The full marathon - training

The full marathon (26.2 miles) is one of the greatest tests of endurance in sport today. With events like the London Marathon receiving wide coverage, it's no surprise that many people want to take part - even if they have limited running experience. But whether you're a novice raising money for charity or a more advanced athlete, it's an event not to be taken lightly.

You'll find guidance on building up stamina, incorporating 'speed' and 'tempo' sessions into your training, and having a plan for race day, here:

What do you want to achieve?

If you're running a full marathon for charity, the answer could be 'get round, raise some cash'. If that is your aim, do acknowledge your responsibility towards your sponsors - it will pay you, literally, to undertake some training. Without it, you may not finish the course. Other aims for the full marathon include:

  • Get round, running in places but walking if necessary.
  • Run the course, varying a brisk pace to keep yourself going.
  • Running a good time - treating it as a race.

Whatever your goal, your success or failure will depend on how effectively you train and build up your stamina. Aim to do one run a week which is longer - and becomes much longer, progressively - than your other distance training. You should aim to be running (or going through your regular pattern of run, jog, walk etc.), for at least 2 hours, three weeks before race day.

If you struggle, and your performance suffers for a while - don't panic. You won't need to cover 26.2 miles in training regularly (unless you're working on improving times), but you will need to develop the ability to cover long distances using a varied pace. Concentrate on being able to run steadily for extended periods of time. Progressively increasing the time and distance of your steady runs will soon see improvements in your levels of overall fitness.

The other two keys to success are in varying terrain, and remembering to treat your body with respect - warm up and down, and don't push yourself too hard. It's better to finish last, than not finish at all.

Final preparations

It may seem like a contradiction, but it's best to ease right off the training in the last two weeks before the big event. Reduce your volume of training by 25%, and just do a few short jogs. Don't do a big long run in the 10 days before the marathon - save your energy and make sure you go into your marathon fresh.

Eat well and stay hydrated in the last few days before the race. Only do a very gentle warm up. Some stretching and a short jog will do the job. Read all the pre-race information carefully, and make sure you know where you have to be and when. Arrive early enough to not have to rush to find the start, look for the toilets or work out where the course goes.

Finally - start at a sensible pace. Most people will start way too fast and fade. The best way to run is at an even pace. You'll run faster if you start slightly too slow and pick up the pace, than if you go too fast and then tire. Good luck.

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