How to: Run your first Marathon

A marathon is major milestone whenever you attempt it - but nothing beats your first one. So plan, prepare and pick your first marathon are Jack’s tips.

There are few bucket list experiences quite as life-changing as completing your  marathon. It’s one the super-human, I-never-thought-I-could-do-that challenges that really is within reach of every one of us. If we’re prepared to put the effort in.

It’ll take a lot out of you. It’ll consume your life for the best part of half a year, your friends will think you’ve been taken over by an alien, and you can forget those cheeky few pints at the weekend. But it’ll give you back so much more. And bragging rights are only the start of it.

So, the question is, is 2020 the year your first marathon is within your grasp?

Training for your first marathon

Before anything, go see your GP. A marathon is a serious business. Get a through check up, to make doubly sure this is the challenge for you.

Depending on your base level fitness and running experience, you should allow for three to five months.  The aim is to be running up to 50 miles every week in the run up to race day.

Three-to-five runs per week should do it - building up to that 50 mile tally. Take it easy, these should be gentle outings at an easy pace. 

Clock it up

Once every 7–10 days, it’s time to clock up a long run. Add a mile every time, so you might go from 12 to 13 to 14 miles over a month. Then, next time, drop back a few miles, to give your system a rest. Again, this is relaxed. The aim is distance, not time. This trains your body to release fat stores as energy: crucial for a successful marathon. Don’t go higher than 20 miles: on a marathon day, your adrenalin will carry you through the final six!

Mix it up

Tempo runs can help improve your breathing and aerobic health. Try running at a faster pace than usual, with recovery jogs in between. Try four lots of fast one-miles, with ten minutes slow in-between. But don’t knock yourself out, we’re talking challenging, not exhausting. Listen to your body.

Rest up

Rest days are as important (maybe more so) than running days. The greatest threat to your successful marathon isn’t lack of training, it’s injury. If you absolutely must do something, try swimming, yoga, gym work or an elliptical workout.

Warm up

In the two or three weeks leading up to the big day, take your foot off the gas. Still run three times a week, but drop the mileage to 10 or so each time, to let your body repair and rejuvenate in time for race day.

Fuel up

Start upping your hydration three days before the race. And drink a pint of water the night before, and when you wake. Cut out caffeine (it goes without saying you’ll have had your last whisky many months ago!). Eat a high carb breakfast - oats, fruit, brown toast - and consider energy gels to chew to combat hitting the wall at 20 miles, and to keep your glycolic levels up. Make use of the water stations, but don’t go overboard, unless you want to queue for the portaloos!

Five Marathons to Consider Trying


Relatively easy course, Berlin’s the world’s flattest marathon! A great crowd ensures you’ll fly to the finish line in this terrific capital city event.


Yes, the first four miles are uphill, but the views, and the rollercoaster route, are sensational. It’ll test you, but it’ll be worth it.


Few cities put on a welcome as big as Brighton’s. And the seafront finish of this marathon will put a smile on your face.

San Francisco

One of the most scenic of all US marathons. Running over the Golden Gate Bridge? Who doesn’t want to tick that off their bucket list?

Midnight Sun

Tromsø, in Norway’s high Arctic, offers a marathon through the night - in bright daylight. Incredible scenes await.


* It is important to settle on a training regime that is suited to your individual needs. The above article is only a suggestion rather than a recommendation.