Marathon Training for Beginners (A detailed Guide)

Marathon Training for Beginners in India

Marathons have become quite popular in India in the past decade. A lot of people have started participating in many ‘half’ and ‘full’ marathons and a lot of corporate interest have also built up in these events.

It’s good to see a lot of people talking about the benefits of running (and running in a marathon has become a sort of item on the bucket list for many people).

And if you’re planning to participate in a marathon, you need to undertake proper training and prepare your body for it.

A well-planned training (especially for beginners) can help prepare us for the marathon. Since it can be a challenging task, it better to do your research and start training weeks before the big marathon.

In this article, I am giving you an overview of the marathon training that is recommended and a plan that you can follow while preparing for the marathon.

A Brief Overview + History of Marathon

Marathon is a long distance race, completed by running or walking or a combination of both.

The official distance of a marathon is 42.195kms. It is mostly run on roads.

It was started to celebrate the run of the fabled greek soldier. He ran from the battle of the marathon to Athens to report victory.

It started as an Olympic event in the first modern Olympics in 1896 in Athens. The organizers were looking for a great popularising event which could recall the glory of ancient Greece. The distance was standardized in 1921. More than 800 marathons are run throughout the year worldwide.

A marathon can have tens and thousands of participants. Most of the participants do not run to win. They run for their personal finish time, their placement in specific gender or age, or personal fitness goals with the aim to just finish.

Typically the maximum allowed time of a marathon is 6 hours although some keep 8 hours after which the marathon route is closed.

Anyone who could not reach the finish line is then picked up by the sweeper bus. After which the marathon route is opened for public commuting.

Marathon Training Benefits

One of the greatest benefits of marathon training is becoming structured and organized for exercises.

One will be motivated to know daily training schedules.

Another good reason to train for a marathon is for personal fitness. It makes a person get fit and strengthens the muscles and joints. It improves the back and makes our body flexible.

Running gets good blood flow and oxygen levels throughout the body which decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. People with high blood pressure will find their BP in normal zones due to exercise and it will also keep the cholesterol in check.

Running burns a lot of calories and improves the immune system. It also causes the body to release excess energy and good hormones which fill us with energy and good feelings.

Running is highly recommended for those who have depression. It relieves stress and keeps one focused.

So it improves strength, stamina and gives us a good mental health.

All these good benefits are achieved only after a good training.

For the body to run a marathon, it needs a lot of strength and stamina which requires weight training, resistance training, cross training, speed and distance measurements and gradual increase, fast and short running, long and slow running, strategizing between walking and running etc.

Getting Started with Marathon Training

The first step is to check health status first. One has to make sure if it is safe for a person to begin the programme.

Take an all-clear from a doctor in case you have any medical conditions, are suffering from (or recovering from) an injury, or are on medications.

Certain conditions are not safe for running so we need a go-ahead from our physician before embarking on marathon training.

It is also advisable to get a body checkup done if you’re above 30 years in age or if you’re a smoker.

Once this issue is sorted then we can move ahead with the marathon training.

The First Step Towards Marathon Training

  • Buy comfortable accessories like a good pair of running shoes which is essential for running as they protect, provide comfort, and prevent injury. (Pro Tip: Buy shoes in the afternoon post-lunch as feet swell up in the afternoon).
  • It is better to buy from a specialist sports footwear retailer. They usually have gait analysis equipment and pressure plate tester. It helps in buying shoes according to the particular gait and running style. If you’re are comfortable buying shoes online, you can also order form Amazon or Flipkart in India.
  • Wear something comfortable which will protect the body, be lightweight, and have the ability to wick away the sweat.
  • Avoid sun in the face by wearing glasses. It’s a good idea to opt for polycarbonate or composite rather than glass fiber as they won’t smash if u fall or get hit.

The Sequence of Marathon Training Sessions

First of all, we need to make safe and balanced training sessions.

The following sequence should adhere to every time one trains.

