Marathon Training - Some Tips and Tricks

Whether new to run­ning or a sea­soned vet­er­an, any­one can suc­cess­ful­ly run a marathon. Ini­tial­ly, it is smart to eval­u­ate your per­son­al fit­ness, plan­ning and goals. With patience and ded­i­ca­tion, you can train your body and mind to cross the fin­ish line on the big day. A thor­ough pro­gram will cov­er many aspects, but con­sid­er the fol­low­ing essen­tials in prepa­ra­tion for run­ning a marathon:


Take a self-assess­ment and estab­lish your train­ing and race goals. Main­tain­ing and attain­ing goals along the course of the pro­gram can be help­ful in keep­ing you moti­vat­ed. Also, it is okay to change or alter your goals along the way. Whether pre­vi­ous­ly set goals feel too easy or too extreme, do not be afraid to re-assess as needed.


One of the most impor­tant aspects of marathon train­ing is plan­ning. Most train­ing plans range from 12 – 20 weeks. It is impor­tant to fol­low the plan as close as pos­si­ble, even when dif­fi­cult, to build your resilience and sta­mi­na. Results don’t hap­pen imme­di­ate­ly but cre­at­ing a plan and set­ting goals will help you attain your ulti­mate goal of marathon completion.

Choose an Appro­pri­ate Train­ing Program

Before you start, it is impor­tant to assess your cur­rent lev­el of fit­ness. Take note of your strengths and weak­ness­es as a run­ner, what types of runs are more enjoy­able and your pre­vi­ous per­son­al run­ning his­to­ry. Cus­tomiz­ing a train­ing plan to match your fit­ness lev­el will help you devel­op real­is­tic expec­ta­tions, avoid injury and achieve opti­mal results. Keep­ing a train­ing log record­ing your dai­ly mileage, run times, dis­tance and how it felt after each run can be a help­ful prac­tice. This can show you your progress with train­ing and pro­vide encour­age­ment to keep you going. 


Food selec­tion will impact your over­all per­for­mance as a run­ner. Not only what is con­sumed, but when is also impor­tant. Reg­u­lar hydra­tion, choos­ing smart car­bo­hy­drates and eat­ing no less than 30 – 60 min­utes before a run are dietary con­sid­er­a­tions to pro­vide ener­gy need­ed for suc­cess. Do not for­get to refu­el soon after a run, as this helps the body to recov­er. Also, be aware of overeat­ing and crav­ings that run­ning often cre­ates, which can be detri­men­tal to the effort and goal.

Build­ing Endurance

When it comes to marathons, it’s not always about speed. Run­ning a marathon requires endurance, both phys­i­cal and men­tal. Chal­lenge your­self by push­ing your pre­vi­ous lim­its with new activ­i­ties such as hills, stairs, tem­po runs or trails. This prac­tice can be a help­ful boost and make a big dif­fer­ence in the end.

One Step at a Time 

When pro­gress­ing through the pro­gram, increas­ing the week­ly dis­tance by 10 per­cent, is a safe and estab­lished prac­tice. Grad­u­al­ly build­ing endurance and dis­tance is crit­i­cal to suc­cess­ful train­ing. Equal­ly as impor­tant, it may reduce your risk of injury. 

Each week, it is rec­om­mend­ed to include one long run and two short­er runs. Alter­nat­ing between a hard run day and an easy run day will allow for recov­ery and adap­ta­tions to a new work­out rou­tine. The short­er runs can include speed train­ing or lighter effort for recov­ery. The ben­e­fits of speed runs include per­fect­ing run­ning form and teach­ing the body how to con­sume and use oxy­gen through­out your run. Speed runs can be short to inter­me­di­ate dis­tance and can involve hill repeats or inter­val training. 


Cross-train­ing is a way to build strength, help avoid injury and improve recov­ery. On non-run­ning days, try oth­er forms of exer­cise such as yoga, swim­ming and resis­tance train­ing. This aids in alter­ing the stress­es on the body and improves run­ning performance.

Warm-up and Cool-down

Your mus­cles can act like frozen rub­ber bands, stiff and inflex­i­ble. How­ev­er, with a few min­utes of pre-run activ­i­ty to loosen up, your mus­cles can be ready to go. Equal­ly as impor­tant, a good cool down can help expe­dite recov­ery and min­i­mize sore­ness. Build-in a few min­utes after run­ning for stretching.

Rest and Recovery

Rest and recov­ery are almost as impor­tant as run­ning when it comes to train­ing for the marathon. Overex­er­tion or pro­gress­ing too fast are com­mon cul­prits lead­ing to injury. Be sure to acknowl­edge your signs and sig­nals such as pain and fatigue. Activ­i­ties such as yoga and stretch­ing can help to loosen mus­cles and relieve stress. Get­ting qual­i­ty sleep can­not be under­val­ued as it will pro­vide time for heal­ing, which the body needs for training. 

Get­ting to the finish

As on race day, there will be ups and downs dur­ing the train­ing. Be aware that it will not always be easy. It may be sur­pris­ing that the same run may feel dif­fer­ent from day to day or week to week. The prepa­ra­tion for and com­ple­tion of a marathon is long and chal­leng­ing, how­ev­er it is a great accom­plish­ment. Hope­ful­ly, some of these ideas will be use­ful along the way. With the right mind­set and cus­tomized prepa­ra­tions, goals can be met at every mile. 

If you are expe­ri­enc­ing aches and pains dur­ing exer­cise or train­ing, call 630−967−2000 to sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our phys­i­cal therapists.

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  • As a physical therapist, it is my privilege and responsibility to treat the patient, not just the injury. I have a passion for guiding patients through the continuum of care from initial injury, through focused rehabilitation and back to chosen interest or sport participation. An important component of this is comprehensive education on specific injury, anatomy, physiology and prognosis. Additionally, functional exercise and manual techniques are also tools I have incorporated to meet that directive. Finally, It is also imperative that I constantly seek the most current and relevant evidence in order to provide the most effective, thorough and efficient care possible.