From 5k to Marathon: What to Expect When You're Training

Awesome! You’re lacing up to run your very first marathon and I couldn’t be more proud. Believe it or not, there was a time I couldn’t run a mile, so I understand the tears, the sweat, and the absolute insanity it takes to go from running a 5K to your first 26.2 competitive miles. And as a certified coach who helps runners and non-runners get RunFit, I’ve got some valuable tips for you as you start your marathon journey…


Training for a marathon isn’t easy – and you probably already know this. It takes a lot of sacrifice to keep up with your running plan, which is set-in place to protect you and prepare you. Sometimes, you have to skip a night out with friends. Other times, you need to manage your run through horrendous weather or you might need to wake up far too early to prioritize your training.

Whatever it is, persist. See the finish line in your mind. These sacrifices are worth it.

Talk To Other Distance Runners

You will find that there is a special synergy among marathon runners – a sense of pride, knowing you’re pushing yourself, for whatever the reason might be. Talk. Learn. Understand what works best for them. However, also recognize you are one of a kind. The shoes that work for one runner will not necessarily be best for you. The fuel source (gels, gummies, beans, etc.) that works for another may cause you stomach issues.

Soak in the advice, but know that you will need to try everything out for yourself. Just like in life, nothing is a hard and fast “fact.”

Stretch. Study. Show Up Prepared.

Did you know that 50% of people who start out training for a marathon will show up on race day with an injury?

One way to avoid this catastrophe is to practice self-care – and this is not optional! Stretch. Use a foam roller. Take days off from running. Another important way to avoid injury? Study. Before you start your plan, research IT Band injuries, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, Achilles tendinitis, and calf strains. Learn what should be done to avoid these injuries far before feeling any sort of pain. Don’t be in the 50% - show up prepared. You can find the best preventative exercises and routines for staying injury-free here.

Become Comfortable With Discomfort

Get yourself into the mindset that there is discomfort in running long-distance. You’ll most likely never think to yourself, “wow, this feels amazing!” And, that’s okay! Running a marathon is going to be uncomfortable. You are pushing your body, your mind, and your spirit to new heights.

In the end, you’ll feel invincible. You’ll recognize that anything is possible.

Fuel Your Body

You’re going to have to learn to eat and drink on the run, friends. In fact, marathoners need to replenish their glycogen stores before they run out! If they don’t, this is when they “bonk” or “hit the wall.” To help put it into perspective for you, distance runners should be consuming about 100 calories for every 30 – 45 minutes on any run longer than an hour.

Don't Just Run

Photo credit: Maria Christianson/Milwaukee Magazine

All of what we do at RunFit, such as strength training, agility work, and balance exercises are valuable to runners. These types of exercises will not only improve your running and your pace, but they will ensure you are building a body that is fit outside of the running game. While Nike’s slogan “just do it!” resonates with athletes around the world, remember this: you’ve got to put in some prep work to be a true marathon runner.

In closing, welcome to the club! You are embarking on something truly powerful. It’s not necessarily an easy journey, but it is a testament to your being. If you’d like a little more insight or some motivational support to get RunFit, I’d love to be your coach and help you cross the finish line.