Advice, Guides & Inspiration

5 training tips for running a marathon

26.2 Miles; 42.2 Kilometers.  It’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and for good reason: training for and completing a marathon makes you push barriers and accomplish something incredible.  Make the most of your marathon journey by following these five marathon training tips:

1. Three on, one off

Marathon training can take its toll on your legs and your motivation.  A good tactic is to have three building weeks followed by one recovery week and repeating this for the duration of your training. The recovery week should still consist of as many training sessions as usual, but about half the length, and with some runs substituted by cross-training sessions. 

2. Interval work

The best way of getting faster is by including interval sessions into your training. The time of your interval session should build as your mileage increases, but here are some reference examples:

Long intervals:

  • 1km warm up (slow), 3km @ 5km threshold pace (as fast as you could possibly go if you were racing a 5km race)
  • 1km slow, 2km @ 5km threshold pace
  • 1km slow, 2k @ 5km threshold pace
  • 1km cool down

Unders and Overs:

  • Pick a distance and note your usual comfortable pace for this distance.
  • Warm up for 5 minutes, then run 1km @ 10% faster than your normal pace.
  • Run 1km @ 5% slower than your normal pace.
  • Repeat until you’ve covered the distance, then cool down. 

3. 1 Tempo, 1 Interval, 1 Long

How much and how long you train will depend on your marathon goals and your schedule, but, as a minimum, you should include one tempo run, one interval run, and one long run into every week.  

Tempo run:  Pick a distance and run slightly above your normal pace for that distance for the entire run. 

Interval run: Speed work. These should vary, but will be the most painful sessions of your week. 

Long run: Every week you should build up the distance of this run by 10%, aiming to go up to approximately 35km, or 22 miles.  These should be very slow. 

4. Go slower and faster

Almost every runner runs their slow runs too fast and their fast runs too slowly.  When you set off on your long runs, slow down, and then slow down some more. You should not be out of breath at all; these runs are all about getting your muscles and legs ready for long distances without tiring you out too much. That way, when your speed sessions come round a day or two later, you will be able to push harder and go faster.  

5. Don’t let yourself fall out of love with running

A lot of people will get to the end of their marathon and pack their running shoes away for the year. Marathon training should be sustainable, and should not make you stop running – if you start regularly dreading sessions, it could be a sign of overtraining, or poor nutrition and recovery. Make sure to keep a tally of how you’re feeling, and don’t be afraid to modify your training to better suit you. Sessions will be hard, but overall you should be feeling fitter, stronger, and excited about your journey.