Setting up a Marathon Training Schedule

Setting up a Marathon Training Schedule

In the life of every long distance runner, there comes a day when it’s finally time to take on a real, full length marathon. After years of thinking about it, the day finally arrives when a runner needs to stop thinking and take action. Somewhere out there, the runner realizes that a 26.2 mile stretch of pavement is waiting. And when the two finally meet, the runner wants to be ready.

So what are the steps runners should take to establish and follow through on a marathon training program? The answer will depend on the runner’s current fitness, race experience, and the time between today and the day of the event. But there are a few general rules that can help all endurance athletes regardless of these factors. Runners should keep these tips in mind as they prepare for the challenge that lies ahead.

Setting Up a Marathon Training Program: Establish a Baseline Pace

First, a runner needs to find and establish a marathon pace. The runner needs to think first about completion times for previous distance runs, races, and half marathons, and then the runner needs to complete one mile at a pace that’s slow enough to hold a conversation without getting out of breath. The runner should determine the time it takes to run a mile at this speed, and then build a marathon training program around this baseline. This is the runner’s marathon pace. The long runs that take place during marathon training sessions should be completed at a pace just slightly slower than this.

Runners should focus their longest marathon training runs on completion, not on speed. This helps to avoid injury and overtraining, and it helps runners stay in touch with the true challenge of the marathon distance for most people, which is less about speed than endurance. During shorter marathon training runs, athletes can speed up to marathon pace plus 40 seconds (per mile), and eventually to marathon pace plus 20 seconds.

Marathon Training: Try Not to Run Alone

Even if most marathon training runs are solitary, it’s a good idea for a runner to stay in touch with a runners club or local running association just to maintain perspective and find support. Though they will generally maintain their own training schedules, athletes should occasional join group long runs or attend lectures offered by the club so they can stay in touch with the latest nutrition research, tips, and information about shoes and other gear. It also helps to know how other runners are doing and how they control their pace and progress.

Marathon Training: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Marathon runners are generally driven and goal oriented people, but when marathon training becomes compulsive, it can cause more harm than good. One of the most common setbacks for marathon runners is overtraining, meaning too many long runs within a given week. This can increase the risk of injury and it can also ironically decrease, rather than support, the development of speed. Runners may also feel inclined to push the pace of marathon training runs past the point of benefit. Proper training means keeping the pace slow and not skipping rest days.

Marathon Training: Metabolism and Nutrition

The goal of longer marathon training runs is to increase the efficiency of one primary process: The method the body uses to store glycogen in the muscles and then extract this glycogen, turn it into glucose, and burn it away as energy. There are several metabolic methods the body uses to unpack and burn stored energy, which can come in the form of glycogen in the liver or muscles, or body fat stored in various areas against the organs or under the skin. But the most important process for marathon runners involves the conversion of muscle glycogen, so in order to find success, runners need to find ways to support this specific process.

General nutrition for runners should be similar to a great nutrition plan for any athlete. This means runners should load up on whole grain carbohydrates, colorful fruit, and green leafy vegetables, and they should keep protein sources lean (poultry, fish and legumes, not red meat like beef and pork). On the days leading up to long runs, including the day before race day, runners should load up on carbohydrates, since this can increase the amount of available glycogen stored in the muscles and liver. During the actual race, the energy runners take in should be primarily in the form of highly digestible carbohydrates like sports drinks and gels.

For more information about energy supplements and nutrition for runners, visit Kbands and learn about our Booster Kit, provided by Life Priority. “Mind” and “Lift” are two separate formulas that can support mental focus and give runners the energy they need to complete races and long marathon training runs. In the meantime, balanced, complete nutrition and adequate hydration are essential to training success.

Marathon Training: Long Term Total Body Preparation

A complete marathon training program requires long term advanced preparation. There are very few short term (less than one month) programs that can bring real success, support health, and reduce race times for serious long distance runners. Marathon runners need to start the training process at least a few months in advance, and as they train, they should focus on the entire body, not just the heart, lungs and legs.

Core development and upper body strength are vital focus areas that are often neglected by distance runners. So before taking on a full length marathon, runners should create a balanced marathon training program that includes at least three weekly strength training sessions in the gym. And for maximum benefits, long distance runners should rely on suspension and resistance training rather than weight lifting alone. The information and equipment resources available through Kbands Training can help. For more information about the Kbands, the KB PowerBands, the KB Duo and other resistance training equipment that can support total body strength for runners, visit Kbands


Endurance Training Equipment




Reactive Stretch Cord


Elite Speed Kit


Victory Ropes