Are you familiar with the myth that gave the word ‘marathon’ its origins? In Ancient Greece, Phidippides died after running news of victory from Marathon to Athens. Granted, the ancient route of provenance likely wasn’t paved with asphalt and our Grecian friend was probably over-excited and under-prepared, but that was still a most arduous undertaking. Train for it properly and your feat will be a different manner of life-changing.

Start easy

Honestly, your aspiration puts you at significantly higher risk of injury than the folks solely looking to get into shape. Pushing a body beyond what it’s ready for is a pitfall whose diameter you’re widening. You might lose some speed of progression to caution, but the alternative can lay people out for weeks at a time. Remember: We don’t earn points by pushing through warning signs.

If this is your first time running, word to the wise; spend a year or so just becoming comfortable with running a whole bunch. Give yourself plenty of time to develop strength and form before you dive headlong into serious training. If you’re generally active, 4-6 months should do.

At the very beginning, focus on running “short races” (5k, 10k) and eventually run a half marathon to get yourself used to long distance running. The key: increase your mileage every week, no matter how slow.

Adopt a regimen that works for you

There are a number of variations aimed at different specific goals, but your concern for the first attempt is probably simply to finish, rather than to place at the head of the pack. The venerable Hal Higdon’s novice program is a solid place to start, and many running magazines host their own breakdowns and charts. Regardless of which you choose, though, some things are held common.

First, you’re going to need a very strong aerobic base. That is, your body’s ability to continue effectively using fuel reserves in extended durations is the star of this show. Depending on who you ask, the benchmark is a regular mileage of anywhere from 20 to 50 per week.

However, you don’t want to punish your body so run really long races (more than 10k) only once a week.These serve the purpose of building your comfort with and adaptation to conditions closer to what you’ll experience in a marathon. Add a sizeable portion from your dollops of additional distance to a weekend run and work that day to around 20 miles. To improve your resistance, go on the stationary bike or run in a pool if you can (so the bouncing up and down doesn’t hit your body as hard).

Build up to this volume at a gradual pace. You can take as long as you’d like, but about two miles each week appears to be what most schedules plan for. Intersperse them through three to five days.

Training should be throttled to a speed where you can comfortably hold a conversation. The idea is to maintain and develop that sustainable level of exertion – if you’re hustling yourself to the point of needing to stop, you’ve dipped into the realm of high speed anaerobic exercise. Which is great, but you’re specializing elsewhere. Slow it down.

Before the big day comes, it’s generally recommended to taper your exercise back over the course of a few of weeks, taking things quite gently the week before. Allocate some time to ensuring you’re in a state of repair before you show Phidippides how it’s done.

Eat well

When your caloric expenditure can be measured in Big Macs, there’s going to be an enormous volume of food to balance. But beyond choosing wisely, however, take care to eat enough to sustain yourself, particularly if you’re concerned with building or maintaining muscle mass during the process.

When training for a marathon, you should NOT be skipping carbs because they contain glycogen, which is the main fuel for your muscles in long distance running. You’ll want to get your body used to storing glycogen.

During the race you should also consume energy gels and chews to help you recover and keep you from hitting the wall, some fruit and energy bars will work as well.

Get your rest

Recovery periods are an essential part of any physical training effort. It’s in the down times that regeneration occurs and strength and endurance are built. A body without rest is wearing itself down to probable damage. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll take a couple days each week to do absolutely nothing but sit on your butt. Also, make sure you’re sleeping well and enough.

Now that you’re ready to run and challenge yourself, don’t forget to check out the best running shoes on the market.