Beginner’s guide to training for a marathon PART 1

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Foreword by Sporteluxe’s Melanie:

So you want to run a marathon. You’ve made the decision, bought your ticket and now you just need somewhere to begin. Freaking out a little? Don’t worry, me too! I have just signed myself up for Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Sydney Marathon in September and with just over two months until race day, it’s most certainly business time. I got in contact with Richard Ivanov, senior personal trainer and manager of Vision Training in Mosman and lululemon ambassador to get some expert advice – a lot of which he shares with you here below too! Whether you’re embarking on a full marathon, a half marathon or 10km, here’s a brief outline on what to expect, how to get started and what a basic training outline will look like.

Story by Richard Ivanov:

A rookie’s guide to a running a marathon

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How to get started

It all starts with the idea and whatever your motivation is, it’s definitely is a big decision and takes commitment. Each individual has a different reason for (voluntarily) signing themselves up for a 42.195km gruelling run. And it turns out that approximately only 3% of the world population can say they’ve completed a marathon, which is a considerably small number. If you’d like to join this minority and achieve something great, all you need to do is get started. ‘If you have a body you are an athlete’, my advice is to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to train.

To get yourself into decent shape to run a marathon takes time. It’s definitely NOT going to happen overnight.

The single most important thing is to get out there and run.

  • Seek some advice from people who’ve run a marathon. It’s great to get some tips from someone who has experienced it before
  • Get yourself a running coach or personal trainer. As you know, to run a marathon takes a bit more than just running around the block, it’s important to get some expert advice and direction.
  • Put a plan together. Not just a running program but a plan that takes your whole lifestyle into account. You may need to change habits, adjust your nutrition, increase your mobility (stretching), ensure your adequately hydrated, getting enough sleep… etc.

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What to expect

Definitely lots of running. It’s that simple. I always tell my clients that to run a marathon you need to run, run and run. When I did my first marathon I only had 9 weeks of solid preparations. At the time I was coming from the nasty knee injury when playing basketball for North Sydney Bears. When I was cleared to start training again, I only had just under 9 weeks until race day. Being a personal trainer, I already had a reasonable fitness level but still found it extremely tough, especially considering it was 30 degrees on race day which is not ideal weather for long runs. Ever since then I always make sure my clients give themselves enough time to train.

  • Run, run and run. Early mornings, lunches or evenings. Find the best time that works for you and get yourself into a routine
  • Try to prepare yourself for every weather scenario. Run in the cold, heat or rain, it will help your body get used to all climates, you’ll never know what conditions you’ll get on the day
  • Expect some nutrition and lifestyle changes
  • You will hurt. A lot sometimes
  • But above all, expect some awesome things. I still remember my last 1km to go and 1000s of people/strangers lining up the street cheering for you. When they call your name in those last few meters before the finish line… That FEELING is mind-blowing. Because you have just done it.

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Basic training outline

You will definitely need a running program. The more it is tailored to you the better the outcome. You can easily find a basic outline online, but may find it’s been tailored to someone completely different. That’s why I would recommend getting some expert advice and making sure you follow a custom plan that will allow you to run the best possible race.

You will need to get comfortable with uncomfortable. Personal trainers love to point out “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”, as ‘cheesy’ as it sounds, it’s true. You are likely to find yourself in some very uncomfortable places, so you need to learn how to deal with them. A huge aspect of marathon training is making sure your mentally prepared as well. Your mind will be your biggest weapon but also your biggest enemy too.

Get yourself a running buddy too. It works magic sometimes. As much as I love running by myself every now and then we are all humans and genetically pre-programmed to gather together with other humans and interact. Most of the clients I had in my time enjoyed running with other like-minded people.

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Some other tips:

  • Test yourself. Run 5km flat for time and record it. Then later down the track re-test yourself on the same course again to see the progress.
  • Keep a basic training and food diary
  • Mix up your running. Run on flat roads, improve your fitness with sprint intervals and hill runs, aim for long distances with run slow and steady paces and get up speed by running short but fast runs. A good training plan should involve all of these elements
  • Look after yourself and make sure you are getting plenty of sleep
  • Increase your mobility by stretching a lot. This is a vital part of your training program and must be incorporated into your daily routine!
  • Eat well and fuel up on quality protein, whole foods and adequate carbs for those big runs
  • Run in all weather conditions
  • Get some good running shoes
  • Use a running watch and record runs for progress

For me this quote buy Jordan Belfort sums up what marathon training is about.


Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will go into techniques and running stride, other training and what you should be eating!

Feeling inspired? Sign up to the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival here.

Image credit: iStock