Marathon Prep: Your Guide to the Long Run

Embarking on the marathon journey is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, resilience, and determination. The very word "marathon" is synonymous with hard work, endurance, and the sweet taste of victory. 

The joy of crossing the finish line after a grueling 26.2 miles is an experience that can hardly be put into words — it's a moment of personal achievement, a manifestation of months of dedication, perseverance, and strength. 

But before the glorious moment of crossing the finish line, before you take your place at the start line, there lies the incredible journey of marathon preparation — a journey filled with early mornings, countless miles, and, yes, even a fair share of challenges. 

This guide is here to accompany you on this journey, offering expertise and inspiration every step of the way.

Understanding Marathon Training

Marathon training is a commitment, a pledge to yourself, your body, and the spirit of long-distance running. It goes beyond simply building the stamina to run 26.2 miles. A successful training plan intertwines various aspects of fitness — endurance, strength, speed, flexibility, and mental resilience.

Your weekly mileage will steadily increase, combining workouts that test your speed and endurance. Easy runs will form the bedrock of your training, while tempo runs and speed work will enhance your aerobic capacity and improve your race pace. 

Strength training, often overlooked, plays a vital role in injury prevention and enhances overall performance. Cross-training activities like swimming, biking, or yoga provide valuable variety and work different muscle groups, helping you build a well-rounded fitness base.

At the heart of your marathon preparation is a well-structured training schedule — one that outlines your daily workouts, rest days, and progressively longer runs leading up to the marathon day. A comprehensive training plan is your roadmap, guiding you toward your marathon goal while considering your current fitness level, available time, and personal aims.

Getting Started: Creating Your Marathon Training Plan

Creating a marathon training plan might seem daunting, but it's an exciting part of your marathon journey — it sets the pace for your transformation into a marathon runner. Your plan should be dynamic and flexible, adapting to your evolving fitness levels and daily life.

Long Runs

The backbone of your training plan will be your weekly long runs. These training runs will gradually increase in distance, allowing your body to adapt to the rigors of long-distance running and teaching your mind to endure. 

Begin with a distance that feels challenging but achievable, then increase it by no more than 10% each week. These runs are not about speed but about time spent on your feet.

Easy Runs

Intersperse your schedule with easy runs. These should be at a relaxed pace where you can hold a conversation, helping to build your aerobic fitness without overstressing your body. 

Adding tempo runs into your training will help improve your lactate threshold — the point at which fatigue starts to set in — enabling you to maintain a faster pace for longer.

Speed Work

Speed work, like interval training or hill repeats, boosts your cardiovascular capacity and muscular strength, which translates into a better running economy. Strength training is essential, too; it improves your overall power and resilience and helps prevent injuries.

Cross Training

Incorporating cross-training into your schedule, like swimming or cycling, allows you to build fitness without the repetitive impact of running, providing a mental and physical break.

Lastly, never underestimate the power of rest days. 

Your muscles need time to recover and rebuild from the wear and tear of training. Intentional rest is just as critical as your most challenging workout.

Whether you're embarking on marathon training for the first time or aiming to set a new personal best, 2XU's range of scientifically-engineered performance gear is designed to support your efforts. With optimal muscle containment and graduated compression, our compression tights can help maximize your workouts and aid recovery, propelling you toward your marathon goals.

Essential Marathon Gear: The Right Tools for Your Journey

The right gear can significantly affect your marathon preparation, from the start line to crossing the finish line. 

Here's what you need:

Running Shoes

The foundation of your marathon gear, running shoes, should provide the right blend of support, cushioning, and comfort. It's worth investing time in finding the right pair; consider your running style, foot shape, and the surface you'll be training on. 

Remember, shoes have a lifespan — typically around 300 to 500 miles — so plan for a new pair if your training mileage suggests it.

Running Clothes

Dress for success — this adage rings true for marathon runners as well. Choose breathable, moisture-wicking clothing to stay comfortable on your runs. 

Our compression tights, for instance, provide superior support to key muscle groups, soothe fatigue and discomfort, and wick away moisture, helping you stay dry and comfortable.

Hydration Gear

Hydration is crucial, especially on your long runs. Handheld bottles, hydration packs, or belts are popular options. Practice your hydration strategy during your training runs to see what works best for you.


Energy gels, chews, and sports drinks can provide a quick source of carbohydrates during your longer training sessions and on race day. Try different options during your training to find what suits your stomach and gives you the energy boost you need.

Wearable Tech

A running watch can be a handy tool for tracking your pace, distance, and heart rate during your workouts. This data can be extremely valuable in understanding your progress and adjusting your training plan accordingly.

Understanding Nutrition and Hydration for Marathon Training

Nutrition and hydration are two key pillars supporting your marathon training. As you increase your weekly mileage, your body's energy needs will grow too. 

A diet rich in complex carbohydrates can provide sustained energy for your workouts. Proteins are essential for muscle repair and recovery, while healthy fats provide a valuable energy reserve for long-distance running.

