How to Train for a Marathon

Whether the start of lockdown inspired you to explore other ways of exercising away from the gym and you’ve committed to running ever since, or you’re brand new to the sport but are already looking ahead to marathon training, preparing for a marathon can be challenging for runners of every level. From setting out and committing to a detailed training plan, to building up your agility, stamina and essential core strength, there’s a large list of things to consider. 

No matter whether you’re a complete beginner, or you’re at a more advanced stage in your running journey - all marathons require you to commit to some level of training and preparation. The main difference that will set beginners and more experienced runners apart are the different training plans available. While beginners will need a few months to train for a marathon, using this time to build up their core strength and endurance, advanced runners may only need a few weeks to prepare. Suitable for runners of all abilities, this guide will take you through everything you need to know about training for a marathon.

How should a beginner prepare for a marathon?

There are a number of ways you can prepare yourself for a marathon, so we’ve made a list below of the main things to consider ahead of the big day. But regardless of the contents of this list, you’ll need a motivating factor to work towards when you’re training. The best thing to do before you start preparing is to decide which marathons you want to take part in. Although this may seem like early days, it’s important to have an end point to all your training - otherwise it can seem like a never-ending cycle. And, if you find a marathon you’re keen to register for, we advise booking a place well in advance. Not only do most get booked up quickly, but we advise leaving at least 6 months for training, which, in most cases, will require plenty of hard work.

Once you’ve decided on the marathon you want to do, you can move onto the steps below.

Beginner tips on how to train for a marathon


  • Choose a beginner-friendly plan: Helping you train your body to handle running long distances while taking regular breaks to avoid burnout, there are many apps that provide clear training plans, allowing you to monitor your training progress and set clear future goals. It’s worth researching these beforehand to find the best rated plans that cover all grounds, however, it’s also crucial to find a plan that suits your skill level. For beginners especially, pacing yourself and making sure you have enough time to fit in all the training you need is essential to ensure you don’t burn yourself out before race day.
    • Listen to your body: From day one, it’s important that you listen to your body during training. To avoid injury when you’re running or strength training, you should understand the difference between body and muscle tiredness, and when your body is telling you to stop and rest.
    • Build up to your marathon: Rather than simply following your training plan and waiting for marathon day, involve yourself with your local running community in the meantime by joining a running club, or even participate in a shorter race (such as a 5K or 10K). Not only will this help to involve you with the social aspect of running, enabling you to seek support and advice from those well versed with the sport, but it will also familiarise you with what to expect from a race so you’re not thrown in at the deep end at the marathon.
  • Be consistent: While no one expects you to follow your training plan 100% of the time, as unexpected events and illnesses are unavoidable, you should still aim to be as consistent as possible with your weekly runs to give yourself the best chance of success. As a general rule, you should be doing around 3 to 5 runs per week, adding up to around 25 miles weekly, and gradually building this up to 50. Rather than dividing the distances equally for each, it’s best to do a few shorter runs and one long run, with most of your focus placed on this long run. Arguably the most important to commit to, this run will train your body to cope running long distances, without needing to take too many rest breaks.
  • Practice cross training and strength training: Although running consistently is a great way to build up your fitness and stamina - practicing cross training and strength training is important for building core strength and preparing your body for the high impact of marathon training. While cross training refers to any exercise other than running - with popular options for runners being biking and swimming - strength training involves lifting weights. Even with these extra activities accounted for, the most important thing is the running - and your body will still be adapting to being challenged in different ways - so we advise making sure that you don’t overdo it.

Best UK marathons for beginners

If you’re ready to start training but have taken our advice on board and are searching for a motivating factor, there are a large range of beginner friendly marathons that take place across the UK every year. Below are a few suggestions on the best beginner-friendly marathons that you might want to consider applying for.

1.London Marathon


Date: 23rd April 2023

The London Marathon attracts thousands of runners and their families each year, arriving from every corner of the globe. With a route that’s mainly flat, this marathon is perfect for first-timers. And, as an added bonus, there’s thousands of supporters at the sidelines - so even if you go alone - there will be plenty of people cheering you on. Although entries have now closed, you can still apply for a charity place, otherwise, this may be something to put in the diary for 2024. 

