Marathon Training for Beginners

Written by Yuki Hayashi

2 min read

I surprised myself the day I decided to run a marathon. It was 2012, and all I can say is: Runner’s World magazine does a darn good job promoting the running lifestyle. An article on the world’s most scenic marathons got me hooked on the idea of attempting 42.2 kilometres. (Did I fail to mention that, at the time, I’d never run more than one kilometre?) 

Fast forward to 9 years later, I have 7 full marathons under my belt. I’ve run through the magnificent Rockies of BC, uncanny valleys in Northern Ontario, and endless fields across P.E.I. And while the pandemic has put a halt to marathon running in groups, I continue to long-distance run every day to keep myself healthy and centered. 

In fact, in many ways the pandemic has helped me return to running for the sake of being outdoors. While the scenes of my neighbourhood are far from majestic, it provides me with intention and purpose, just like training for a marathon.

Almost anyone can run

When you think about it, running is one of the world’s most accessible sports. All you need are comfortable shoes. Moisture-wicking clothes and sunscreen help too, but it’s a pretty minimalist activity that’s excellent for your physical and mental health.

Running is also economical (run outdoors and save on a treadmill), convenient (sneak in a short run before or after your work-from-home day), and family-friendly (run on the sidewalk as your kids’ bike alongside). 

Best part: becoming a runner is simple and achievable. Here are three steps to consider before lacing up.

Step 1: Use a training plan

Don’t hop on a treadmill and start running as fast as you can for as long as you can. Take it from someone who learned the hard way: you won’t get far, and it won’t feel good.

Avoid injury and burnout by easing in with a beginner training plan. Try a couch-to-5K plan, or search for a local, beginner-friendly virtual running group. Beginner plans start with walk-run intervals. As you build endurance, you’ll run more, walk less and feel stronger doing either.

Step 2: Sign up for a virtual race!

While races can’t happen in person (yet), virtual races are a surprisingly great alternative. You get the perks of joining a community and choosing to complete the race wherever you are. Plus, it will keep you motivated. Warning: Races can be addictive and form the foundation for lasting friendships! 

Wondering what to sign up for?  Find a list of virtual races here. Spring and summer highlights include the Under Armour Spring Run Off 8K and 5K, Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon (and 5K), and California has a variety of running events. If you’re new to running, plan to run-walk an early-season event and save a more intense effort (if that’s your goal) for a fall event.

Step 3: Have fun!

Evening workouts fit my schedule best and I see them as my reward for persevering through a day of work and parenting. I alternate between running, spin classes, swimming and weight training workouts. Cross-training keeps things interesting – and prevents some of the most common running injuries.

Other secrets: Playlists that keep me motivated, virtual training with friends (a great way to manage time crunches!), and rewarding myself with new gear when I hit goals.

As a lifelong couch potato, I was an unlikely marathoner, but I crossed it off my list in 2013. I won’t lie: it was gnarly, I walked some, and I was barely mobile the next day. But nearly a decade later, I couldn’t imagine my life without running.

Join the conversation:  Is a 5K, 10K or longer run in your future? What training tips can you share?

Read on:  Motivate yourself and others and start your own virtual running club.

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