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How to Prepare Yourself for a Marathon: Step-by-Step Guide

As the old saying goes: “You’ve gotta walk before you can run.”

This holds true for running a marathon. Besides working on your running technique and building up stamina, there are other preparations you need to make before the big day of the marathon. Here are some suggestions:

Marathons are won or lost on footwear


1. Choose your footwear

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. Marathons are won or lost on footwear. The shoes you wear for long-distance running should be relatively lightweight. However, it is vital that they also provide good support. The socks should not be new. This is not a time to experiment.  Choose footwear you wore in other practices and other races. Break in any footwear in at least a ten-mile run beforehand and at a marathon pace. Blisters or sore feet are not something you can deal with during a marathon.

2. Baby steps

About a month before the marathon, test your fitness, by running a half marathon. You will thus have proven to yourself that you can do this. It’s a powerful confidence boost. The space between it and the marathon gives time to rest. Run the half-marathon slightly faster than you plan to run the marathon goal pace.

3. Experience the marathon terrain

Start doing runs on the exact terrain or terrain like it. If there are hills, practice on hills. If you do not have hills to run, practice the elevation on treadmill runs.

4. Drink as you are running

Practice long runs with the sports drink and energy gels to keep you fueled during the marathon. Find out what sports drinks will be available on the marathon and try those to make sure your stomach can tolerate them. Learn how often aid stations are available. Practice drinking spaced that far apart.

5. Wear real running attire

Your race will be so much easier in real running clothes. Good choices are Coolmax or nylon NOT cotton. Try running clothes beforehand to make sure they do not chafe skin.

6. Pace yourself

During the last week or two before the marathon, don’t do more miles than is your habit. This will not help. Instead capitalize on the hard work you’ve already put into training. Stick to your training/running schedule. Eat right and get lots of sleep.

7. Do a dress rehearsal

Four or five days before the marathon, run a two- or three-mile marathon. Use your marathon wear—socks, shoes, running gear. This last bit of conditioning will give you confidence and get your mindset into marathon mode. Run your practice mini-marathon at the same time of day as you will be starting the marathon. Your body will be in sync with marathon.

8. Visualize success

Several nights and first thing each morning, visualize yourself crossing that finish line with a new personal best time.

9. Keep Calm

You don’t need any more outside stresses in your life. Try to keep things serene and uncomplicated. This is not a good time for any  major life events. Your head should be in the marathon.

10. Load up on good carbs

During the last week before the race, consume carbohydrate-rich foods: pasta, potatoes, bread, fruit and fruit juice, skim milk and low fat yogurt. The carbs will fuel you for the race.

11. Eat breakfast

Two to three hours before the marathon begins eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast. You might try bagel and banana or toast and a sports bar. If that seems not food you can  tolerate try Ensure or Boost. Breakfast restocks your body for the race ahead and the two or three hours gives the food time to metabolize.

12. Warm up

Don’t overdo it. Jog or skip a little beforehand. Finish fifteen minutes before the start. Follow jog or skip with stretches. Concentrate on the muscles of the back side of your body: calves, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Keep stretching after you’ve been lined up to wait for the marathon to begin.

13. Slow and steady wins the race

Run the first two to three miles a few seconds slower than your goal. Ease into things then go on to run your goal pace.

Most of all relax and enjoy the race. You’ve trained for it!

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