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Marathon Training Tips with Coach Lara

Have you signed up to tackle a marathon this year? Proper planning is key to a successful race.
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If you are thinking about tackling a marathon this year. These tips will make sure you're all set for success.

Start Early 

It’s important to start your marathon program early. If you are new to the marathon distance, give yourself about six to twelve months of lead time, intermediate level runners need about four to six months and an advanced runner can begin approximately three to four months before a target race. 

Find a Coach 

Before jumping into your training program, the next step is to find a coach. Rackets & Runners training clinic offers a gradual 17-week build with a detailed training program ideal for first timers to advanced runners. The winter/spring session is currently running, with a summer/fall session starting in June.

Participants are supported with two runs a week; a mid-week intensity workout to develop technique, strength and speed and a weekend long run, the staple to all marathon programs. The Run Club has multiple pace groups with experienced run leaders which caters to many levels.

Proper Footwear

Once you have found your tribe and have a plan in motion, you need good shoes to take you to the start line. The New Balance 880’s are always my go-to for training and for distance racing. I have a bunion and New Balance offers a ‘wide’ option to give just enough toe spread, allowing my feet to move naturally. The 880 strikes the perfect balance of comfort and performance. It has an 8mm drop and is lighter weight at 210g for woman and 241g for men. This is a neutral shoe that is light, responsive and ridiculously comfortable!


Training Plan 

The Rackets & Runners clinic follows a periodized training plan, which is the safest and most effective way to build to a marathon. Periodization is a methodical approach which breaks training down into segments or periods that maximize potential and to reach peak performance. I find the best approach is to build for two to three weeks, where you gradually increase your volume and intensity, then take an active recovery week. A general rule of thumb is to only add ten percent or less to your total weekly running mileage or time. So, for example if you run three times a week for 30-minutes each, this totals 90-minutes. You would then add no more than about 9-minutes total to the next week. This extra time could be added to just one run or spread out between your multiple runs.

A periodized plan follows this cycle through the entire marathon build like a gradual ladder up to your event. Increase for several weeks, and then recover. Each phase builds on the previous culminating with peak volume several weeks before your race day. Finish your last long run three to four weeks before your race and then gradually taper your volume while maintaining your training frequency so you feel fresh and ready. Your last long run before your marathon should be no longer than 60-75 minutes!


Active and planned recovery is crucial. Training is challenging and beneficial for the body all at the same time. Your body needs the stress of training to improve and then recovery to rejuvenate. Recovery can be passive in taking days off and active with easy running and cross training. When you plan for recovery, you also reap the psychological rewards of your reduced training and day off. It’s so nice to give yourself permission to back off and relax after a big few weeks of training.

Other factors to consider maximizing recovery are sleep and nutrition. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, especially after your long run and intensity runs. Pre, during and post run nutrition are also key components to a successful training program.

Aim to eat a high carbohydrate snack with a bit pf protein, such as nut butter on toast or a bagel, oatmeal with nut butter and fruit 1.5-2 hours before all runs and especially before your long run. For runs under 90-minutes, drinking just water and/or electrolyte is sufficient. For runs 90-minutes and longer runners need to replace carbohydrates and fluids. Your mantra should be ‘early and often’. A general guideline for how much carbohydrate you need is 1g of carb/kg of body weight/hour. So, if you are a 50kg person, you need 50g of carbs per hour. This is about two energy gels per hour. I like to think of fuel for the long run as a running buffet!

Sample fuel plan:

  • 15 min 8oz electrolyte drink – 8oz is about 3-5 big sips
  • 30 min gel + 8oz of water
  • 45 min 8oz electrolyte drink – 8oz is about 3-5 big sips
  • 60 min gel + 8oz of water
  • Carry on like this for the whole run …

After your long and intensity runs, eat as soon as possible, ideally within 15-30 minutes. Aim for about 200-300 kcals. Recovery drinks or 8oz of chocolate milk work great. Look for a ratio of 3:1 carbs to protein and then eat a healthy meal within one hour of the workout. Continue to drink water for the rest of the day and nibble on snacks. Food is fuel and if you eat well before, during and after your runs, this will set you up to feel great and recover quickly for your next training session.

RPE Scale 

Now that you have your overall periodized plan in place and nutrition sorted out, training intensities need to be prioritized. Your weekly long run should be performed for the most part at an easy, relaxed pace where you can talk the whole time. You need to build your aerobic engine, working at about 60-65% of your maximum effort. Everyone’s heart rates are different, so gauge this by feel to ensure you don’t run too fast. Build your long run gradually each week, adding approximately 10-15 minutes or 2-3kms.

Beginners can train all at an easy pace, however if you wish to get faster you can add one to two intensity runs a week such as intervals, hills or tempo runs at your 10K to marathon pace.

The Rackets & Runners Run Club hosts a weekly intensity run every Tuesday to challenge all levels! Try not to run these on back-to-back days or the day before or after your long run. Space these harder sessions out with easy runs or cross training in between.

Take your time and prepare for your smart marathon. This race distance is very achievable, and you will have a terrific run if you follow my tips for planning, fueling and hydration, training intensities and footwear. See you at the start line!

If you would like to join the winter/spring R&R Run Club, we offer a prorated rate, email The summer/fall clinic starts June 11, 2024.

Coach Lara Penno

B.Sc. Exercise Science, 15+ Marathons, countless half marathons, 5-10K’s, trail races, xc races, ultras, triathlons, adventures races and more!

Marathon PB 3:08hrs





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