How to prepare for a marathon

401 - Ben Smith JACKET IMAGE.jpg401 is Ben Smith’s story of running 401 marathons in 401 days. During his 10,506.2-mile odyssey criss-crossing the UK, Ben ran in 309 different locations, accompanied by more than 13,500 people. He visited 101 schools, burned an estimated 2.4 million calories, wrecked his back and braved every extreme of the British weather, while raising £330,000 for charity, touching the lives of millions.

Are you running the London Marathon this year? Whether it’s your first or fiftieth preparing ahead of the big day is essential. Ben shares his advice to getting race-ready.

“I’m asked quite a lot, how do you train to run a marathon? My answer is normally, how do you want to train to run your first marathon. Might seem like a strange answer, but there is a sensible reason for this answer.

“Running a marathon is very personal to each individual person. People run and train for marathons for lots of different reasons and this will have a impact on how someone trains. What I mean by this is for example, if you are going for a PB or to smash a time goal then your training will be very much focused around short runs at quick speed and long runs at varying speeds mainly. If you are running your first, most people just want to get round which to be honest is exactly how I feel when I run a marathon even now.

“It’s all about your mindset, if you can keep your mind healthy when training for a marathon then the physical aspects will follow. Running a marathon to most people is a huge undertaking and therefore conjures up lots of negative thoughts that can ultimately hamper the way you train, I always found that breaking down the 26.2 miles helps.

“Remembering why you signed up to run a marathon in the first place is a good place to start. Connecting yourself with the emotional reason is something that will ensure you stay strong during the times when it’s tough.

“Having a realistic expectation of what you can achieve is also important. Imagining you can run a sub 3 hour marathon as your first one may be exciting to visual, but mostly it’s unrealistic and can end up with you feeling disappointed when you achieve the 26.2 miles.

“Don’t compare yourself to other people, some people are naturally built to run marathons and others struggle more. I remember when I first started out, shifting 17 stone around a 3 mile course was something I never thought I could do, but obviously there were lots of people in my running club that found it easy. If I had compared myself to them then I would have given up.

“Surround yourself with people that are the same speed as you, maybe run with a group, club or friends that hold the same goal as you.

“When you are training, if you feel tried and your body is screaming for you to stop, then don’t push it too hard, just walk. Let your body recover and then start running again. You don’t need to run the entire distance, in fact the vast majority of people that run marathons do walk at some point or another, it’s not a failing – you are still getting the same medal and covering the same distance as all those that finish in under 3 hours!

“A great trick on those long runs is break them down into shorter distances. Maybe focus on running to a coffee shop, having a treat and then running home. You’d be amazed what a lovely piece of cake and a nice coffee or tea can do for your mindset.

“The ultimate goal when training for a marathon is making sure you keep it fun and enjoy it. Your mindset is key to this so rewarding yourself is very important. Just remember, completing 26.2 miles is an amazing feat and one that a lot of people will struggle with, but once you have achieved it you will be so proud of yourself and will always be able to look back and say I did that!”

401: The Extraordinary Story of the Man who Ran 401 Marathon in 401 Days and Changed his Life Forever is available from


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