There are a lot of new runners every year being inspired by the flow of masses during big city marathons. They want a Boston qualifier, they want to run a big city marathon fast, right now, immediately, straight away. They want a SUB 3h marathon out of the box. They download training plans from questionable sources, they buy books on training, they try to execute a serious plan.

The thing is that as a first timer, you don't have a reference. You don't know what to expect. There is no way to compare, even your half marathon time to a future marathon time. You cannot multiply by 2 and add 10 minutes, this is not how it works.

As a beginner very first timer, there are just a couple of things to know. There is no point to complicate the issue. You need, strength and resistance, stability, great nutrition for health and some long runs. Your focus will be on strength and conditioning, that is for sure. Depending on what kind of person you are, that can mean gym based training and run workout drills.

Marathon training is about consistency

Training uninterrupted every single day is the way to go. Set yourself a good 16week in advance to your first joyful marathon. Of course, that suspects that you already ran multiple 5 and 10k races.

Reinforcing your body is crucial ! Posture and running form breaking down during the race is the reason of 90% of the suffering. Marathon is about enduring, about getting the body into a mellow cruise mode while holding on to proper posture, with no suffering. Effort-pain and self induced mental torture is different than suffering from a bad knee, cramping thighs, failing core muscles.

  • Step 1. - 7 day a week strength and conditioning set up
    • 2 times a week: core training
      • planks, Russian twists, balance board drills, isometric and dynamic holds, breathing practice, stability ball drills
    • 2 times a week: strength training
      • squats, split squats, lunges, pushups and pull ups, deadlifts, mountain climbers, TRX, kettlebells, club bells, indian clubs (You don't need a gym)
    • 2 times a week: structural reinforcement 
      • Yoga, pilates
    • Every day: flexibility and mobility
      • Foam rolling, massage, stretching, Wharthon's 
Don't think about anything complicated. This is only the beginning of your journey. Including some exercises of 5 minutes into your warm-up for 4 weeks, than slowly increasing it is gradually. Later on you can have dedicated planned out sessions of 15 to 20minutes post run, around the 4th or 5th week mark. A balance board costs like 5 to 10 euro. It can serve you for life ! Learning 5tibet yoga, is only 5 moves with 5 breath patterns and takes 5 minutes, depending on the number of reps and speed. Imagine that you learn one single pilates move a week. At the 16th week, you have a 16 move routine. How easy is that ? 1 move a week ! A foam roller is key to success. You don't have to do deep trigger point release sessions. A light massage once or twice a day to render your fibres is enough. You'll see that waking up in the morning and going through a little segment of activities will lift your life and your marathon training to other levels ! I do static stretch each evening with deep nasal breathing. I would call this more likely a yoga pose hold and relaxation, than actual static stretching. One thing to remember here. In case of functional mobility in an exercise, you need around 75 medium intensity but focused repetitions to cause changes in the muscle. This is the drill for over 3 decades of the most successful coaches like Christopher Sommers. Like 75 jefferson curls or 3 x 100 deep walking bodyweight lunges or perfect bodyweight broomstick deadlifts with heavy breathing and so much more. In case of mobility, stretching and so, to have an effect on a tissue, you need 2 minutes. Like the couch stretch or the wall-hip-glute stretch ! Becoming a supple leopard. Also there is a difference between stretching and functional flexibility. Having great end range is great, but being able to generate power from the end range is different.
  • Step 2. - 7 day run strength 
    • Start every single workout with a power walk engaging your calves and hams, focusing on all the muscles and the breathing. 5 to 10minutes depending on the day will do it. Progress slowly into a run ! 
    • 5 to 10 minutes of run school drills like skipping, hopping, sirtakis, shuffles, side skips and leg raises at least 3 times a week : it is part of your run, so start your stopwatch before ! 
    • All out power hill sprints: they are one of the most underdone, but most reputable exercises you can do to your health and run-health and body power ! 2 times a week ! 
    • Steps and stairs: at least once every 10 days, do 5 to 10 sec extremely fast stair climbing, focusing on leg speed and posture. Then pick up the power and skip by two or 3 steps. 
    • If you trained on the track, skipping roping will really help to reinforce your calves.
    • Downhill running ! Long, plus short and fast. Why ? You can keep a low heart rate, but increase speed and impact, so your body will become stronger and more stimulated. Start slow, short and rare. Do not increase it to over once a week.

