What you need for marathon training

Erich Heinlein's image for:
"What you need for marathon training"
Image by: 

Running 26.2 miles may be one of the most challenging things you ever do. In order to do so without severely hurting yourself there are several things that you need and others are just good to have. Despite what others say, when it comes to this level of running it is not a free sport.

More specifically, you need the following: Good running shoes and other proper runners clothing, spy belt, sports drinks, GPS,  energy gels or bars, something to listen to music with and lastly lots of enthusiasm for running. Now for a of a more detailed explanation of why you need each: 

Lots of enthusiasm for running

This one should almost go without saying. Most marathon training plans will have you running 40-50 miles per week and your weekly long runs will eventually go up to at least 20 miles which means you will spend many miles doing it.

To keep yourself going there are numerous studies which suggest either a running partner or music are the two best things to keep yourself on a run. To get music you can get an iPod or if you have a smart phone, you may be able to download music on that.

If you choose a running partner, make sure your partner is an equal when it comes to overall running ability or the superior runner will end up cheating him or herself out of a speedier minute miles. 

Energy gels or bars 

One of the worst times that you can run is when you are really hungry. It can have similar consequences to running thirsty and not doing anything about it. Eventually you will pass out. The purposes of the energy gel is to surpass your hunger and give you more energy. Some popular choices for energy gels are GU energy gels, which have various flavors, Humia Chia, which doesn’t have any artificial flavoring and lastly Cliff bars. 

Since your going to be burning a lot of calories this also means you will be using a lot of energy, some of what you can get back by eating some type of an energy gel. There are numerous types of gels and bars out there. People’s dietary needs along with various tastes of food so you may have to do some experimenting to determine which one is best for you.

If you are going to rely on the energy gels on race day, try them out in your training runs. Race day is not the time to try anything new or you may not finish.


The reason why one would want a GPS for marathon training is to determine two things: How far you have run and what the pace is that you are running? There are also several running apps like maymyrun, nike plus and run keeper. One thing to keep in mind is that apps are not always 100 percent accurate, so the information on those should be taken with a grain of a salt. 

If you have a real need to know your exact times then a better option may be to get a true GPS, which are often sold in the form of watches. So what are the upsides to the running apps on phones versus GPS watches? There are two: Most good running apps are free, where GPS watches are often over $50 and a really good one is well over $100; most running smart phone apps also contain maps with the streets you are running on, so if you are lost you may have a shot at getting you back on track. 

Sports drinks

You really only need sports drinks as opposed to good old H20 for long runs for a similar reason that you also need to eat energy gels. When running long distances you need to keep yourself hydrated it could also cause you to lose sweat, according to an article on In addition, the sugars in sports will help give you more energy. 

Spy belt

When you are going on a long run there is lots that you need to carry with you. Imagine trying to hold on two energy gels or cliff bars along with a 20 oz gatorade or powerade while running, plus you also have your keys and wallet or id in your pocket. Running with all that in itself sounds like a workout unto itself. Spy belts solve this issue for a couple of reasons; they often have zippers which act like pockets where you can put some of your belongings in while running. 

Some spy belts have places where you can put liquid in them and you can drink it when you want. Some even have extra elastics where you can hang energy gels on them. You can get them relatively easily at most sporting goods stores and also off of most common places online such as Amazon.

Proper running clothing

You may be able to get away with any old t-shirt for some of your shorter runs. But for your long runs, especially when you start to get into the higher mileage runs, it would be a wise investment to get tech shirts because they do a much better job of wicking away sweat. It also would be a good idea to do the same thing to get socks that wick away sweat when you are running as well. For pants, any pair of workout pants will work. The general rule is you need to dress for it to be about 15-20 degrees warmer than what the actual temperature is.

Proper running shoes

Shoes are an article of clothing but it deserves it’s own section because of all the equipment that you need for marathon training and for the actual race, this is the most important investment you will make. Getting a shoe that your foot is not compatible with or one that does not fit properly will eventually lead to injury. 

Unless you either work at a shoe store, a doctor or a professional runner then you need to go to a local shoe store and get fitted. Have the person selling you the shoes how you run. Another thing the shoe salesman will need to know is where you will be running, not because he is going to stalk you but because he needs to know what type of surface you will be running on. The shoes you get for trail running are different than the shoes you would get for street running.

The other reason you need to get fitted for running shoes is because if you have bad running mechanics or have a tendency to over overpronate then you may need shoes that are specifically designed for pronaters. Running shoes should typically be replaced about every 300-500 running miles depending on your weight. Heavier runners will need to go closer to the upper end of that recommendation while lighter runners can go closer to the lower end.  You will know when it is time to retire your running shoes when your mid soles start to wear down.


More about this author: Erich Heinlein