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How To Train For A Marathon On A Treadmill

You’ve picked the date. You’ve paid the registration fee. Now, it’s time to train for that marathon.

Whether it’s a half marathon or a full marathon, it’s a challenging physical goal but an amazing accomplishment.

What’s next, and how do you work training on the treadmill into your running routine?

How is a Treadmill Beneficial for Marathon Training?

A huge benefit to using a treadmill for your marathon training is that you are always indoors, so you don’t have to deal with the weather. Training for a marathon requires running a lot of miles, every day, to build up stamina and prepare your body for such a task.

Over the course of the four or five months you are preparing for your marathon, there will be less-than-ideal weather. But you still need to get your miles in. Running in the rain can be uncomfortable, as your feet soak up a great deal of water. Running in hot weather can be just as miserable, and even dangerous, as heat exhaustion or dehydration can set in even despite your attention to hydrating. And then there are those cold winter days with wind chills well below freezing.

Training indoors on a treadmill will allow you to avoid these issues and not miss a day.

Treadmill Training vs. Road Training

Running on a treadmill is easier than running on the road. Essentially, the treadmill’s belt and motor force you to keep on running. They also force you to keep a steady pace. This will help you keep your miles logged at a pace you are aiming for without having to use as much mental effort.

However, because running is easier on a treadmill, you may want to increase speed or incline to make it more challenging, and more like running on pavement. So if you run a 10:00 mile outdoors, try running a 9:00 or even 8:30 mile on the treadmill. Also, add at least one percent incline for flat race training. This will help mimic road running, where a motor is not moving the street along beneath you.

If you know your marathon route will have hills, treadmill training will definitely come in handy. With all the incline options, you’ll be able to simulate the route. You may even consider making your training more challenging than the route, so that on race day, you don’t have to push yourself all the way to your limit.

What Goes into a Treadmill Training Plan?

Now that you know the general idea of how a treadmill can benefit your training, you’ll want to put together a training plan. This will essentially be a timeline that progresses you from your starting point today all the way up to just before your marathon.

Your training plan will consist of how many miles you run and at what pace and incline each day. It will also include your rest days, and aside from the treadmill, it’s beneficial to throw in some cross training – especially strength work such as weight lifting.

With a little research, you can find training plans already outlined. You’ll want to pick a plan to works for your schedule and your personal goals. For instance, one plan might focus more on improving speed by incorporating short sprint intervals and lengthier tempo runs. Another might just be aimed at adding distance. When in doubt, you can create your own and just do what feels right for your body with your end goal in sight.

An example of a simple training plan would be to start with a 5-10 minute warmup at a very easy jogging pace. However many miles you’ve been running consistently, run that many miles at a moderately difficult pace. Slow down to an easy pace again for your cool down for 5-10 minutes. Each week, increase your long run distance by at least one mile until you are near your marathon distance. Be careful not to increase mileage more than about 10% at any given point. Doing so may result in injury or training setbacks.

Tips for Making it Through Your Training to that Marathon

Running for a long time challenges your ability to maintain focus. Marathons are a great physical challenge for sure, but they are a great mental challenge, as well. Many of the newer treadmills have televisions installed. Or, maybe there is a TV mounted in view at the gym. Watching your favorite show can help with the boredom and help those miles pass more quickly. If you don’t have access to a TV, make yourself a motivational music playlist or subscribe to one of the many excellent running podcasts out there.

Make sure you have a good set of running shoes for the treadmill. You want to be as comfortable as possible while running. And wearing poor footwear is the single easiest way to make your runs miserable.

If you enjoy listening to music during your workouts, you’ll want the right headphones. Finding some lightweight headphones that stay in place around your ears is important so that you aren’t fidgeting constantly with them to make them stay in place.

One thing I like to do when I’m running long distances on a treadmill is to set mini-goals along the way. That way, I’m not thinking about how much further I have to run to the end. I might divide up one segment of miles at a slower pace, then a segment of miles with an incline. Switching things up into smaller timelines can help you not feel overwhelmed by the full distance.

Whatever helps you get through running all the miles, that’s what will help you achieve your marathon goal. It’s not always going to be easy, but it’s definitely worth it, and treadmill training can help get you there.

Get Ready with Our FREE Half Marathon Training Plan

To help you get ready for your half marathon, we’ve provided a free training plan below. This 12-week training plan has three options for beginner, intermediate, and expert runners. Regardless of where you are with your running, this training plan will help you get to the starting line and have a great race!

Use the button if you’d like to download the PDF training plan for free.

download A FREE half marathon TRAINING PLAN

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

The Wired Runner