Race training at EōS

Marathon & 5K Race Training Tips

On any given day at EōS Fitness, you’ll see people building their endurance and pushing their stamina at every level of cross-training, running, cycling, and swimming

There comes a point in time in every runner’s mind when they consider registering for an official race or long-distance marathon. If that’s you, then this article has everything you need to know from start to finish line when it comes to running your first race.


Although the novice competitive sports world is full of triathlons, biathlons, cycling sportives (a bike race typically spanning 40-100 miles), and zillions more timed fitness events, 5K runs and marathons are the most popular. Not sure which event is right for you? Here is a full list of types of races:

    1. Fun runs (3.1 miles or less) usually follow a theme, like a holiday, costume, or charity. They encourage runners to have fun and take a lighthearted approach to competing to the finish line.
    2. 5K race (3.1 miles) is great for runners new to racing or experienced runners who want to train for a larger race.
    3. 10K race (6.2 miles) is a better option for people who have already run a 5K or who want to level up their race training.
    4. Half-marathon (13.1 miles) is the big step to running a long-distance race. Participants are pretty used to running 5-miles without stopping and have excellent stamina.
    5. Marathons (26.2 miles) require run training and planning. The marathon distance is great for people who have already run a half-marathon.
    6. Ultramarathons (longer than 26.2 miles) are designed for the toughest runners. They can be as long as 100 miles and are the ultimate endurance race for seasoned runners. 
    7. Trail running races (various distances) are great for people who prefer to run off-road and like the added challenge of running on dirt trails, grass, sand, rocks, or a combination of elements.
    8. Obstacle course races (various distances) combine a footrace with obstacles like rope climbs, monkey bars, mud crawls, and tire runs.


A 5K run is a great first race choice because it typically requires little training and won’t necessarily demand a huge lifestyle change or shift in daily schedule.  

For beginners who want to go from couch to 5K, the run-walk-run method is a simple, but effective run training technique to prepare you for your first 5K or 10K race. Founded by former United States 10-mile record-holder, Olympian, and renowned long-distance running coach Jeff Galloway, the run-walk-run method allows your body to essentially re-set during walking breaks. Helpful to new runners, it reduces the intimidation factor and lets you ease into running to help build your stamina and endurance. According to Galloway, running training for a 5K race should start seven weeks prior to race day. One of the seven training weeks could look like the following:

  • Monday: Run/walk 30 minutes (For example: Run 1 mile, walk the rest of the time; Or, run for 1 minute and walk for 1 minute, alternating for the 30 minute time frame)
  • Tuesday: Walk 30 minutes
  • Wednesday: Run/walk 30 minutes
  • Thursday: Walk 30 minutes
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Run/walk 3 miles (4.8 km)
  • Sunday: Rest or walk


Before you arrive at any race, it’s a good idea to have a plan for keeping pace. Don’t let the excitement and your adrenaline take over at the start line. If you aren’t grounded in your plan, it can be too easy to follow the pace of the other runners around you. Overperforming above the level your body expects will put you on the road to injury – not the finish line!

Having a GPS watch can help anchor your set pace, but it’s best to know that mile pace in advance.


Registering for a Marathon

So, you probably know you don’t just show up to a marathon or sign up a few weeks before race day. Do your research and find your city’s requirements so you can start run training for your first marathon six months in advance. Give yourself plenty of time!

Many big-city races, such as the Boston Marathon, require you to submit a previous marathon run time to apply. For the Boston Marathon to consider your entry, your qualifying time must meet their published standards for your age bracket. For example, men 18-34 must have a previous time of 3 hours or less, and women must have a time of 3 hours and 30 minutes or less—and even that won’t necessarily guarantee your admission.

Some of the most famous, big-city races include the Chicago Marathon, the Baltimore Running Festival, and D.C.’s Marine Corps Marathon, all in October, followed by the New York City Marathon in November.

Start Training 135-Days Out 

If your goal is to finish a 26.2-mile marathon, starting your training program 20 weeks out from race day helps build up your endurance and aerobic capacity (running a marathon is 99% aerobic activity). The more time you give yourself, the better. The four main elements to training are:

  • Base mileage is your weekly mileage three-to-five times per week.
  • It takes 7–10 days to gradually work up to long distances.
  • Speed work intervals and tempo runs to increase your cardio capacity.
  • Rest and recovery days help prevent physical injuries and mental burnout.

