What Do You Need To Run Your First Marathon (Women’s Running Post)

Happy Wednesday! Hope you are having a great week! I shared my thoughts on the necessities of running your first 26.2 miles on Women’s Running several weeks ago. What are your thoughts? What’s really necessary and what can you forget about?


Is 2015 the year of your first marathon? Or maybe you are itching to give the marathon a try but not sure if you are ready to make the jump? Whatever the case may be, the decision to run your first marathon is a big one – and can certainly be intimidating. There’s no shortage of information out there for advice, gear and training plans. But what is really necessary (and what can you skip) for your first 26.2?

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The Necessities

  • Desire: This may seem obvious, but it’s important that you 100% are committed to the distance for your own reasons. If you are signing up for the marathon for anyone except yourself, you may end up quitting when things get tough.
  • Running Base: You don’t need to be logging 40 miles a week to be ready to run a marathon. But having a solid base is imperative. You should be running about three times/week, ideally for about a year, before you decide to make the jump to marathons.
  • Training Program: There are tons of great, free training plans for you that will get you ready for 26.2 miles without overtraining. Find one that starts off with your current fitness level (base mileage/number of days per week) as well as one that doesn’t stretch you too thin by the end. For example: if work, family, other commitments or even desire prohibit you from running more than three to four days/week, do not select one that has six days of running!
  • The Right Shoes: The more mileage you are logging, the more important the shoes on your feet become. Read this post for the top-5 shoe buying tips for runners.
  • Pre- and Mid-Run Fuel: All of your runs up until this point may have been completed without mid-run fuel – or even worrying about pre-run fuel. However, once your mileage begins increasing, fueling becomes more and more important. There is a wide variety of gels, chomps, beans, etc. Give a few a try over the course of your training to find what works best for you.
  • Time: The core of marathon training is the long run – which may be just 6-8 miles when you begin but will build up to 20 miles at the peak of training. You’ll need a solid block of time at some point during the week (doesn’t need to be on the weekend) to get those miles in (at least 3-4 hours is a reasonable estimate).
  • Your Goal Race: Again, an obvious one…but when it comes down to it, picking your first marathon can be a bit overwhelming. Before you begin the training plan, you’ll want to have a race and date selected so you can ensure that you have enough time to get those long runs in! (Not sure how to go about finding the ideal marathon for you? Check back next week for tips on how to select your first marathon!)

What Don’t You Need?

  • Progression of race distances: I’d argue that a solid base is more important than having completed the progression of races (5k, 10k, half). I was one of those runners who immediately jumped into a marathon as my first race. BUT, I had been running about 5x/week for over a year and was comfortable running distances up to 7-8 miles on a regular basis.
  • Fancy Gear: You don’t need the newest or most expensive gear to train for a marathon. Check out this post about ways to keep running inexpensive!
  • Coach: There are many benefits to having a coach, whether online or in person. I have been using a coach for the last year. But, you don’t need one for your first marathon. There’s enough information available for you to train smartly and adequately without spending the money on a coach (see above for links for free training plans)!
  • Time Goal: Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment on its own, whether it’s your first or 50th.  You do not need to feel pressure about running a certain time. It is totally acceptable to not have a time-based goal, and instead focus on the entire experience!

For More NYC Running Mama training updates, pictures and ramblings, check out:

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    8 thoughts on “What Do You Need To Run Your First Marathon (Women’s Running Post)

    1. Yes, 2015 is the year of my first marathon! I figure if I have to turn 40 this year, I might as well “celebrate” with a marathon! Or something like that :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

    2. Super helpful post! I’m on track for the Wineglass Marathon in October. Looking forward to reading your thoughts about picking a marathon.

    3. Great post!

      Yup – definitely don’t need fancy gear, a coach or a time goal. I kind of progressed into the marathon – although I have only run one 10K. I ran a ton of 5K’s and 3 halfs before the marathon (1 being during marathon training). It worked for me – but I think if you are (as you said) run 3x a week, it is easy to transition to marathon training.
      Rebecca@Running.Food.Baby. recently posted..Lazy WeekendsMy Profile

    4. I would totally agree that there is no need to have run the distance progression that is the craze these days….the good running base is much much more important.
      I would say that you might want to make sure that you have a plan that does include speed work.

      The race progression thing drives me crazy. So many times someone finishes a race and everyone says, so…when are you going to run “the next distance” what most current runners have forgotten is that it takes a lot of skill, work, etc to run a good 5K…not just complete it….and I’d argue that a lot of them have never even come close to racing one. It’s probably not their goal, but I do wish people would recognize how tough it is to race a 5K….rather than thinking of the 5K as a “starter” distance!
      Holly recently posted..Did I get Healed? Ahhhh No.My Profile

    5. This is SUCH A GREAT post!! I agree with everything you said!! I ran my first marathon last year in March, but I mapped out my own course since they’re weren’t any nearby. I didn’t have any fancy equipment, but began rotating my shoes during my training. I had never done this before and loved it so much that I still buy two pairs of shoes and rotate them. Thanks so much! I’m including this post in my Friday Favorites this week. Hopefully, some other runners will feel inspired by this post. Thanks again!
      Hannah Hurley recently posted..Book Review: FIT2FAT2FITMy Profile