First Time Marathon Training – The Exercise

The questions I was asked the most when sharing my running journey on social media were "How do you know how to train? When do you run? How much do you run? Do you do other exercise as well?".

So let's break down the exercise portion of marathon training. I'll be honest, this is only part of the training. There's more than just becoming physically strong enough to do 26.2 miles. 


Here's the link to the running training schedule I lived by. For 30 weeks, my plans and priorities revolved around that schedule. 

Tuesdays and Thursdays - 3.5 mile run/walk

Sundays - long run/walk, distance determined by the Jeff Galloway marathon training schedule.

Let's discuss for just a brief moment the man that has inspired so many: Jeff Freaking Galloway. Jeff is an Olympic runner and, in my opinion, god father of the famous walk/run/walk method. He's obviously a big deal in the running community, but a REALLY big deal in the Disney running community. His method, training plans, and overall inspiring presence is the reason so many of us have done what we felt would be impossible. A 5k, 10k, 10 mile, half marathon, full marathon, and more. For many, like me, we thought the running world would always be out of reach. Our bodies just weren't built to do something like that. And then we were able to prove ourselves wrong, over and over again.

I encourage you to check out Jeff's website and purchase his books for the different distances. I've found all of that to be a lot of help. For this marathon, I didn't do the magic miles, and I deviated slightly on distances, but I did stick to his schedule. For the next marathon I will be using those suggestions more often.

My walk/run/walk training looked like this: 2 minute warm up walk, 1 minute run, 45 second walk, then repeat that 1 min/ 45 sec interval for the allotted distance. To help me track this, I purchased the app Intervals Pro Timer. I do love the paid version, as it allows you to control so much about your run and what stats you want to see/hear along the way. Running can be so hard and overwhelming, especially when you're going over 10 miles, so I made sure to pick an interval that was comfortable. With this method, I was averaging a 12:30 min/mile, and I was really proud of that.

The major change I made to the training program was the max training distance. Jeff is going to have you do a training run of 26 miles 4 weeks before the marathon. I chose to do 23 that weekend. It was important to me that marathon weekend was a big celebration. I didn't want to just go .2 miles further than I did during training. I wanted to really push myself those last few miles, and know that on marathon day, that was the absolute farthest I've ever run.

Here's the thing about the long runs in training: it's really important you don't skip those. Even when you're tired, not feeling 100%, stressed, busy, it's cold, drizzly, etc. You will definitely have at least one of those excuses on race day. Trust me, there's always a good reason to not run a long distance. The reason you training for 30 weeks is not just to get your body ready, but to get your state of mind ready. Got some rain on race day? No worries, you experienced that during training. Not enough sleep? Trained for it. Butt feeling a little sore? Trained for and stretched. 30 weeks of running will really prepare you for anything. 

And those long long runs, they take some time. Hours. We all have things we would rather be doing Sunday morning. Like brunch. I love brunch! But it tastes just a little bit better after a 15 mile training run. I can promise you that 15 mile run won't feel better after brunch

Doing those long runs allows your brain to see how this feels. Running for hours at a time takes a toll on your body and your emotions. If you start feeling sick, you learn what changes you need to make (fuel? water? stretch?) to keep going. You don't always have to quit when a distance becomes difficult, and you learn how to get through those rough patches by training every weekend. You learn how to think "oh good, it's only 16 miles tomorrow". Only 16 miles?! That's so far! But by training you adapt physically, and most importantly, mentally. I just can't emphasize this enough: your brain needs more work than your body for 26.2 miles. Don't skip the runs. Just do them.

Many runners only run when training. However, my body really isn't built to be a running body. Just genetically speaking, if I'm up against a predator, I was built to outsmart them. Not outrun them. So I needed a little extra help to gain the strength I needed to avoid pain and injury. 

In between run days I would do one or more of the following: Peloton Bike ride, Peloton Strength For Runners, Peloton Yoga, Peloton Stretch. Yea I know, a lot of Peloton. I pay for the app, so I figured I mine as well use it. And to be honest, I really like it. Not just for the bike.  The strength classes they offer, specifically for runners, are extremely effective. I was noticeably sore for a couple days following a class. But the run after that? Felt a lot easier than the run before. That was really amazing to me. 

I also made sure to include stretching and yoga in as much as possible. Running and cycling and strength are very one directional activities. You don't really twist your body. And after awhile, I ended up feeling comfortably stiff. So including activity that promoted rotation was helpful, and just felt good. 

And if I had a scheduled no-run day and I didn't want to exercise at all, then I didn't. You don't have to. Rest is part of the training. Just save that for a Monday, Wednesday or Saturday. 

I also heard some stories from people who never ran for more than 6 miles while training for the marathon, only to go on and finish 26.2 easily. That must be wonderful, but it can also be dangerous. 26.2 miles is going to put your whole body through a lot, not just your muscles. Your heart, lungs, kidneys, digestive system, they're all working in an unnatural way (compared to what they're used to). They need training as well, and you need to know warning signs. You learn all of that through proper training.

So if you're planning your first marathon, pick a training plan and stick to it! If life gets hectic (and I promise it will) just do your best to keep at it. If you have to skip a run, don't push yourself too hard to "make it up". Just skip it, and move on to the next one. But don't lose momentum with your training.Training is supposed to be hard, so that race day isn't. It's 30 weeks of work for 6 hours (or less for you speedy folks) of fun. If you prepare, you have the opportunity to not only accomplish the impossible, but also have a wonderful time doing it.

Missed the intro? Check it out!


About The Author

Jessica OklaRoots


  1. Kim | 29th Mar 22

    Thank you thank you thank you!
    I am hoping to join you in 2023 at Disney.
    You are such an inspiration!!

  2. ginnie | 29th Mar 22

    Just did 17.8 for my Big Sur Marathon next month. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  3. Carrie | 30th Mar 22

    I began running at age 50. I ran my first marathon 3 years later (4:42) and then again at age 57 (4:20) Hal Higdon schedule was my savior. Running is mental, training is so much harder than race day. You have accomplished so much! Keep going, listen to your body!

  4. Adrienne | 3rd Sep 22

    Thank you for sharing your story. I haven’t even THOUGHT about running for some years! But I had Jeff Galloway’s books and found them to be so helpful back when I did a couple of 5Ks fifteen years ago!
    Reading your story is super motivating. I’m not sure if running is what I’ll do, but to just get moving again. If I continue waiting until retirement (9 months), I fear I’ll be so stiff I won’t be able to move. Thank you Jess! You’re a rock star! 🥳 🥰

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