Warm-ups

Warm-ups should be of minimum 5 minutes and should replicate the activities of the main session.

For example, jogging on the spot or jogging around etc.

Mobility

Some basic actions that will loosen the joints.

Putting the limbs through a range of actions to ensure efficient functioning.

Main Session

This is the bulk of the training session – for example, a 30 mins running session.

Cool Down

Post the workout to bring heart activities to normal and to normalize the body temperature.

Cool down should be of 5-10 minutes and of light intensity.

It will also flush out the by-products of exercise from muscles and tissues. For cool down, you can do light jogging or walking.

Flexibility

5-10 mins should be spent post workout and post-cool-down on stretching.

This will help in keeping the muscles flexible and in relaxing the body.

Relax, breathe deep, and stretch muscles to a stretching position. Once you feel slight tension in the muscle, hold for 30 seconds.

Rest and repeat.

Other Important Training

Running will form the bulk of training.

However along with running there is another training one must do to develop strength, flexibility, and stamina.

Below are some of the training you can consider when doing marathon training in India.

Cross Training

It is the athletic training other than running so that other muscles are also used and to overcome the shortcomings of only running.

It leads to overall fitness.

By adding different exercises one can work on strengthening different parts of the body. It also reduces the chances of injury. These could include swimming, biking, working on an elliptical training exercise machine, etc.

Resistance training (weight training)

 Resistance training is simply a form of training in which you are working against some type of force that “resists” your movements.

It causes your muscles to contract against the external resistance leading to increase in strength, tone, mas, and endurance.

It corrects muscle imbalances and improves posture. What is important for running is building up endurance levels.

Examples of resistance training can include free weights exercises, weight machines, resistance bands, and exercises using one’s own body weight.

Flexibility training

It is equally important to tone muscles, keep them injury free, long and supple.

To do that one must undergo flexibility training. Flexibility training includes stretching exercises for increasing one’s range of motion.

It increases mobility. It also causes natural alignment of the body to be maintained throughout the day which may prevent or decrease pain or injury.

Marathon Training for Beginners – 8 Week Schedule

In this section, I have covered a possible 8-week schedule when you’re preparing for the marathon. This schedule is meant for beginners and include rest days as well.

This is just a suggestion, and if you want to modify this (based on expert advice), you can do this.

Here are a few important things to know about the marathon training program schedule:

  • The training program is designed with rest days, recovery sessions, and lower volume weeks.
  • This will ensure the body has time to adapt to training.
  • If one misses out few days of sessions due to unavoidable error, there is no need to worry. Start from sessions one week before the break and build your fitness levels back up again.
  •  Everyone has different body stamina. If one feels an extra day rest is beneficial, simply take out one short session from that week and rest.
  • Always try to complete long run sessions. This will build endurance which is important for running.
  • If the following sessions get tough, its ok to reduce the distance.

The following schedule is used for beginners. It is recommended to the first train for 10 kilometers run. This is an ideal target for beginners to focus on.

Week #1  – The First Steps

Day Training Training Notes
Mon Easy 15-20 min jogging Take walking breaks if needed
Tue Rest
Wed Easy 15-20 min jog Take walking breaks if needed
Thu Rest
Fri Easy 20 min jog Take walking breaks if needed
Sat Rest
Sun 25 min walk/ jog Take it very easy

Week #2  – Consolidate

Day Training Training Notes
Mon Rest Recover from Sunday’s long session
Tue 20 mins jog
Wed Rest
Thu 20-25 mins jog
Fri Rest
Sat Rest
Sun 25-30 mins walk/jog

Week #3  – Build on the Earlier Training

Day Training Training Notes
Mon Rest
Tue 25 mins jog
Wed Rest
Thu 30 mins jog
Fri Rest
Sat Rest
Sun 35 mins nonstop run/jog Try without stopping

