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Participants taking off at the 2012 Standard Chartered Marathon

Put one leg forward. Shift your weight. Put the other leg forward. Repeat for 42.195km and you have the essence of running a marathon. Easier said than done, of course. But Rome wasn’t conquered in a day, and neither are marathons. This article will give you the very basics of what it takes to train for a marathon, injury free.

Good gear

Get a good pair of running shoes, running socks and a decent pair of shades if possible. Make sure you purchase your shoes from a reputable shop that can fit you with a suitable shoe. Runners with flat feet should pick shoes that correct overpronation while runners with high arches need a little bump in the midfoot for extra support.

Socks that wick away sweat, and are comfortable are important as well to prevent blisters. And you will need shades to block out the early morning sunshine which will appear halfway through the race.

Built your training slowly

Increase your mileage by a maximum of 10 percent per week. This means that if you’ve only run 20km a week before, you’re allowed to run only 22km the next week, and so forth.  Make sure you take a recovery week once every three weeks. Here’s what eight weeks of training should look like, in terms of kilometres per week:


When in doubt, always remember its better to err on the side of undertraining. It will do you no good to train hard for three weeks only to get sick or injured for the next three.

Train smart

Find a good training programme, and stick to it. In principal there are three types of training sessions you should be doing in a week:

1)  The Long Run: Long runs should be done at least once a week at an easy pace. The purposes of these sessions is to ease your legs into running for three to five hours. You should be able to run up to 30km without stopping prior to your marathon.

2)  Pacing sessions: These sessions help you gauge your pace during the marathon. One useful tip is to practice progressive marathon pacing. Warm up 3km, then 10km at marathon pace plus 40 seconds, another 10km more at marathon pace plus 20 seconds and the last 10km at marathon pace. This will enable you to run the marathon at progressively quicker pace, or what is known as ‘negative splits’.

3)  Tempo runs: Also known as ‘lactate threshold’ training, these sessions enable you to endure the painful lactic acid burn that will accumulate over the course of the marathon. First, do a mental gauge of your perceived exertion over 10km. Rate them on a scale of 1 to 10. A comfortable effort would be a 5 while a race effort would be a 10. After a 3km warmup, run 10km at the scale of 8, jog for 5min, then do another 6km-10km at the same pace. Gradually extend the distance of your tempo run over time. This will teach your body to maintain that “comfortably hard” pace over long distances.

Rest and recover

Studies over the years have shown that runners who trained just four days a week performed just as well in a marathon as those who trained six times a week and covered 20 percent more mileage. The difference lies in giving those sore muscles time to recover, and to get stronger before loading them up again. Do not give in to the temptation of clocking additional mileage to ease that guilt after a heavy ice cream feast. Mileage clocked for the sake of racking up those kms, also known as ‘junk miles’, will not benefit you in the long run.

Also, remember to consume your carbohydrates as possible after workouts, and consume enough iron.

Taper for a week

Run at a lower mileage, and at a lesser effort at least one week prior to your marathon. This will give your body ample time to recover from any soreness that could have accumulated in the course of training, and also will allow your body to build up stores of carbohydrates that you can use on marathon day. 

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