How to Train for a Marathon for Newbie Runners

Marathon for Runners June 2021

I truly started to love fitness when I started setting goals and achievements for myself. They didn’t have to be anything major either, it could have been something small like lifting a heavier weight my next time at the gym, or heading to the gym an extra day that week. 

Those goals and achievements served as pieces of motivation for me and helped me become who I am today.

One of the goals that I see many beginners to fitness set for themselves is to run a marathon. It doesn’t sound like the hardest thing in the world, but let me tell you, it is extremely difficult, especially if you don’t have the proper training to do so.

Because of this, I am going to be teaching all of you newbie runners how to train for a marathon.

This isn’t just going to be information directly related to running either. You’re going to get a complete breakdown on how to mentally prepare, how you should treat your body and the workouts that you should be doing to get yourself ready. 

This is a big goal, but if you work hard, you can certainly achieve it. 

With any goal, we need a clear starting point and a clear endpoint as well. You are going to have to visualize yourself succeeding if you want to learn how to train for a marathon.

It starts right there and doesn’t stop until you’ve finally crossed that finish line. Let’s dive right into this and learn how to train for a marathon if you are a newbie runner.

Mentally Prepare Yourself

Before we even hit the gym or start running, you have to sit down and take time to mentally focus. What you are going to embark on is a journey that is going to take several months.

Learning how to train for a marathon isn’t just about getting your muscles ready, it’s also about training your mind and getting it ready as well.

The first commitment you are going to have to make mentally and physically is signing up for the marathon itself. While this isn’t necessarily a form of training, it gets the wheels turning and starts to give you a sense of urgency.

Once you’re signed up, you’re now locked in with a date of when you are running. Until you sign up, you can easily chicken out and tell yourself you can do it later. Signing up is the first step towards learning how to train for a marathon.

The mental game doesn’t end there, however, and you can expect the next few months to be extremely difficult. You are going to be challenged mentally and your willpower is going to be pushed to the limits.

There are going to be days where you don’t feel like training. There are going to be days when you want to eat poorly and drink. There are going to be days when you want to quit.

This is all normal, and I even go through that every now and again. The important thing when learning how to train for a marathon however is that you overcome all those voices that are telling you to quit.

You’re locked in and you’re ready to go. Nothing is going to stop you from achieving your goals and in a few months, you’re going to be crossing that finish line.

Without the mental preparation, you aren’t going to know how to train for a marathon and you certainly aren’t going to be able to commit to any training regiment.

The physical aspect is definitely the most important, but that does not mean you should be neglecting the mental aspect when it comes to marathon training.

Pick Your Marathon

Black man in track suit sprinting down the street with other racers

There are two types of marathons out there: a regular marathon and a half marathon.

A regular marathon is 26 miles in length with the half marathon coming in at 13 miles.

If you are not a runner and you have not had much training, you might not be able to run a full 26-mile marathon out of the gate. 

There is nothing wrong with taking on a half marathon at first, however, you shouldn’t let the distance intimidate you either.

With the proper training plan and dedication, you can definitely find yourself running a 26-mile marathon. It all comes down to grit and determination. I don’t want to be the one to tell you you can’t run a full marathon, but I also don’t want you to undertake something that is going to damage your body. 

Know your fitness levels and your fitness limits and work on improving them. Starting with a half marathon can be one extra step towards running a full one and in itself is a great form of training if you want to learn how to train for a marathon.

Create A Training Plan

Now that you’ve decided on the marathon that you are going to be running, it’s time to create your own training plan to teach your body how to train for a marathon. There are three major areas that you have to focus on when it comes to marathon training.


You need to be able to run long distances and push yourself to the limit. 26-miles is an incredibly far distance and if you have never run anything close to that distance before, you are going to struggle mightily.

We are going to have to devise a training program that builds your stamina up slowly over your training period.


Depending on how competitive you are, you might want to add some speed when learning how to train for a marathon. It’s not just about walking 26-miles when it comes to these types of races, it’s about pushing yourself to the limit and finishing it as fast as you possibly can.

Therefore you are going to have to get faster and learn how to manage your speeds as well so your body does not tire quickly.


People don’t realize the importance of weightlifting and strength-building when it comes to running. Cardio and weightlifting are closely tied together. If you want to perform your best at a marathon, your muscles have to be in tip-top shape.

The stronger your muscles are, the faster you are going to be able to go and the longer you are going to be able to go. Don’t forget strength training when learning how to train for a marathon.

Now that we’ve covered the three areas that you have to work on, let’s start talking about some of the methods of training that you can incorporate into your routine.

#1. Stamina Training

Black man doing push ups with dumbbells

Stamina training is all about going for as long as you can.

However, pushing yourself to the absolute limit when you first start training is going to result in severe muscle aches and even potential injuries.

Therefore, it is always important that you listen to your body when learning how to train for a marathon.

Start with simple short jogs around the neighborhood.  As you are going to be training for a marathon, you might want to start off jogging something like four to five miles at first and seeing how your body handles it.

Was that easy for you? The next time you get outside you have to increase the mileage. Was it too hard? That’s a sign that you have to make things a little easier.

You have to determine a starting point if you want to improve and reach your goals. From there, you are going to want to look at how much time you have to train for a marathon and how far away you are from itching your goals.

For example, if a marathon is 8 weeks away and you are running 15 miles several times a week, it means you are going to have to add a little more than a mile onto your distances each week. This will get you nicely to 26 just before the marathon.

