Many people dive into running marathons for a fun and personal challenge. They may want to test their running skills, lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle, join a friend, run for charity, or prove to themselves they can actually run a 26.2 mile marathon. Whatever your running goals are, it’s very important to train correctly leading up to your marathon. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to prep at least 18 weeks before running a marathon. Now, for beginners, we also recommend trying out a few shorter races first like
- or even a half marathons
which are excellent ways to prepare physically and mentally for your first marathon. For experienced runners, it’s recommended at least 12 weeks of training. So, whether you’re running your first marathon or training for a new one, this marathon running plan is perfect to nail in only 18 weeks. In order to successfully run a marathon, you’ll need to focus on 5 things:
We’re going to break down your personal 18 week training plan on the foundation of these 5 principles to help you successfully run a 26.2 mile marathon.
Running Faster and Farther (Speed + Endurance Tips)
As a marathon runner, one of your main goals may be to run not only faster but farther. The best way to train for speed and endurance is to gradually increase your distance and push your speed within the weeks leading up to the race. This can be a mixture of a few short runs during the week mixed with one long run. You want your body to gradually adapt to your new speed and pace every week. You’ll need to realistically start with how many days a week you can set aside time to speed train. At least 4 days of speed and endurance training is best and here are some exercises to incorporate into that training:
Intervals and HIIT workouts: Interval training is a proven way to increase endurance by adding intensity at set points in your run. Run a set distance at top speed, then a set distance at a slower pace to recover and repeat. With HIIT workouts, your heart and lungs will become stronger thus, making you run longer! HIIT workouts also work with controlling the amount of lactic acid in your body.
Hills: If you live in a city that has hills, you can run up and down the same hill over and over again. If you’re in a location that’s mostly flat, you can do the same training on a treadmill using incline settings. Start off at a low incline and increase the incline weekly.
Pace Runs: Pace runs are workouts done at the pace you hope to use to complete the marathon.
Fartleks: During a fartlek, you speed up and slow down at varying, nonuniform intervals. For example, run hard for two minutes, then run easy for three minutes, then run hard for four minutes and so on.
Tempo Runs: A tempo run is a moderate-to-hard intensity training run, that can last anywhere between 20 minutes and 40 minutes. You can do tempo runs to reduce the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles. This will help you run faster without suffering from muscle fatigue in the middle of the race.
Marathon Race Nutrition
Race nutrition is very important before, during, and after running a marathon. It’s very important to learn how to properly fuel your body before running a marathon and how to recover after to prevent injury. Hydration is key for the first few days leading up to your marathon. You want to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and consuming electrolytes.
Understanding how much you sweat is also an important factor in nutrition to help you stay hydrated in running a marathon. You can use our fluid calculator to understand how much fluid your body will need to replace what ever is lost in sweat during your race.
Now let’s talk carbohydrates! Carbohydrates are used as energy by the body. So, to prevent fatigue, it is important to replenish your glucose and glycogen levels during your marathon race as well. Use our carbohydrate calculator to help determine how much carbohydrates you should be consuming.
After running a marathon, your body is hyper absorbent. The first 15-30 minutes after a race is a crucial time to replace the fluid and electrolytes you lost during your race. Use our post exercise fluid calculator to help you gage how much fluid you need to replace to achieve normal hydration levels.
During your marathon race, keep in mind your body sweats to cool itself. So, it is important to replenish the electrolytes lost in sweat to stay hydrated and avoid muscle cramps. This is exactly how our Hydration Formulas help marathon runners maintain their electrolyte balance because, it replaces the fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat. Our hydration formula helps:
- reduce lactic acid buildup
- increase calcium
- prevent muscle cramps
- maintains your sodium and potassium levels
- maintains your electrolytes
What you eat before and after a race also makes a different. Learn more about what foods to eat and avoid before running a marathon
How to stay motivated during your marathon running training
18 weeks is a long time commitment when training for a marathon. It’s easy to get discouraged or frustrated but, there are ways to stay motivated during the training process.
- Set goals
- Go easy on your race times. Every run won’t be fun or feel amazing. Don’t let your run times get the best of you
- Train with friends/family
- Reward short term goals
- Switch up your running environment
- Read motivational quotes or watch motivational documentaries about marathon runners
- Visualize you running the actual marathon and succeeding
- Remember why you started this journey in the first place!
Proper Marathon Recovery
Recovering after any endurance activity, like running a marathon, may be more important than running the marathon itself. See, although you may feel back at rest an hour after your marathon, your body is still physiologically active. Recovery is also important because this is the time your body needs to rebuild what’s been lost during running your marathon. Most marathon runners recover with a drink or a meal. However you decide to recover, you want to make sure it includes these 6 important “building blocks” of the body.
- Glycogen, which is the storage form of carbohydrate in the body. Make sure within the first 30 minutes after running a marathon, you’re meal or drink includes at least 50 to 100 grams of carbohydrates. The best carbohydrates for quick recovery are high glycemic index carbohydrates.
Our eload Recovery Formula supplies 60 grams of carbohydrate per liter. Now, the best carbohydrates for quick recovery are high glycemic index carbohydrates. eLoad Recovery Formula also uses dextrose as its’ principle carbohydrate, and sucrose as its’ secondary carbohydrate, totaling 60 grams of carbohydrate per liter of fluid, for rapid glycogen repletion.
- Protein, which is an essential building block in the body, from muscles to your immune system. Within thirty minutes after running your marathon, you’ll need at least 5-9 grams of protein also supplemented with carbohydrates.
Our eload Recovery Formula supplies 15 grams of ultrafiltered whey protein isolate per liter. Our whey protein isolate is considered the highest quality in the world. It is sourced from New Zealand grass fed cows. It is also non GMO!
- Water, which you assume is the most important nutrient for you to consume in general. When you are recovering after running a marathon, you’ll want to replace your fluids at a rate of 1½ times the deficit. It’s important to replace fluids as soon as possible to prevent chronic dehydration.
Our eLoad Recovery Formula contains an optimal sodium concentration to facilitate rehydration.
You lose electrolytes when you do any intense endurance training, like running a marathon, and it’s important to replace the appropriate amounts of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium and zinc. Your sodium intake should be in the range of 900-1000mg/liter for optimal rehydration.
Your pH in your body measures acidity. Prolonged exercise, especially in the heat, can be stressful on your body, which can increase the amount of acid in your stomach. This can lead to stomach pain/cramps. Therefore, you want to minimize the amount of acid in your drink. You want to stick with protein drinks with a pH below 7.0.
Your 18 Week Marathon Running Plan
Below is an 18 week marathon running plan you can use to get started with training! The more miles you can get to before starting this plan, the better. Walk, run, or do a walk run/combo. The goal is to be able to complete 15 miles a week without any problems before starting this training. Don’t forget about the 10% rule. You want to increase your weekly mileage and long runs by no more than 10% to avoid injury. Speaking of long runs, don’t skip them! If you can do 3 runs of 20 miles in training, you can finish a marathon.
During the last 3 weeks of this training plan, keep the same pace but lower your mileage. This training plan isn’t a one size fits all so make sure to adjust accordingly. We suggest training for at least 3-4 days with rest days in between. Try to add 6 x 100 meter sprints during weeks 10 through 16 at the end of each run.