How to Train for Your First Marathon

First Time Marathon Training Gear

Have someone at a shoe store check your gait for the right type of running shoes.
Have someone at a shoe store check your gait for the right type of running shoes.

Today's marathoners have access to a plethora of gadgets and gear designed to help them go the distance; however, at its purest, running requires little to no fancy equipment. Let's talk about the bare essentials:

  • Running Shoes. From racing flats to foam-reinforced stability shoes, running footwear choices are endless. To find the best fit, have your gait and arch-type analyzed at a specialty running store, most of which offer free analysis. These stores can recommend running shoes at various price points to complement your natural stride and correct over/underpronation.
  • Running Clothes. No fancy attire is strictly necessary for running. However, moisture-wicking fabrics may keep you drier and more comfortable, and for women, properly fitted sports bras are a downright necessity. Last but not least, runners who experience inner-thigh chafing may find that form-fitting capri-length running pants offer relief.
  • Hydration. Electrolyte-replenishing sports drinks may improve performance; however, they often contain sugar and calories that are unnecessary on runs under 75 minutes -- especially for runners trying to lose weight [source: Shea]. Regardless of whether you choose sports drinks or old-fashioned water, be sure to carry fluids on your runs. If you don't like running with a bottle, try stashing water along your route before you run or investing in a hydration belt or backpack.
  • Nutrition. Pack some snacks to get the calories you need on runs over 75 minutes. When Lance Armstrong ran his first marathon in 2006, he reportedly snacked his way through several chocolate-flavored gels (small packets of nutrient-dense gel designed to be consumed on the run) and finished in under 3 hours despite little formal marathon training [source: Shea].
  • Gadgets. Of all the wallet-busting options available to runners, the most useful is probably a heart rate monitor, which can help runners maintain a steady pace. GPS watches that enable distance tracking on the go and training assistants such as the Nike+iPod Sports Kit are also neat -- but strictly optional -- additions to a runner's arsenal.

Now that you have some idea what sort of gear you'll need, let's talk about what to expect from your first marathon.