Top 10 Tips for a First-Time Marathon Runner

Marathon Running Tips


I’m no expert on marathon training, but my editor, Chrissie Giles, had recently signed up for a marathon and wanted to pick my brains. So on the train back from London one evening, I wrote her a list of my top 10 tips for a first-timer, based on what I’d learned from running my first marathon in 2013. Nothing very clever—obvious stuff, really—but the sort of stuff you forget by the time you’re 12 weeks into a marathon training program and can’t find your own toes for blisters.


Lots of training programs advise doing silly miles, even as a beginner. They say “rest is as important as running” but then tell you to run six days out of seven. These programs are written by people who have run too many marathons and lost perspective on what’s possible, or necessary, for a first-timer.

You also need to think about how to fit your training program around your life (which is important, too, remember). If you have dance classes—which you love—on Thursday nights and the training program says run eight miles on a Friday morning, change the training program so that you don’t have to run on tired legs. Don’t cancel the dance class.


Take it one week at a time. Know what miles (or “time on your feet”) you have to do that week and don’t get carried away thinking you should be running 20 miles every Sunday. There’s no need and you will only get injured or burn out before the race. Don’t worry about taking a couple of days off if you feel really tired or get ill. It’s much better to let your body recover and make the next session count—rather than trying to push it when you’re not feeling up to it.


No need to go overboard, but you can look up some core stability exercises for runners online. Done a couple of times a week for 10 to 15 minutes, these are supposed to help in the later stages of a long run, where you start to flag and need to hold your form to make it to the end without dropping your pace too much.


Hydration is one thing you can get really wrong. Through your long runs, work out how much to drink beforehand and how often you need to drink while running to prevent dehydration or needing the toilet. Then use that information to work out how much water to take at each water station—don’t take loads more just because it’s there. If it’s unexpectedly hot on race day, you will definitely need to adjust your strategy. And ultimately, if you get it wrong and need to stop to use the toilet, you’re just going to have to do it!


Use one of your long runs as a dress rehearsal for marathon day. Do it far enough in advance that you’ve got time to make changes. No need to run 26 miles, obviously, but use it as an opportunity to run at the same time of day, in the same kit, on the same breakfast, with the same energy gels, etc., etc., so you can practice as many aspects of the race as possible. Then, if it works, don’t change a thing.


Running a marathon is mainly about getting your body to the start line in one piece. The worst thing you can do in the last few weeks is squander all your training (and fundraising) by picking up an ankle injury or the flu. So stick to what you know and stay well. Don’t take risks. Wash your hands like a good little girl and keep as far away from infectious people as possible. I even stayed away from crowded places e.g. cinema, swimming pool, etc.


In the week leading up to your marathon, I would just do a couple of fairly short easy runs to keep your legs ticking over. Maybe include a little burst at marathon pace, but no more. Even a gentle walk or two as stress beaters and to combat the feeling of complete stagnation. Under no circumstances do a training session—or any form of activity—that you wouldn’t normally do.


If everyone else is eating bananas before the race, piling on the layers, having foot massages or stocking up on some new brand of energy gel you’ve never heard of, just leave them to it. You know what nutrition works for you, how hot you get when it’s 17 degrees out, and so on.

Have faith in what your training sessions have taught you.


There’s a temptation to get carried along by the rush at the start and think you’ll be able to hold on later. If you haven’t run that fast or far before, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to hold the pace over 26 miles, so take it steady and make up the time in the later stages if you still feel good. I always think the psychological benefits of overtaking people must be more helpful at Mile 25 than at Mile 2.


You should know what pace you can run from your training sessions. Plan sensibly and try not to panic if you’re not quite hitting your goal pace every time. Try to be positive—think “Good, I’m nearly on target,” rather than “Oh no, I’m not going fast enough!”

You don’t need a really fancy watch, but one that will at least tell you your time per km or mile is really useful.


Culled from Pacific Standard

  • Bamidele Lekan

    Thumbs Up, it helps bro

    January 15, 2016 at 3:07 pm Reply
  • Adebiyi joseph

    I’m actually 15 years old willi be allowed to run the race??