2. Brighton Marathon

Date: 2nd April 2023

For those looking for a run with a view, the Brighton Marathon, which is suitable for runners of any level due to its flat route, might be the perfect option. Boasting an iconic view of the sea, the route will take you past the most stunning areas in Brighton. And, making the hard work worthwhile, after the race it’s a tradition for many runners to take a dip in the sea to cool off.

3. Edinburgh Marathon

Date: 28th May 2023

Another scenic option, the Edinburgh Marathon route will take you through the city and then back past the East Lothian Coast. This sell-out marathon is a firm favourite among the running community, and it’s clear to see why it takes the place of the second largest marathon in the UK. 

How can experienced runners prepare for a marathon?

Whether you’ve been involved in a running club for some time, frequently run 5Ks, 10Ks, or half marathons, or you’ve even participated in a marathon before but are looking for some refresher advice, we have a number of tips to help prepare more experienced runners for marathon day. 

Tips on training for a marathon for intermediate & advanced runners

  • Train at your own pace: When you’ve been running for a while, your body will likely have built up a decent amount of strength and endurance. However, a marathon, which is 26.2 miles long, is a big step up from most races. Therefore, it can sometimes be tempting to test your limits and see just how much running practice, or strength training, your body can take. However, particularly for runners who may have only participated in 5K or 10K races - overdoing it can result in burnout or serious injury. Hence, due to its mentally and physically demanding nature, you should keep in mind that a marathon will take longer to prepare for than what you might already be used to.
  • Choose a marathon-suitable training plan: If you haven’t ran a marathon before, but have used other training plans for shorter races, it's important not to fall into old habits by using your regular training plan. A marathon distance represents a big challenge regardless of your running history, and they require a further amount of preparation than what you may be used to. Therefore, we advise checking if your running app has a training plan that can specifically prepare you for a marathon, or, if not, asking around or doing research for other apps that feature more suitable plans. 
  • Reflect on previous marathons: If you’ve ran a marathon before, a great way to help you progress in your running journey is to reflect on your previous races. Although you should be proud of your achievements, in order to help you improve in the future, it’s worth thinking about the actions you made leading up to - or during - the last races you ran that could have set you back. For instance, did you start too fast and get tired too soon? Did you overdo it in the weeks leading up to the marathon and not get enough rest? Did you run in the right shoes? These are all questions to consider and take on board for your next big marathon day.

How long does it take to train for a marathon?

The time it takes to train for a marathon can depend on a wide variety of factors. Among others, these may include how active you are as an individual when you start training, as well as the level of running that you’re currently at. For instance, if you’re new to running, and you don’t regularly participate in fitness activities, it will likely take you around 6 months - possibly longer - to train for a marathon. In contrast, it might only take highly experienced runners a few weeks. 


However, the training plan you decide to follow, which you should choose depending on your level - should give you an idea on how long it will take to train. Most training plans for marathons are between 16 and 20 weeks, so even if you already have prior running experience, you should leave enough time to prepare your body and build your fitness.

How should you dress for a marathon?

Another thing to consider when you’re preparing for a marathon is to make sure that you’re wearing the appropriate clothing. After all, the last thing you would want is to wear materials that are likely to rub on your skin and cause irritation or discomfort, or wear clothing that is too heavy and can cause you to overheat. Our guide on ‘what to wear when running’ provides expert tips on the best materials to wear when running - whether you’re training or participating in a race.


Running Wear at Avec Sport

From choosing a training plan, to deciding on which marathons you want to compete in, hopefully, this blog has pointed you in the right direction to take on your next running challenge. And, once you have everything planned and you’re ready to start your training, if you haven’t already, it’s important to invest in some comfortable and high quality running clothes. Featuring breathable shorts, tops and more, discover our collection of running clothes at Avec Sport and find the perfect kit for marathon day.