Stamina training isn’t just about long runs however and at times it can be unrealistic to expect someone to run 20 miles quite often. If you are tight on time, you can look to do high-intensity interval training or HIIT.

HIIT is all about a short burst of speed followed by a period of light activity. A HIIT training plan I like to do is 60 seconds of sprinting followed by 30 seconds of jogging. I repeat this for 20-30 minutes depending on how I am feeling.

Now, I understand you might not be at the level of fitness I am, so don’t be afraid to change things up and make accommodations for yourself. A good starting point for HIIT would probably be 15 seconds of sprinting followed by 90 seconds of jogging or walking.

This is a great baseline to build off of and will greatly improve your stamina. As you get better at it, slowly increase the duration of the sprinting and lessen the time of the jogging. If you can look to get this stamina training down, you are going to find yourself running much farther distances with ease.

#2. Speed Training

Black man running on a field

Now that we’ve got our stamina training covered, it’s time to focus on our speed training when learning how to train for a marathon.

This means we are going to be pushing ourselves to the limit as best as we can.

There are two factors that influence speed, and they are our muscles and our weight. 

If we are carrying excess fat around, we are going to have trouble running fast. If you want to burn fat, I’d recommend having a strict diet to ensure you are losing weight, along with a good training plan.

You should also be doing some of the HIIT training I mentioned above as it is great for kick-starting your heart and burning some of the fat. 

There’s more to it however when learning how to train for a marathon. You are going to want to run 100m sprints several times in the week. Although you aren’t going to be sprinting during the marathon, sprinting will help to increase your overall speed, thus making you jog faster.

Speed can be one of the most difficult things to train as it requires both a strict diet plan and a workout plan. If you do stick with it, however, you can accomplish amazing things and can even propel to near the top of the leaderboards with your marathon.

#3. Strength Training

Woman doing dumbell pull up while in a push up position

As I mentioned above, cardio and strength are closely tied together.

Cardio does naturally build muscles, however not as efficiently as we would like.

Therefore, hitting the weight room to help out is greatly advised when learning how to train for a marathon. 

You are going to want to focus on exercises that strengthen your calves as those are some of the main muscles that are involved with running. 

Exercises like leg curls, leg extensions, and even the leg press are all going to help build up muscle in these areas. The stronger your muscles are, the less likely they are to injure during intense training sessions. You can also expect your muscles to keep you going for a longer period of time as well.

You might be tempted to skip out on the gym when you are learning how to train for a marathon, however, I would caution you not to.

I love the gym and swear by it, and I strongly recommend you get yourself to the gym if you are planning to run a marathon. It will make things go that much smoother.

Hydration and Diet

First things first, if you are going to be running, you are going to need a ton of water to get through it. I recommend picking up one of those half-gallon jugs as they can carry a lot of water and ensure that you are drinking it throughout the day.

Your muscles will cramp up if you don’t have enough water and that can certainly kill a training session.

When it comes to food, you are going to want to eat healthily and avoid any junk food and simple carbohydrates. Getting protein into your diet is essential as well as this will help provide you with a good long-term energy source.

As for calories, you need to track how many calories you are burning during your run.

If you don’t need to lose weight, you might actually have to consume more calories than you might think. You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to help track the calories that you are intaking vs. the calories that you are burning.

This will help give you a good idea of how much you need to eat when learning how to train for a marathon.

Listen To Your Body

We all like to believe that we are invincible, but let’s face it, we aren’t. I’ve gotten injured myself because I was cocky and didn’t listen to the signs my body was giving me.

If your body is sore and you are having trouble moving, it means you might need to take a rest day. There is nothing wrong with a rest day and in fact, they are extremely important when it comes to training for a marathon.

If you don’t take the time to get rest, you are not going to recover. Your dreams of running a marathon are going to be cut short if you don’t take the time to get better.

Get Lots of Sleep

This ties into the above point when it comes to recovery and resting. Sure, you might listen to your body and take the day off to rest, but that means nothing if you aren’t getting proper sleep each night.

The night is when your body best recovers and if you aren’t getting your eight hours, it’s going to show. Make sure you get yourself the sleep you need to ensure that you can work out properly.

Push Yourself

I know I said listen to your body, but you are going to have to push yourself when training for a marathon. I’ve said it multiple times in this post, this is not going to be an easy task.

You are going to want to quit at points and your body is going to want you to stop as well. You have to push yourself, especially when the date of the marathon arrives. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish with a little extra willpower.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this can give you a basic idea of how to train for a marathon. There are a lot of steps that you need to take and also there are a lot of products that you need to buy as well.

Look to get anti-chafe products and clothes to help your skin, along with sweat-wicking clothes to keep yourself as dry as possible.

Finally, don’t forget the importance of having a good pair of running shoes as well.

Once everything is all said and done, you are going to be incredibly proud of yourself for everything that you have accomplished.

Running a marathon is no minor feat. Don’t let yourself get complacent, however.

Now that you’ve crushed this goal, what’s next on the list? As I always say, if you want to be the best version of yourself, you are going to have to work hard and push yourself.

Denver Matheson

I spend a lot of time at the gym and even more time in the kitchen giving my body what it needs to repair itself and grow stronger. The third most important place for any athlete is their research zone. That's exactly why this site exists, to help me share all of the information I've learned throughout the years just like people did for me in the first place!

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