    January 15, 2016 at 7:17 pm Reply
  • James

    please can we have our bib some where here in V.I for those of us in Victoria Island that has to got to the office. give us like till tomorrow for pick up.
    thank you

    February 3, 2016 at 11:47 am Reply
    • Lagos City Marathon

      Dear James,

      Thank you for contacting the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon office. Bibs are only issued at The Indoor Sports Hall, Sir Omolade Okoya Thomas Building, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere. Ensure that you come with your valid means of identification.

      You can send a proxy to collect your kit on your behalf. Ensure that you send a copy of your valid means of identification along.

      We are always available if you have further enquiries. Thank you.

      February 3, 2016 at 12:40 pm Reply
      • Olufela Adeyemi

        We’re finding it difficult to get the kits. Ive been there twice, both within the prescribed hours and your staff had left before time, despite the fact that they asked us to come bewteen morning and 6pm

        February 3, 2016 at 4:26 pm Reply
        • Lagos City Marathon

          Dear Olufela,

          Thank you for contacting us. We apologise for the inconvenience this might have caused. Please you can check back tomorrow from 12pm for the collection of your kit.

          We are always available if you have further enquiries. Thank you.

          February 3, 2016 at 5:15 pm Reply
          • Olufela Adeyemi

            Sorry to inform you that i am still unsuccessful at collecting my bib despite sacrificing a third day. There is a whole theatre of people at the sgadium. Isnt there a better way of organising this? We would not like to miss the race and have travelled into country for it.

            February 4, 2016 at 10:26 pm
  • Raymond Bola Browne

    When is the deadline for collecting of bibs?

    February 4, 2016 at 11:01 am Reply
  • Bamidele Lekan

    Second of it’s type in Lagos State. Access and it’s endorsers, thumbs up. Thanks for giving us the chance to show our running skill

    December 2, 2016 at 7:13 pm Reply
  • victor ogoloma

    will all the participants be compensated??

    January 10, 2017 at 9:44 am Reply
  • Omohlaporsh

    I am soooooooo lovingggg this.booooyakaaaaaaaa

    January 11, 2017 at 3:36 pm Reply
  • Omohlaporsh

    I am soooooooo lovingggg this

    January 11, 2017 at 3:37 pm Reply
  • Omohlaporsh

    I am soooooo loovinggg this

    January 11, 2017 at 3:38 pm Reply
  • Oluchukwu

    Ah it is going to be wonderful men are ever steady

    January 17, 2017 at 10:29 am Reply
  • Ibrahim

    please I have just registered online and I’ve received a message through my email but how do I get confirmation and other necessary information because this will be my first official marathon. please I need a quick response

    January 30, 2017 at 9:15 pm Reply
  • Ibrahim

    please I have just registered online and I’ve received a message through my email how do I get confirmation and other necessary information because this will be my first official marathon I need a quick response please

    January 30, 2017 at 9:22 pm Reply
  • Anthony

    Mhen thanks a lot, you’ve made my day with this info. I would love to get in touch with you.

    January 30, 2017 at 9:52 pm Reply
  • Eze

    Am a first time Runner, I must confess this was a lot more helpful

    February 3, 2017 at 2:06 pm Reply
  • Tom's Design

    love it

    February 3, 2017 at 9:28 pm Reply
  • Durojaiye waheed abiodun

    I’,ve registered online and needed to collect my bib but I’m outside lagos, can I send someone with my identity to collect on my behalf, thanks

    February 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm Reply
  • peter attah

    the tips is okey,,but wanna know if new first-timers would be given kicks to use before the marathon,

    February 8, 2017 at 1:27 pm Reply
  • Olamide Moses Sojinu

    Hello! Please I made my registration online and a confirmation email was sent to me but I have since then not able to receive my kit. I was told at the marathon secretariat that it hasn’t been sent to the system.

    I really want to partake in the marathon.

    What can I do?

    February 9, 2017 at 9:33 am Reply
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