How to Prepare for Your Next Marathon and Run Your Best Race Ever

So you’ve decided to run a marathon. Great! It’s a great way to get in shape and simultaneously boost your confidence. Here's how to prepare when you're short on time.

Alright, you’ve made the decision, you’ve paid your entry fee, and you have six weeks to train. Now what? You may be a daily runner, a novice, or a pro; either way, these tips will help you to run your best race imaginable.

There are many facets of how to go about getting prepared for your next race. However, the key to running a good marathon is to not start out by thinking of it as a race. This can make things a bit too intense for you in the beginning, and you may burn yourself out. Don’t make things too competitive when starting out. Running a marathon is about you and your quest for a healthier mind and body, not about winning against your adversaries.

The truth is, few people enter marathons with the objective of winning. It truly is more about getting yourself into the shape you want to be in and knowing within yourself that you can do it.

The following marathon training guide is designed to fit everyone from beginners to gold medalists. Following this simple, yet structured, routine will have you up and running in no time. Here’s how to prepare for a marathon:

#1 Healthy Eating


Now, it will come as no surprise to you that eating healthy is the key to anything that involves endurance and training to have a healthier body. There are certain foods that can work for you or against you when it comes to training for a marathon, or even for your average, everyday runner.

Foods that Help

Almonds: Almonds contain Vitamin E, which is an important antioxidant that runners need. You can take supplements, but natural is almost always better. Also, when you have those hunger pangs from all the calories you burn while running, almonds are the perfect grab and go snack.

There are so many things you can do with almonds to change things up a bit, such as add them to your salad or make healthy cookies (for your cheat day). The list is endless, and you can find a recipe for just about anything you feel like adding almonds to online or in one of the many healthy recipe books out there.

Eggs: Eggs provide protein that we need to restore healthy muscle after a run. Protein consumed before a run can help with your endurance, whereas protein after a run can help to repair muscle damage from over-exertion. Making eggs a breakfast staple is a wonderfully easy way to get your daily dose of protein. Plus, eggs are cheap – protein mix is not.

Carbs: Every runner needs carbs. If you are trying to lose weight as you run, carbs may not seem like the way to go. Trust me, you need them. I am not talking about the starchy white bread you find at the store. Rather than white bread, go with wholegrains and you will have a much healthier dose of carbohydrates to fuel your run.

Carbs can also come from fruits and other natural foods. There is a difference between the two. Some refer to them as good carbs or bad carbs, but honestly, you need both.

A great way to incorporate all of this is to have yourself a snack of wholegrain cereal with fruit toppings. You can even add some almonds to the topping for good measure. Eating healthy has never tasted so good! Healthy food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard to be enjoyable; you simply have to be selective with what you choose to add to your palate.

#2 Develop a Training Schedule

All good runners, particularly those in training, need a schedule. There are no excuses here: On training days, you train. Period. Remember, there is always time to run.

The key to a good training schedule is to create something that works for you. If you are a beginner, start out small. Set a goal of 2-3 miles every other day for the first two weeks. You don’t have to run the entire way. As a matter of fact, alternating running and walking is a great way to build up your cardio stamina.

Make a chart for yourself, every day when you can check off that you have completed this task you will get the satisfaction of a job well done and a task completed.

In your third week, up the mileage to 4-5 miles every other day with weight training or even just walking on the in-between days. Once you get to where you love running, walking will feel as though you are moving at a snail’s pace.

In week four it’s time to get a bit more intense; with only two days left to train, you have no time to lose. Don’t push yourself too far, but don’t let up either. Pain is weakness leaving the body, so they say, and when those legs start to hurt it’s alright to let up a bit. Don’t let this become a habit though; if you are committed to run a marathon, the imperative part is running.

Nearing the end of your training, you don’t want to overdo things. By now you should be in great shape, and it is ok to lighten up a bit on some training days. After all, there is such a thing as TOO much running and training. You have to keep a healthy balance of training and resting in order to succeed.

#3 The Importance of Stretching and a Great Reason for a Massage

Athletic middle aged woman stretching in the green leaved woods on a dirt road before a run in Surry

Unfortunately, some runners skip the all important step of stretching. Skipping this will only hinder you from achieving your goals. When you run, your muscles become engorged with blood and can become sore and tender to the touch. Stretching keeps you limber, something that is very important to your race success and your personal comfort.

Stretching both before and after you run keeps your muscles lean and increases your range of motion. Stretching can also help you in the speed department because you are more comfortable as you run.

