Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
When thinking of goals for the new year, many runners have one race in mind—the marathon! Running 26.2 for the first time is an amazing life-changing experience. But there is a lot you need to know before tackling the distance. We asked our readers to share their best advice for first time marathoners. Their answers may just convince you to tackle the distance.
What advice would you give someone who wants to run their first marathon next year?
Ruth Thompson: Pick a plan that will work with you. If you’re not the type to run 20 miles on a training day, pick a different plan. Have a plan with some flex. Life happens, weather is unsafe—go the next day. Also pick a Marathon you’ll enjoy.
Pinda Kaas Bernhart: After 9 marathons myself, I finally came to the realization that having a mantra REALLY helps.
On long runs find an easy phrase that you can repeat, sometimes out loud. It will really help when the marathon becomes all a mental game.
Benita Wright Smith: Don’t skip the long run; nothing new on race day. NOTHING.
Leslie Thomas: If you have a particular electrolyte drink you prefer, have it in a water bottle with you. Same with race fuel, such as Gu or energy chews. Don’t assume that the promoter will provide what YOU like. Study the course map. Know where the bathrooms will be. Train with a group. Definitely have the right pair of shoes. Apply sunscreen. Follow your training and meal plan. And, most importantly…. have fun! Running a Marathon will forever change you.
Reanna Monick: Follow a good training plan. Respect your rest days. Experiment with different types of fuel and hydration (I didn’t start adding electrolytes in my water until marathon training-never did for half training). Test out your race day outfit on a long run before race day. Most importantly, take it aaaalllllll in. It’s such an amazing experience, and things you’d think are ordinary (like some encouragement from a policewoman directing traffic at mile 25) really turn out to mean a lot!!
Francene Woods Johnson: Sign up for it first. That way there’s no backing out. Choose a flat course for your first marathon. Get fitted for the right running shoes. Never doubt yourself.
Connie Thompson: My advice- get a coach. It is SUPER beneficial having someone who can help you make a plan that fits YOUR needs. Being able to get feedback from someone who has been there, is incredibly knowledgeable, and wants to help you achieve your goal and stay HEALTHY in the process is key. Even for those of us who aren’t fast (my hand is raised!!!) 26.2 is a distance that demands respect and needs to be approached accordingly.
Sylvia Ross: During marathon itself, don’t think about the 26.2. Break it down to manageable chunks such as four 10Ks+. When you are past mile 23, tell yourself it’s a park run from there. It does work.
Wendy Frink: Don’t skip out on strength training and foam rolling.
Michelle Lewis: Build up distance slowly. Do not jump from say 10 to 15 miles, as you are likely to injure yourself. 10% increase each week is good.
Tammy Puckett Jackson: Start training early. Don’t try to cram that high mileage on your legs in 16 weeks.
Kannyeke Kenneth Caldwell: Don’t listen to those saying you can’t.
@redheadonrun: Go in with confidence, a solid running base and a smart training plan!
@tricia_staunton: Train properly, buy decent trainers, don’t wear new clothes on race day & enjoy the day.