I am getting a lot of success as a runner. I am not a pro, not even fast. I just train properly for races genetically appropriate for me, to stand on the podium here and there. I don't care what people say at all ! I start my warming up even before races with a slow, but increasing speed walk. I do my run drills and then I go for the warm up run and the sprints. I need all my muscles ready, firing and mobilised ! I leave people passing me, looking at me, commenting on me I don't care. When the gun goes off, I am ready to rock the boat !

Hill sprints are recommended by all coaches. Salazar, Hundson, Canova and so. All year around ! Start out slow, give it time. 10 x 10 sec power sprints up a 35° slope is the way to go. Yes, when you have been doing for half a year ! Start on a less steep slope with 3 x 6 seconds top. Do not explode out from the blocks ! Get a good 15 sec segment: accelerate, have your 6 second of quality and then decelerate. Week by week slowly increase the volume and the reps. Vary the slope angle. At the 10week mark ,you'll be already at 10 x 10. Don't over do it ! Never go over 3 sets in a 2 week period !
The same true to jump roping. Do the 10 x 10 on left and right side and won't walk for a week. Start out easy. 5 x 20seconds, the walk it off. Increase slowly. I do it nearly every day in the last decade. Sometimes only 1minute, other times 5 x 5minutes.
Stairs ? Love them. Increases knee raise, push off, leg speed, foot placement, forefoot strength.

It all sounds complicated perhaps. However, if you sat down and wrote your routine on a paper as part of a run, after about 2 weeks it becomes a routine. Easy.

  • 5 minutes power walk
  • 5minutes of mobility on the local playground
  • 5minutes of multi-lunges, squats, step ups and pull ups
  • 10minutes progression run into a sweat
  • 2 x 10minutes mid tempo with 2min break in the middle
  • 4minutes of slow running
  • 4minutes walk
  • 5min dynamic stretching with a cord (see Wharthons)
    • I advised to start your stopwatch before the entire session. It counts as a 60minute complete workout ! 

The Long Run

  • Step 3 : Long run
    • Choose your first distance appropriately. How ? You should be enjoying your long run and look forward to it. If it feels like a daunting task next week, keep the distance or decrease it. The goal is to repeat your long run for 16weeks. It is better to run 18km each weekend, than to bring it up once to 35km and skip one weekend before and two afterwards. 
    • Plan your nutrition in advance. In advance like 2 days out. You don't need anything for the run itself. Eat low fibre, high quality and hydrate Sweet potatoes, some steamed celery, spinach, salt, avocado, olives ...
    • Warm up properly at home with complete mobility and pilates. Start out with 20 minutes of walking and 10 to 20 minutes of progressive running.
    • Spice it up while keeping your form. Add some intensity, add a section of trail or beach sand. 
    • Do you even ride bro ? If you can, double up your long run with a bikeride. This is longer and beneficial. A 90minute long training set plus 60minutes on the bike is great and cumulate 2:30 minutes ! Lower impact, better recovery and greater aerobic effect.

Can you see how we did not talk about pace ? You don't care ! it is your first marathon. You will be able to build a pace based workout, when you have the first reference and want to break it next time.

Consistency above all

The most important is your health and consistency. It is better to skip 3 runs, go walk an hour focused, than to force yourself to run, get sick or injured and skip 7 days of running.

Take it easy. Humans are runners. Humans are endurant. We are made to run. Plan years and decades ahead. Don't be a slave hyperfocused type A training for one single event with a ride or die mentality.

Wake up, breathe, mobilise, yoga, walk, run, walk, mobilise ! Easy !