Skipping the all important step of stretching can result in muscle injury and could even cause you to miss the race. Now, there are some mixed thoughts on this. Some people believe as long as you are comfortable as you run, you don’t need to stretch. As an experienced runner, I disagree with this notion. Always stretch your muscles – particularly those in your legs.

Bending over and touching your toes may be a bit difficult to achieve at first. However, after a few weeks you will easily be able to touch those toes and then some. This move stretches not only your hamstrings and hip flexors; it also stretches out your back and will make you more comfortable, in general.

Bending your knee and pulling your foot back until you feel a stretch in the front of your thighs is also a very important move for runners as this is the group of muscles used the most while running. You want to keep these muscles loose for several reasons. This move not only makes your legs more comfortable, but it also reduces the risk of injury. After all this training, missing the race due to a lack of stretching out your muscles will only cause frustration and disappointment. Why risk all that for a mere 5-20 minutes of stretching?

Another great stretching maneuver it to stand up straight and hold your foot up to your scent, or as high as you comfortably can. This stretches out the hip flexors as well as the backs of your hamstrings.

Don’t forget the calves either in your stretching routine. As you run more frequently, it is normal for your calves to become a bit larger, thus making you stronger and faster. Knowing that it is normal for your calves to be quite sore after a run is normal can help you not to worry about injury. In order to alleviate this discomfort, a good massage can do wonders. Massaging the muscle groups used helps not only to loosen up your muscles, but also reduces the amount of toxins that can build up in the muscle groups you are using the most.

#4 Picking the Perfect Shoes

Shoes are the most important part of a runner’s wardrobe. Consider them your tires and you are a premium corvette. You can’t smoke the competition if you are running on bald tires.

There are differing opinions on what is the “best” running shoe out there. I, myself, prefer Saucony because of the comfort level you get in them, and they tend to last. Trust me on this, you need shoes that can outlast your running and training or by the time race day gets here you will be running on bald tires.

Don’t be afraid to try on every pair in the store. Ignore the nasty looks from the store clerks; they aren’t running the race, you are.

#5 Surround Yourself with Doers

young sporty couple doing running in the mountains

If you surround yourself with other inspired people who support you and also share in your interest of running, you are more likely to run better and be more motivated. This creates a sort of friendly competition among friends as you will find yourself running harder when you have someone you want to measure up to.

Run as a team; gather not just one, but maybe three or four of your running buddies and hit the pavement. You will not want to let the team down, and you won’t want to be the last to get to the finish line – even if there is no real “finish line.”

Even if you don’t have anyone to run with, per se, running in a public park where you are around other runners will make you want to do your best. Even if you aren’t a super competitive person, nobody wants to be that person lagging behind or slowing down the pack.

Surrounding yourself with others who succeed and share your personal goals makes a difference in any area of your life. Use this to your advantage and surround yourself with those who do rather than those who talk about doing.

#6 Stay Positive

Never allow yourself to think or say that you can’t. Cut the word “can’t” out of your vocabulary. You can. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. This may sound a bit clichéd, but it is true.

Sometimes the simplest advice is the best, and this is one of those times. In the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you can’t – you’re right.”

Positivity is the key to success in life and running is no different. You run for yourself – nobody else; remember this. You don’t run because you think you will impress someone or because you want to show up your neighbor or friend; you run because you want to. Once you begin a regimen of running daily, you will find that the benefits of running will impact every facet of your life. Making it to the finish line in your marathon is just icing on the cake.

Not only will positivity help you to be the best runner you can be, you will find yourself happier in general. Scientific studies have shown that regular exercise affects the parts of the brain that make us happier naturally. Regular exercise, including running, can ward off many ailments. A healthy body is the key to a healthy mind. When you think about it, running a marathon is good for your mind, body, and soul.

When you take off down the track, you enter into “the zone.” This zone has no room for negativity or thoughts of failure or not prospering. You can do it, you will do it, and you have to be the one to tell yourself this. Even the smallest hint of negative energy can seriously muck up your race mojo causing you to feel discouraged and frustrated.

When you run, remember that you are entering the zone of positivity. Trust me, you will come out of it a happier person and you will inspire those around you to feel happier, also.

Now that you have a solid plan, get out there and run your race. Own it, make it yours, and succeed!

About the author


Courtney is an astrologer and writer by night and an ophthalmic surgical assistant by day. She has a passion for astrology, the occult and has studied things of a more mystical nature since childhood. Having landed great gigs in all of these fields, she works to maintain a good balance between the 9-5 world and the wonder that comes with the night.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment