Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation Home Page


Diabetes Action Team Main Page Diabetes Action: Innovation for Prevention, Healing, and the Cure

Diabetes Action Team LogoDiabetes Action Team 

Basics of Marathon Training

You’ve made the plunge and committed yourself to running a marathon. Congratulations on that first step! Now it’s time to start thinking about your training. There are scores of books written on the subject of running a marathon, and just as many theories of training. It can be a bit overwhelming to try to sort through all this information especially if you are new to running races. Here is some basic information to get you started:



Buying the right pair of shoes is the most important thing you can do to keep yourself from getting injured. Go to a real running store and not a general sporting goods store. You will need the help of an experienced salesperson who can help you determine your foot type and then sort through all the choices to find the perfect pair for your feet. When you do find the right pair of shoes, and have had a chance to run in them awhile, buy a couple of pairs since you should rotate them during training. On the inside of the shoe, write the date you started running in them as it will help you know when it is time to replace them: generally no longer than six months of use depending on how many miles you are running.

A good article about shoes at runnersworld.com. 



The basic things to remember here: quick drying and chafe free. You’ll want running singlets made of material such as Coolmax (NOT cotton!) that will dry quickly and not absorb all of that sweat you’ll be producing. The same goes for shorts, bras, and socks. Make sure that whatever you run in doesn’t have any itchy seams or anything else that might rub against your skin and cause bleeding. Many people use products such as Body Glide or plain petroleum jelly that help decrease friction caused by clothing or body parts rubbing together. The most common areas for problems are: thighs, nipples, underarms, and feet. Bring along a dry pair of clothes in the car to change into after your run.

A fun tool at runnersworld.com to help you plan how to dress.



There are several accessories that you will want during your long runs.

Fanny pack/Water bottle holder. Unless you have water available to you every couple of miles, you will definitely need to carry water with you on your long runs. You can choose between a water bottle that you can grip in your hand, a belt with a water bottle (the bottle usually sits at an angle to allow easy removal), or a “Camelback” style that is like a backpack that you fill with water and sip through a straw. You will probably also want a fanny pack to store other essential items (listed below). Many water bottle holders have some sort of zippered compartment where you can stash a few of these necessities.

Sunglasses and sunscreen. A good idea, especially if your run won’t be completely in the shade. Apply a sweat-proof sunscreen before your run.

Watch. If you are someone who runs at a consistent pace, a watch can help you estimate how far you have run. It also helps to remind you when it is time to drink or have an energy gel.


Necessities for long runs:

Water. This is the most important and obvious necessity and is discussed in further detail below.

Energy gels or food. See below.

Toilet paper. Because sometimes the port-a-pots run out!

Some emergency money.

Medical supplies such as insulin for those with diabetes or an epi-pen if you have allergies.

Do not litter! Whatever you do carry with you on your run, please bring back or deposit in a trashcan. This will probably seem obvious to you yet it is amazing to see the amount of trash and gel packs left on popular trails.


How much to drink and eat:

Before your run

Drink about 16 ounces of water within 2 hours of your run. Some people prefer to drink a sports drink while others find that this upsets their stomach.

Eat a light meal that is high in carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (see this runnersworld.com article) such as a banana or oatmeal. Eat this meal at least an hour before your run. It is better to eat too little than too much. Experiment with what works for you and then, when you do find your perfect pre-run meal, eat the same thing on the day of the marathon. 

During your run

How much you drink during your long runs is especially important. Please read these two good articles on the much misunderstood topic of proper hydration:



Eat on any runs lasting longer than an hour. You will need approximately 100-200 calories an hour in the form of energy gels, a sports drink like Gatorade, food like small pieces of Power Bars, or even honey packets during long runs. If you are consuming gels or power bars, make your fluid choice plain water and not Gatorade or you will be consuming too much sugar which will slow down your fluid absorption.

There are many different brands of energy gels with names such as Gu and Clifshot (this is the “official” brand of the Marine Corps Marathon and the kind they will be passing out during the race). You will also want to experiment with what combination of gels/food/sports drink works best for you and your stomach. Be sure to drink some water whenever you consume a gel or other food. If you carry two water bottles for longer runs, you can mix your gel in with your water in one of the bottles.

After your run.

Drink a sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes. Continue drinking water throughout the day.  

Eat something high in carbohydrates within 15 minutes of finishing your run. Then, within the first two hours after running, eat a meal with about 25% protein and 75% carbohydrate. Consuming protein will help your muscles to recover faster.


Considerations for diabetes:

If you have diabetes, you need to take extra care to maintain good blood sugar control during exercise. Because everyone is different, there is no single formula to achieve this so a consult with a nutritionist or diabetes educator can be helpful if you are experiencing problems. Here are some links to questions and answers about exercise and diabetes from our Certified Diabetes Educator:








Running in “bad” weather:

Heat. Take not only the temperature, but the humidity into consideration when you exercise in the summer. The warmer and the more humid it is, the shorter your run should be and the more water (preferably cold since it absorbs easier) you should drink. The earlier you can run in the morning, the better. Also, having water to pour over your head or keeping a wet bandanna (you can even fill it with ice) around your neck can help cool you down.

Be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke: chills, dizziness, confusion, cessation of sweating, clammy skin, and faintness. If you start to experience any of these symptoms, sit in the shade and seek help immediately.

Rain. If it is cold and rainy, opt for a light running jacket or a treadmill if you can’t stand the thought of getting wet. If it is warm and rainy, enjoy it because once you get wet, you can’t get any wetter and the rain will cool you off. Wearing a hat in the rain helps keep the rain out of your face.


Have fun and enjoy yourself!

Try to strive for balance in your life. Training for a marathon, especially your first, can be a time consuming process and it can sometimes be hard to keep things in perspective. Remember that you are doing this for fun; it is not your job and you are not being graded on your performance. So enjoy the process of watching yourself get stronger as you run farther each week and congratulate yourself frequently!


<< Team Home Page


Go to Charity Navigator to see ratings for Diabetes ActionBetter Business Bureau Accredited CharityVisit www.charitywatch.org to learn about AIP - America's top charity watchdog organizationBest In America Powered By Blackbaud