Long Run Days

Long runs train your body to recognize what it’s like to run on tired legs. It’s best to feel this sensation that generally hits around mile 20, before you run your first marathon.

According to Andrew Kastor, coach of the ASICS Mammoth Track Club in Mammoth Lakes, California, starting the following steps 20 weeks from race day can help get your endurance ready for race day:

  1. Start by running the longest comfortable distance you can run in week one.
  2. Add one or two miles to your longest run each sequential week until you’ve worked your way up to an 18-mile run. So, if your longest run is 10 miles, run 11 the next week, then run 12, then 13, and so on. 
  3. Once you’ve run your first 18 miles, start stepping down the length of your runs to about 13 miles once a week for three weeks. 
  4. After three consecutive weeks of 13-mile runs, work your way back up to an 18-mile run.
  5. Repeat steps three and four until race day.

Find a Support System

Running with friends or other people can give you focus, accountability, structure, and confidence. A 20-week training program is a long time! It’s easy to give up and get distracted. Stay committed and maintain your confidence with a support system like a run club, or coach.

Post-run Stretching Can Help Your Run Quality

As training progresses and intensifies, your muscles change and go through many challenges. Stretching muscles after each run and on rest days can help muscles grow larger and potentially improve your training times as you build muscle mass.

Stretching after your run can also help improve the mechanical range of motion in your hips, ankles, knees, and spine to improve running stride so that the body’s natural spring system fires most of the movement—conserving energy and easing the impact on joints.

Should I stretch before or after running? 

Dynamic stretches are moving stretches which are highly recommended before a workout, especially a run. Dynamic stretching increases blood flow to your muscles, prepares them for exercise, and helps you avoid muscle injury. It also helps increase your body temperature, warms up tissues, and elevates the heart rate, so that you don’t go immediately from the cold and resting state to vigorous muscle activity. 

Static stretching, or stretching where you hold a pose for 10 to 30 seconds, also helps cool you down after a run and helps transition muscles, joints, and the nervous system back to a resting state. 

Sleep, Hydrate, Eat, Wear Sunscreen, REPEAT!


Running high mileage increases your need for sleep. Not sleeping can increase your risk of injury. To benefit from your long runs and workouts, you need to allow your body to fully recover. Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but during marathon training, you may need 8-10 hours of sleep. FACT: world champion marathon runner Paula Radcliffe slept 9-10 hours at night while training and another couple of hours in the afternoon.


You probably know how hydration can help your fitness level but it’s always good to refresh. Hydration helps muscle function, recovery, agility, and helps with mental clarity. Improved blood flow and circulation are other benefits of staying hydrated, which better deliver oxygen and nutrients to working muscles. Running is 99% aerobic, so runners need to do everything they can to optimize oxygen delivery, like staying hydrated!

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking 4-16 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising.

Eat Healthy

It’s important to eat healthy while training for your first marathon. Choose a nutrient-rich, well-balanced diet and eat plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats daily. Protein will help with recovery, injury prevention, and support lean muscle growth. The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends 1.4-2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight per day (0.6-1 grams of protein per pound).

Fat is also crucial to a marathon runner’s diet. ISSN recommends 30% of total calories should be fats.

Carb Load One Week Before Race Day

It’s recommended that 70 percent of your total calories should come from carbohydrates a week before your race day. For a 150-pound runner who eats 2,700 calories a day – that would be about 450g of carbs. You can increase up to 80 to 90 percent of your diet in carbs two to three days before race day. Bread, pasta, oats, and rice are all solid carb-loading choices. 

Wear Sunscreen

When you’re training for the first marathon, you’re spending a lot more time in the sun! The skin absorbs the sun’s rays even on overcast days. Be sure to use a waterproof and sweat-proof sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 15 and offers broad spectrum protection. Also consider running early or later in the day to avoid strong UV rays. Sun intensity is at its greatest between 10am and 4pm.

Understanding what steps to take months before a marathon is important, but so is knowing which to take on race day! Learn a few common marathon race running rules and what to expect in our next article.

If you’re looking for more in-depth training guidance consider signing up for a Personal Trainer at your nearest EōS Fitness who can help you go from couch to 5K or develop a run training program to help you crush your first marathon. To get started, visit an EōS Fitness near you.

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