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How to run a marathon: 10 tips

This is the time of year when many people are training for their first marathon. So here are my 10 easy tips to running a faster marathon time. It’s not aimed at expert runners, nor is it for people who only want to cross the finish line. The list is for people like me – normal people who are willing to work hard but without being ridiculous about the whole thing!

1. Get some decent shoes. Visiting Profeet solved my knee, shin and hip pains instantly. Money well spent!

2. Cut down on the junk food and booze. Here is an article on simple race nutrition. Get your head round the fact that for the next three months you need to run five or six times a week. Sadly there are no short cuts to fitness.

3. Start stretching properly. It’s very boring (and I never do it), but it really is worthwhile.

4. Get your head round the fact that for the next three months you need to begin embracing a bit of pain. Being fit is easy, it’s being hard that’s hard. Think about thriving on the last mile. Reflect on how sweet the finish line will feel if you have given your all to get there.

5. Once or twice a week do whatever length run you feel like. Keep this up until a few days before the race.

6. Once a week sprint up a 100m long hill then walk back down. Do it as many times as you can. Next week do one more rep than the time before. This is non-negotiable. Keep this up until 3 weeks before the race.

7. Once a week go for a long run. Increase the time you run by 20 minutes each week. The aim is that three weeks before the race you will be on your feet for the same amount of time as you expect to complete the marathon in. Go as slow as you like on these runs. Non-negotiable.

8. Once a week do a medium length run at marathon pace. Increase the distance a little each week until one week before the race. Non-negotiable.

9. Once a week do some fartleks. Build up the length each week. Wind down a couple of weeks before the race. There are three aims to marathon training and fartlekking brings them nicely together:
– learning to run far
– learning to run fast
– learning to run far, fast

10. Print out a wristband calculator. During the race do not think about the 26 miles you need to run. Just make sure you are on target for each mile. One mile is easy at that pace. Repeat that 26 times and you’ve nailed your best ever time!

Good luck!

Disagree with my advice? Have your say in the comments…

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  1. ouch.
    number 6 is harsh!

  2. Fine advice. Here’s mine:

    1. Have a plan (of some sort) and try to stick to it
    2. Be consistent – run most days, week after week, keep your mileage and effort similar from week to week
    3. Be progressive – each week, run a little more and a little harder
    4. Train to pace – work out how fast you are (use an online calculator like and use the paces there. Periodically recalculate your paces.
    5. Long runs are key.
    6. You need to run faster than your marathon pace at some point during the week.
    7. If you can run every day, then do so.
    8. If you need a day off, then try to run easily for 30 minutes, you’ll probably feel better for it than doing nothing.
    9. Be very proactive about recovery. Stretch, eat, hydrate, shower within 30 minutes of hard/long runs. The ability to do more hard/long runs is contingent on recovery.
    10. Get used to being tired.

  3. #4 is tough but I can tell you i slept well sunday night……

  4. 10. From about 15km onwards I had the 5km split times writen on my left arm in readable size numbers so that they were easier to see when the stress sets in ! didn’t have to bother with the maths or trying to read tiny numbers. (managed a reasonable 3:01.27)

  5. I can just say thanks



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