neutral), he will be able to advise you on the most suitable model.

If you haven’t already, you can contact your running club. Today, almost every city has a sports association offering supervised running training for a fairly modest annual membership. This is the perfect place to gain experience.

Tip #3: Make your diet a priority!

It is impossible to be efficient without quality food. Just by looking at the physique of the marathon runners, you quickly understand that they haven’t touched a hamburger for ages. Without going to extremes, it is however necessary to eat properly according to the objective to be achieved. In running, every kilo counts.

Broadly speaking, the diet of a runner differs little from that of an average athlete. As always, we advise you to avoid industrial and processed foods, full of sugars, salts and additives of all kinds. Bet everything on white meat, fruits, vegetables, rice, sweet potatoes or oilseeds.

One week before the deadline, pay attention to your hydration and scrupulously respect the recommendations, namely, 1.5 l to 2 l of water per day. Keep your glycogen stores at a good level as they are valuable energy providers.

On D-Day, 3 hours before the race, bet on carbohydrates with a low to moderate glycemic index such as honey, oatmeal, fruit or the famous sports cake. Consider hydration with water, tea, coffee, or a vegetable drink as well as a source of protein like eggs or chicken breast.

Tip 4: watch out for small injuries

This long preparation to be ready on D-Day will probably cause more or less serious minor sores that should not be overlooked. We think of blisters, strains, sprains and other friction on the skin due to the T-shirt.

As a runner, the masseur-physiotherapist is often useful to get us back on our feet before the deadline. In case of any pain, do not hesitate to stop your training immediately to treat your pathology.

Tip #5: Always be one step ahead

Healing is good but being in anticipation is better. While running, our body is often put to the test. It is therefore useful to take care of it before the pain starts. Rest, restful sleep and self-massage techniques are the minimum. To go further, it may be useful to consult a sports podiatrist for the installation of custom-made orthopedic insoles.

In terms of equipment but also nutrition, it is advisable not to test anything on D-Day. Moreover, the training sessions are made for that. Thus, your shoes, your gels, your energy drinks or even your possible backpack must have been tested several weeks before the race to identify possible signs of discomfort.

Tip 6: does running cadence speak to you?

Today, every runner has their ultra-connected watch grafted onto their wrist. For some, it’s just a fad to post their workouts on social networks. For others, it is a real training partner. For example, your connected watch is surely able to calculate your running pace, expressed in steps per minute (ppm).

To avoid injuries, save energy and optimize performance, it would seem that a rate of around 180 ppm is ideal (+ or – 10ppm).

Using your watch or a metronome to work on your running pace is therefore not superfluous when preparing for a marathon. Namely that a lambda runner is generally at 150 ppm. However, according to one study (1), a high cadence of around 180 ppm would significantly reduce the injury rate and lead to a shorter contact time with the ground, which is beneficial for sports performance.

Tip 7: be 100% for your first marathon thanks to the sharpening phase

Concretely, the sharpening phase consists of reducing the volume of training before D-Day. The objective is of course to avoid injury a few days before the race and keep as much energy as possible to cover the 42 km.

To be effective, the training volume must be reduced gradually at 3 weeks from D-Day. The ideal is to reduce your training volume between 40 and 60% during these 21 days. However, it is advisable to maintain a good intensity so as not to lose the gains acquired previously.

In fact, this sharpening phase results in a drop in kilometers as well as a reduction in the number of training sessions from the 3rd week before the marathon.

Tip #8: Do you know how to estimate your marathon time?

This may seem trivial when preparing for your first marathon. However, estimating your marathon time will allow you to be better prepared mentally and physically. For example, many training programs available on the internet rely on your pace to provide you with a plan.

As stated above, trying out 10 km and half-marathons is highly recommended. In addition, the times put on these competitions will allow you to calculate your estimate with more precision.

On the internet, you will find many sites to estimate your marathon time. Nevertheless, for calculator aficionados, here is an approximate formula for estimating your marathon time:

Estimate your marathon time

Estimated marathon time (minutes) = Half marathon time (min) x 2.22

Tip 9: coach, how many sessions are needed per week?

The number of training sessions strongly depends on the planning and the objectives of each one. Generally, we recommend between 3 and 5 weekly training sessions to prepare for your first marathon. If at the same time, you practice a cardio activity such as cycling, squash or even swimming, 3 sessions may be enough. On the other hand, if you devote yourself exclusively to running, and what is more, you have an office job, 5 sessions will be recommended.

Tip #10: Plan your training over 12 weeks

Your specific preparation will start 12 weeks before D-Day. This preparation gives you time both to progress but also to make some adjustments, test your equipment or even get to know yourself better to manage the distance.

To get the most out of your training, it is necessary to know your VMA as well as your Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax).

For your workouts, we recommend:

  • Long outings
  • Interval training

Weeks 1 and 2:

  • Session 1: 45′ jogging
  • Session 2: 20′ jogging + 6 x 200m at 100% VMA; 30” recovery
  • Session 3: 60′ jogging

Weeks 3 and 4:

  • S1: 45′ jogging
  • S2: 30′ jogging + 15 x 150m at 100% VMA; 45” recovery
  • S3: 1h10 jogging

Weeks 5 and 6:

  • S1: 60′ jogging
  • S2: 30′ jogging + 7 x 300m at 90% MAS; 60” recovery
  • S3: 1h20′ jogging

Weeks 7 and 8:

  • S1: 60′ jogging
  • S2: 30′ jogging + 15 x 100m at 100% VMA; 30” recovery
  • S3: 1h30′ jogging

Week 9:

  • S1: 60′ jogging
  • S2: 30′ jogging + 10 x 100m at 100% VMA; 30” recovery
  • S3: Half Marathon

Week 10:

  • S1: 50′ jogging
  • S2: 30′ jogging
  • S3: 20′ jogging + 10 x 100m at 100% VMA; 30” recovery

Week 11:

  • S1: 50′ jogging
  • S2: 30′ jogging

Week 12:

  • S1: 20′ jogging
  • S2: D-Day – Marathon

In conclusion

Completing your first marathon cannot be improvised. You need to be well prepared to take full advantage of your race while avoiding injury. The post-race is also an important moment. Don’t forget to give yourself a few days off. Maintain quality nutrition and hydration to optimize your muscle recovery. By the way, did you know that it is estimated that the body takes 26 days to fully recover from its effort after a marathon. Now you have all the cards in hand to manage the pre-race, the race and then the post-race. Put on your sneakers then the 42.195 km are yours!!!

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