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8 training tips for your first marathon or half-marathon

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Getting ready for your first marathon or half-marathon takes careful planning plus a lot of hard work training. Get tips from the experts.

Tell people

Tell everyone who will listen. Not only will this keep you accountable but it will also make it all very real. People will ask how things are going, which should spur you on to keep training, even on the coldest and darkest of days.

"Include your family in training and fundraising efforts," suggests Tom Craggs, UKA Running Coach and coaching advisor to Saucony UK, High5, Adidas UK and SenseCore. "Even if you can’t get anyone else to join you in the marathon think about building 10km or half marathon races into your plan and encourage family members to get out training and running with you," says Tom.

So what if your family aren’t being as supportive as you would like them to be? "Let them know that running makes you happy and that it’s one of the many things that make up your personality and who you are," says Ed Pickering, marathon runner, cyclist and author of The Race Against Time.

"A marathon is important but shouldn’t get in the way of family time - family emergencies, birthdays, nativity plays and school sports days come first," says Ed.

Don’t forget to tell your doctor too - you want to make sure you’re OK to run long distances.

Set a goal

It's not as simple as saying your goal is to finish 13.1 miles (a half-marathon) or 26.2 (a full marathon).

Ask yourself why you’re running the race. Do you have a time goal? Are you trying to qualify for another marathon like New York or Boston or are you doing it in memory of someone? Luke Milner, for example, is currently training for his first marathon, London 2015, and has always wanted to run a marathon. He made a deal to run with his sister Steph after he "fell out of love with most things cardio" and wanted to give his training a shake up. "I have always been very daunted by marathons, so doing it with Steph is my goal and motivation. We are running for charity too, which gives us even more incentive to make it over the finish line."

Make a plan

You need a nuts-and-bolts training plan. You can get that online, or from a running coach, running club, or running publications. "You then need to set goals that are both realistic and measurable," says Tom. "You want to know that your fitness is developing as you move through the plan, so that goal might be to run regular 10km races in the build up to the big day, or to reduce your walk recovery periods during your longer runs.

"You should also consider non-running goals too," suggests Tom. "Aim to increase your sleep by 30 minutes and monitor it, set yourself goals for your nutrition and hydration to ensure both your training and your lifestyle develops, and set yourself a weekly goal of two to three core sessions to help keep you injury free.

Progression as a long distance runner is about not only progressing your training but also your conditioning, your rest and your nutrition – you need goals for each."

Your plan should also be realistic and personal to you.

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