Running Tips

10 Preparation Tips for Running a Marathon

Originally published January 18, 2017

Last reviewed October 12, 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A woman runs on an empty road as the sun rises

With marathon season just around the corner, it’s a good idea to review some basic training tips that can benefit you regardless of your running experience.

If you plan to participate in an upcoming marathon, here are some useful tips to keep in mind as you get to the final stretch of training season.

1. Don’t overtrain

Marathon coaches always tell their runners to increase their mileage slowly to avoid injuries and straining their muscles. You should be training weeks before the marathon, so you can increase your running miles gradually each day. Cover the second half of your chosen distance faster than the first half for an easier approach to training.

2. Form matters

Keep a relaxed form during your training runs. It’s best to maintain a relaxed form, which means shoulders down, arms relaxed and body upright.

3. Invest in comfortable shoes

Your running shoes can never be too comfortable. Some experts suggest having two good pairs of running shoes: one for long and easy runs and the other slightly lighter pair for faster training runs and intervals. It’s best to buy new shoes once you’ve run about 500 miles in the old pair.

4. Wear the right athletic gear

Wearing the right clothes on the day of the marathon can make a world of difference. It’s best to avoid cotton clothes and go for materials like polypropylene or performance fabric, which keeps your body dry while pushing moisture to the outside. Check the weather forecast and make sure you dress appropriately if it’s sunny and hot or rainy and cold.

5. Avoid chafing

Wearing clothes made of performance fabric can help fight the friction caused by other materials and your skin. Petroleum jelly or a balm may help fight chafing on feet, nipples and other sensitive spots.

6. Light stretches are okay

Make sure you include some light stretching after short easy runs. Avoid stretching after intense workouts since your muscles are stressed after strenuous activity.

“In the best available scientific studies, stretching has not been associated with a statistically significant decrease in the risk of lower extremity injuries,” says Eric Tan, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Keck Medicine of USC and associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “This doesn’t mean that stretching is useless, but rather, it is not the only factor in injury prevention.”

7. Break up the monotony

Some trainers recommend swimming or deep-water running after an easy day of running. Spinning is a good cardio training program in the early stages of training, but as you get closer to the date, it’s best to stick with just running.

8. Eat right

Don’t forget to eat a high-carb, low-fiber meal three to four hours before your run. If you have at least an hour before your workout, it’s recommended to eat about 50 grams of carbs — perhaps, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a hard-boiled egg. You’ll also need to take in more carbohydrates (sports drinks, energy bars, a quarter cup of raisins, etc.) during your run as fuel. When you’re done with your run, you need to restock your energy and help your body recover with healthier carbs. Oatmeal with raisins and nuts, a healthy omelet with veggies or grilled salmon with a side of sweet potato are all great choices.

9. Water, water and more water

Hydrate well before, during and after your training — especially during and after longer runs. You’ll need to get used to properly hydrating your body so that you can drink enough liquids on marathon day as well.

10. Get lots of sleep

Never underestimate the importance of sleep during the months before the marathon. After a tough day of training, your body requires at least eight hours of sleep each night. Sufficient sleep allows your body to build and repair muscle, boosts your immune system and sharpens your mental abilities.

Topics

Dr. Eric Tan
Injury prevention
Marathons
Ramin Zahed
Ramin Zahed is a Los Angeles-based author and journalist.