Fitness fanatics often have one common thing in their bucket list, namely to run a marathon - a gruelling 26.2 miles of sweat, ache, and exhaustion. However, if you're contemplating running one, bear in mind that your work doesn’t start on the day of the race - it begins months before with the preparation. To put it bluntly, if you’re looking to run your first marathon, you need to start training early, even a year early!

For a first-timer, the prospect can be daunting. There are innumerable questions, eg: How much training will I need to do? What equipment will I need? How can I avoid injury?

Well, fear not, we have you covered. Here is Fit Hire's advice on how to approach your first marathon.

Running shoes

Fundamental to trouble-free marathon running is a good pair of shoes. The wrong shoes could easily wreck your preparation or, worse still, the race itself. Socks are also very important.

Running shoes should be light in weight, but also offer good support, cushioning or motion control, depending on your running action. The best thing to do is to head down to your local running shop and discuss the type of shoe that will suit you best. For those interested in the mechanics of shoe selection, our blog 'Finding the right running shoe for you' contains some useful advice.

Another thing to bear in mind that you will need to break your new shoes in gently beforehand - don't try them for the first time on the day of the race!

Plan rest

It is not possible to go into the specifics of a training programme in a blog like this. You may, for instance, be an experienced runner at shorter distances who wants to complete a marathon, or you may be a total novice who has never done any running but, nevertheless, still have a hankering to do the full 26.2 miles. The point we're making here is that your training will need to be specific to you.

What we can say is that there is plenty of useful advice out there. In addition to all the material to be found on the web, magazines such as Runners World regularly feature articles and training plans aimed at first-time marathoners. There are also some good books available.

One point we would draw your attention to - something frequently overlooked - is the importance of scheduling sufficient rest and recovery time. Rest is an essential part of marathon training. By building rest days into your training week you will make better progress and, crucially, be far less prone to injury.

Don't run at all on rest days - give your muscles a chance to recover. If you must be active on those days, then try a little cross-training.

As the race draws near, you should aim to reduce your weekly mileage and slacken your pace. Come race day, you want to be feeling fresh and eager to run, rather than exhausted from the previous week's effort!

Mimic the course

If possible, perform at least some of your training over similar terrain to that of your intended event. For example, if the race course is hilly, you'll be in for a nasty shock if all your training has been done on the flat. By mimicking the course as much as you can in terms of terrain, running surface, etc, you will be that much better prepared.

Try to do your longer runs at the same time as the race if you can. This will help your body acclimatise to distance running at that time of the day, and also help establish your bathroom routine!

Mid-race fuelling

If you're running a full marathon, then irrespective of whether you're hoping to complete the distance in 3 hours or 6 hours, you will need to take on liquid during the race.

Find out at what intervals the drinks stations are going to be placed. It may be that you'll want to hydrate more frequently, especially in warm weather. If so, you'll need to carry your own supply. Belts and bottle holders are fine for training runs, but small hand-held bottles are easier to carry and sip from during the race.

Practice drinking on the move until you can do it easily and use your training runs perfect your hydration routine. By the time you've worked up to race distance, you'll know what suits you best.

Good luck

This then, is the best advice we can give you - basic, but essential for any new marathon runner.

We hope you complete the distance and find the race an enjoyable experience. Good luck.