Week #4  – Moving Up

Day Training Training Notes
Mon Easy 15 min recovery jog Leave the stopwatch at home!
Tue 25 mins steady jog
Wed Rest
Thu 25 mins steady jog
Fri Rest
Sat Rest
Sun 35 min nonstop run/ jog Repeat like previous Sunday. Improve on time if possible

Week #5

Day Training Training Notes
Mon 15 mins very easy recovery jog Recovery session
Tue Rest
Wed 25-30 mins steady pace
Thu Rest
Fri 25 mins easy
Sat Rest
Sun 40-45 mins walk/ jog Take walking breaks if needed

Week #6

Day Training Training Notes
Mon 20 mins recovery jog Easy pace
Tue 25-30 mins steady jog
Wed Rest
Thu 35 mins steady jog
Fri Rest
Sat Rest
Sun 40-45 mins non-stop walk/ jog Try non stop

Week #7

Day Training Training Notes
Mon 20 mins recovery jog Easy pace
Tue 25-30 mins steady jog Big week, 5 runs
Wed Rest
Thu 35-40 mins steady jog
Fri Rest
Sat 10 mins very easy jog Only jogging
Sun 15 k and walk warm up and cool down

Week #8 – Taper Week and Lead in 10K Marathon

Day Training Training Notes
Mon Rest
Tue 25-30 mins steady
Wed Rest
Thu 25-30 mins easy
Fri Rest
Sat 10 mins very easy jog
Sun 10k race day! THE RACE!

Well Done!

You have achieved your goal. Congratulations!  And fitness has improved from little or no cardiovascular activity to be able to complete a 10k marathon.

Good health, physical fitness is achieved and most importantly,  one has progressed safely without any injury.

With this as a foundation, one can now train for half marathons! Subsequently, on achieving that goal, further training will get you to complete a marathon within 6-7 months.

Note: You can print this article and keep this schedule with you and follow it while training for the marathon.

Some important Marathon Training Terminology

Tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition.

Tapering is customary in many endurance sports such as long distance running and swimming.

It results in repair of damages to the muscles, tissues and also gives optimum performance.

Tapering is usually for a week or more. Tapering means gradually reducing the exercise over a short period of time then stopping completely when the competition time comes.

A workout simulating the actual race distance and conditions will climax the period of training immediately before tapering.

Health Risks to be Aware Of 

  • Marathon running has various health risks. Training and racing itself put the athletes under a lot of stress. Sometimes even death is a possibility during a race.
  • Runners are advised not to ingest new food or medicine just before or during a race.
  • It is equally important not to take any NSAIDS class of pain relievers ( eg ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin) as these may change the way kidney regulates their blood flow leading to serious kidney problems especially in cases involving moderate to severe dehydration.
  • Overconsumption of water is a serious concern in races. Drinking excessive amount of fluids during a race can lead to dilution of sodium in the blood. It is a condition called exercise-associated hyponatremia. It can result in vomiting, seizures, coma and even death.

According to Dr. Lewis .G. Maharam, medical director for the new york city marathon, he stated in 2005, there are no reported cases of dehydration causing death in the history of world running, but there are plenty of cases of people dying of hyponatremia.

Dr. Cynthia age 28 dying in Boston marathon due to the very reason is often cited as an example.

Regarding the health of the heart, a Canadian study in 2010 stated that running a marathon can temporarily result in decreased function of more than half the muscle segments in the hearts main pumping chamber.

The good news is that the neighboring chambers of the heart are generally able to compensate. Full recovery is reached within one to three months.

The fitter the runner, the less the effect.

  • Exertional heat stroke is an emergency condition in which body temperature rises above 104 degrees. It becomes a greater risk in warm and humid weathers even for young and fit runners.

After the marathon

Participation in races may result in various medical, musculoskeletal and dermatological complaints.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common condition affecting runners during the first week following the race. The stiffness and pain are thought to be a result of microtrauma to the muscle fibers.

Knowing and following all the above information, one can have a safe and healthy marathon training for beginners. Enjoy your training!