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5 best things to do before marathon training starts

Apr 18, 2024

It’s the calm before the storm. Very soon a slightly daunting marathon training plan will be pinned to your fridge. The next 4-5 months will be laid out before you on one page. Your social life will take a back seat as your weekend plans will be dictated by the long runs. When you are not running you will be most likely thinking about your next meal. Yet despite the challenges and setbacks you expect along the way, you are still edging to get started. It’s exciting, it’s scary and I bet you are thinking that launching into some long runs might calm the nerves. But hold steady. It’s a little too soon.

Itching to run long

You might feel you need to be doing more right now. But if you are in a regular routine of 3 runs per week and comfortable covering 10k at the weekend, you are doing just fine. You still have plenty of time to focus on endurance for the whole summer and there is no benefit in peaking too soon. Save that energy for later. Instead why not use this quieter time to focus on these 5 tasks that will stand to you later in the day when time will be at a premium.

  1.  Backup your shoes

The shoes you are running in now will be in no state to run a marathon if you spend the summer running in them. So if you love the shoes you have now, get another pair and gradually ease them in. Why not decide to save one pair for long runs only so that they will road tested but not worn out by race day. We all have one pair of running shoes we love and there is nothing more disappointing than trying to replace them when they are no longer in stock. No other shoe feels quite right. You don’t want that drama leading up to race day. Make the fashion decisions now and be confident that the shoes you have trained in are marathon ready.  

  1.  Plan an NCT for yourself

I highly recommend a monthly massage when you are in peak marathon training. If you have never done this before, use the time now to get recommendations from local runners and find the best practitioner near you. If you are in a position to invest in a sports massage right now, why not get an initial check so are well informed and know where your body carries tension. Loosen out any niggles or injuries now and if you are supposed to be following rehab exercises since your last visit, be sure to dig them out and get back into the routine of taking responsibility for your body. As the months go on, the accountability of a regular check-in will keep you disciplined, prevent you from ignoring niggles and minimize the risk of injury or time off training.

  1.  Free up your calendar

Take a look at all you have going on outside of marathon training in the coming months. There is still life outside of running while training for a marathon but you cannot do it all. If you have a busy few months ahead consider postponing some commitments until later in the year. With plenty of notice I’m sure there are many things that could be changed now rather than waiting too close to the time. Before you calendar fills up even more, add in a shorter distance race each month into your diary to help keep the buzz of race day high and avoid all focus just being on the final day of your training plan. You might even choose to run some half marathons as training runs if you find that easier than going solo. Your calendar will become so important in the coming months. You want everything that is on it to complement your training, not hinder it.

  1.  Build your support network

Decide early on to be selective about the information you take on board with regard to training. You will be bombarded with tips from every angle and with social media algorithms knowing what you are interested in, much of the advice you receive will be conflicting. Only take marathon guidance from a few trusted sources. Decide who you want to have in your corner. Whether it is a coach, club, online forum or running buddy, choose your mentors wisely. Your support network goes beyond coaching too. You will need an encouraging and enthusiastic crew to help you manage everything from the logistics of childcare to the cheerleading en route. Who will you call when things are not going to plan? Whether its family, friend, colleague or coach, its priceless to know you have the right people on your side.

  1. Know your biggest risk

The most important thing you can do right now is to face the biggest risk to your marathon training. What do you think is the most likely reason you wont complete the marathon? Whatever springs to mind is the thing you should be focusing your energy into right now. Your answer might be injury, motivation, work, finances, burnout, lack of time, self-belief or maybe even something different. What one thing could you do this week that might make this problem less of an issue for you in the future. There are some things we cannot control but I bet there is something you can do right now that would help set you up for success and stop you worrying unnecessarily about what might go wrong.

Build anticipation

You can train for a marathon wishing away the weeks and counting down the days until marathon day. Or you can choose to embrace each week of the next 5 months a golden opportunity to learn more about your body, mind, neighbourhood and community. I want you to feel confident, excited and strong as you head into the summer knowing you have an enormous but rewarding challenge ahead. Each week will have a purpose once you get into your training plan and that will help keep you focused. But until then, let’s not wish away any of these preliminary weeks. This quiet time can set you up for success. You may not be running many miles but the groundwork you do now while not running far will stand you all summer long.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with This article was first published in The Irish Times in May 2023. 

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