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Pro Tips for Coaching Marathon Runners

Coaching marathon runners requires a lot of specialized knowledge.

Pro Tips for Coaching Marathon Runners

As a fitness trainer, you may have trained and run marathons yourself. However, coaching other runners through their training requires more than just the knowledge you picked up along the way. Most coaching certification groups require their running coaches to have a broad education on topics beyond just their individual sport, including:

  • Fundamentals of coaching
  • Sports science
  • Training methods and tactics
  • Ethics and professional conduct

Because marathon training is a long-term, physically demanding proposition for your clients, you will require a great deal of specific knowledge to guide them in developing appropriately to achieve their goals without getting sidelined by injury. Here are four major aspects of marathon training that you must be prepared to understand thoroughly and share with your clients.

Functional Strength Training

The body is a complex machine and it is vitally important that muscle groups be trained for optimum performance and biomechanical efficiency to support the rigors of running and prevent injury. Functional strength training is sometimes underutilized for marathon training, but it is crucial for stability, mobility and core support.

Endurance Training

When you’re working your way up to a 26-mile race, it’s clearly important to build endurance. Helping your clients gain aerobic capacity and efficiency requires thoughtful planning. It’s not enough to have them progressively increase their running; cross-training including cycling, swimming, pool running and high cadence elliptical machine workouts can help improve fitness and increase mileage much more quickly than running alone.


Jazz great Miles Davis once said, “It’s the notes you don’t play that make the difference.” When it comes to marathon coaching, you must impress upon your clients that recovery time is fully as important as workout time. When you develop coaching plans for your clients, be sure to include an appropriate number of recovery days in the schedule. Recovery is more than just rest – it also includes therapies such as icing, massage and other techniques designed to help the body restore itself.

Fuel and Nutrition

What’s the difference between fuel and nutrition? Fuel refers to the specific calorie load needed to power the body through training or an event. Nutrition is everything else about food and nutrients that help an athlete’s body reach its physical peak and optimum recovery potential. As a marathon coach, you will need to train your clients on everything from proper hydration to race day carb loading to ideal post-race recovery ratios of carbs to protein, not to mention mid-marathon refueling.

As you can see, effective marathon coaching requires a lot of education and training. If you feel that you need additional information, the internet is a great resource to help you find groups and organizations that train and certify coaches.