Whether you’re an experienced runner or just starting, signing up for a marathon can be an exciting yet intimidating challenge. There are many reasons someone may sign up for a marathon: fulfilling a lifelong personal goal, getting into shape, or raising money for your favorite nonprofit. Regardless, like most major endeavors, running a marathon takes a planful approach and disciplined commitment.

Know Your Baseline

Before embarking on a training regimen, you need to understand what type of physical condition you’re in and follow the age-old adage, “listen to your body.” Running 26.2 miles is the ultimate goal, but spend a couple of days testing your endurance – perhaps running a “diagnostic run” of sorts for as long as you can (cap it at 13.1 miles), or if you’re an active runner, counting up your weekly mileage count for the last couple months. Running a marathon is a rigorous endeavor, and if you’re not an active runner now, it’s best not to give yourself too strict of a deadline to prepare for the run. 

Setting Goals

Applying checkpoints and benchmarks has been psychologically proven to allow individuals to break long and labor-intensive tasks into small manageable bites.  It’s always best to start light and progress in small steps while respecting your limits. Once you have a realistic timeline for completing the marathon, work backwards from there, setting weekly mileage and time targets. Remember, setting smaller goals throughout this process will help affirm the more challenging goals you create. So patting yourself on the back for achieving smaller milestones in your training regime will acclimatize you toward feeling the rewarding nature of self-discipline. In return, that will help incline you toward dedicating yourself to complete the problematic targets you set.

Diet, Rest and Hydration

There are tons of strategies and methods for marathon training you can find online, but the common pillars you’ll find across all of them are: diet, rest, and hydration. Make sure you’re eating well to fuel your training runs, sleeping adequately to allow your body to prevent burn-out and reduce risk of injury, and hydrate to prime your body for performance. Be realistic in what you can accomplish given your daily workload and physical conditioning, and remember that the more time you take to train, the more capable of hitting your goals you’ll be.