Staying properly hydrated is crucial to your performance and recovery. Dehydration can hamper your body's ability to regulate temperature and can negatively impact your performance. Aim for regular daily fluid intake, not just during your workouts.

During your longer runs, you will need to replenish your glycogen stores. Energy gels and sports drinks provide a concentrated source of carbohydrates and can often be found at aid stations during the race. 

It's advisable to practice your fueling strategy during your training runs, so your body can get accustomed to absorbing and utilizing these nutrients while on the go.

Avoiding Common Training Pitfalls

Even with the best intentions and meticulous planning, marathon training can present some obstacles. Here are a few common pitfalls to avoid:

  • Doing Too Much, Too Soon: The excitement of marathon training can sometimes lead to overzealousness, resulting in injury or burnout. Follow the 10% rule: don't increase your weekly mileage or the length of your long run by more than 10% from one week to the next.
  • Neglecting Rest and Recovery: Your body grows stronger during the rest period, not during the workout itself. Ensure you have rest days in your schedule, and pay attention to signs of overtraining, such as persistent fatigue, mood swings, or decreased performance.
  • Inconsistent Training: Consistency is key in marathon preparation. It's better to consistently follow a moderate training plan than to sporadically perform extreme workouts.
  • Overlooking Strength Training and Flexibility: While running takes center stage in marathon training, don't forget the supporting roles of strength training and flexibility. They not only improve your running efficiency and speed but also help prevent injury.
  • Ignoring Pain: Listen to your body. If you experience persistent pain during or after your runs, take it as a warning sign. Rest, ice, and, if necessary, consult with a health professional. Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to injuries.

Training Plan Example

Here's a 16-week marathon training plan example for beginner or intermediate runners. Remember, this plan should be adapted to your current fitness level and life commitments.

Week 1:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 3-mile easy run
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes of cross-training (swimming, cycling)
  • Thursday: 3-mile easy run
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 4-mile long run
  • Sunday: 2-mile easy run

Week 2:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 3-mile easy run
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes of strength training
  • Thursday: 3-mile easy run
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 5-mile long run
  • Sunday: 2-mile easy run

Week 3:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 4-mile easy run
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes of cross-training
  • Thursday: 3-mile tempo run
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 6-mile long run
  • Sunday: 2-mile easy run

Continue to progress this pattern, increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10%. Substitute some easy runs with speed work, like interval training or hill repeats, as your fitness improves.

Week 8 (Halfway Point):

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 5-mile easy run
  • Wednesday: 30 minutes of strength training
  • Thursday: 5-mile tempo run
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 13-mile long run
  • Sunday: 3-mile easy run

Week 13 (Peak Week):

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 5-mile easy run
  • Wednesday: 40 minutes of cross-training
  • Thursday: 5-mile tempo run
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 20-mile long run
  • Sunday: 3-mile easy run

For the last three weeks before the marathon, begin to taper your mileage to allow your body to recover and prepare for race day.

Week 16 (Race Week):

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 3-mile easy run
  • Wednesday: 2-mile easy run
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-mile easy run
  • Saturday: Rest and hydrate well
  • Sunday: Marathon Day!

Some discomfort is normal as you challenge yourself, but persistent or sharp pain should be checked by a health professional. Incorporate rest days, keep a balanced diet, and hydrate well to keep your body at its best.

Tips for Race Day Success

After months of hard work and preparation, race day finally arrives. Here are a few tips to help ensure your marathon is a success:

  • Avoid New Gear: Stick to what you’ve trained in. New shoes or clothing might cause blisters or chafing. Remember to wear your 2XU compression tights for healthy performance and recovery.
  • Plan Your Breakfast: Choose something high in carbohydrates and low in fat and fiber, which you have tried before your training runs.
  • Arrive Early: Allow plenty of time to park, check your gear, and use the restroom before the race starts.
  • Warm Up: Do a light warm-up to prepare your body for the run.
  • Start Slow: It's easy to start too fast in the excitement of the race. Stick to your planned pace.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink at regular intervals, don’t wait until you're thirsty.
  • Fuel Regularly: Consume your energy gels or chews as planned, typically every 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Listen to Your Body: If something doesn’t feel right, slow down. It’s better to adjust your pace than to risk a DNF (Did Not Finish).
  • Enjoy the Experience: Remember to soak in the environment, the cheering crowds, and your fellow runners.
  • Cool Down and Recover: After crossing the finish line, do a gentle cool down and stretch. And don’t forget to celebrate — you’ve just completed a marathon!


Training for your first marathon is a journey filled with opportunities for personal growth, self-discovery, and, of course, the joy of running. With the right preparation, gear, and mindset, you can confidently toe the start line, ready to embrace the challenge and enjoy your first marathon experience. 

From the team at 2XU, we're behind you every step of the way. Best of luck with your training, and here's to seeing you at the finish line!


History of the Marathon | AIMS

Distance running for health? | Sports Medicine | UC Davis Health

Interval training for heart health | Mayo Health Clinic

Tough Workouts? You Could Be Dehydrated | University of Utah Health