Five Essential Training Tips I Wish I Knew Before My First Marathon

In the marathon training Livestream above, I share five of the biggest mistakes made by runners of all types (and particularly first-timers) during marathon training season.

I wish I had been told these realities before my first marathon back in 2011! However, if you follow the marathon training tips in this video, you’ll be able to run stronger and faster on race day.

If you’re currently training for a marathon, be sure to avoid making these common training errors to stay running injury free and keep building your fitness consistently in training for your marathon.

1. Give Yourself Adequate Recovery Between Runs

Not respecting the need for proper recovery between tough marathon training workouts is a big mistake! In your weekly training schedule, be sure to leave as much time as possible between sessions that are particularly intense, like hill reps or interval workouts, and your longer marathon training runs.

2. Don’t Play Catch-Up on Missed Sessions

While all the sessions on your marathon training plan are of course important, some are ultimately more important than others.

Try not to miss any training sessions on your beginner marathon training plan… but if you do absolutely have to, be sure to make sure it’s your midweek easy runs that are sacrificed in place of a rescheduled long run.

Of course, sometimes life gets in the way (work demands, family commitments, illness…). If you have to miss a run or two, don’t stress about it and suddenly start juggling your week so that you can catch-up on runs.

Doing so will inevitably result in you sacrificing recovery time between runs and increase the likelihood of you picking-up overuse injuries like ITB syndrome or shin splints.

Instead, identify your key sessions – when training for your first marathon, this is the weekly long run – and make a commitment that “no matter what, you’ll find a way to get the long run done each week” even if you have to sacrifice a midweek easy run to make it happen.

3. Not Taking Easier “Adaptation” Weeks

Going hard every week of your marathon training plan, until taper is never a good idea. This is as true for seasoned marathoners as it is for first-timers!

Remember, every fourth or fifth week of your training plan should have you easing the training load significantly, so as to allow your body to recover properly before you push hard again for the next block of three or four weeks.

These easier weeks (or adaptation weeks) will allow your body to recover properly from the stresses of training hard in the preceding weeks, and put you in a better place to push hard for the following cycle of three or four in your training plan.

This type of training periodisation in your marathon plan allows you to follow a sustainable rhythm of building cumulative training load, then de-loading and recovering, and will help you both physically and mentally to reach marathon day fit, strong and un-injured.

4. Resisit the Temptation of Panic Training!

More is not always better!

As mentioned above, sometimes life gets in the way, and we suddenly realise that our marathon is only 5-weeks away, rather than 16-weeks!

Training often then goes into overdrive in an attempt to make up for the lost time.

If you find yourself in this situation, you should focus on building mileage in the weeks you have available and adjusting your marathon goals accordingly.

Runners who try and overreach with the training time they have remaining are setting themselves up for failure and frustration.

5. Don’t Try to Fit Too Many Types of Session into a Given Week

Consider training on a 14-day cycle, rather than a 7-day cycle if you want to find a way of incorporating track intervals, hill reps workouts, tempo sessions and other types of quality work into your marathon training week. Trying to fit all these sessions into a 7-day window will leave too little time for rest and recovery.

Good luck with training for your first marathon!

Last updated on March 2nd, 2021.

1 Comment

  1. I just wanted to say thank you. I ran my first marathon on Sunday with only the last 5 weeks of your training plan as it was a spur of the moment decision when I realised I could do the virtual London Marathon. I thoroughly enjoyed training and the actual day (though the weather was appalling!) and I just wanted to say thank you for all the strength training and sound advice. I will be making use of the improvers plan in the imminent future!