Running a marathon is a bucket list item for many endurance athletes. While merely making the decision to race is a huge step, preparing for that intimidating 26.2 miles can be challenging and is not something to take lightly. Adequate training and preparation will increase your chances of success and can make both training and racing a great experience. To get you on your way let’s talk about 5 things your should do before you run a marathon.
Tackle a half marathon first
There is a huge difference between running a few miles here and there and taking on that daunting 26.2. Jumping into a 16-24 week training schedule as a casual runner can affect you both physically and mentally. Programs this intense often lead to injuries and it’s easy to become mentally burnt out if you aren’t used to frequent training. So do your body and mind a favor and ease yourself into it. Half marathon training programs (and the actual race) are less intense and can serve as a good stepping-stone to get you prepared for a more intense schedule. In addition, having a half marathon time will give you a realistic starting point for your goal setting.
Set your goals
Speaking of goal setting…setting out to run your first marathon is in and of itself an awesome goal to have but you should also have a goal for the actual race. As a first time marathoner, a good overall race goal is to finish (regardless of your time). If that’s the only thing you’re concerned with, that’s great! As an endurance athlete, however, chances are that you want to do more than just finish the race, right? You’d probably like to have a time-specific goal to work towards. In this case, make sure you’re being realistic and your goal is based on your performance, not someone else’s. This isn’t a time to compete with the rest of the marathon running world. There are a couple good ways to estimate a time goal for yourself:
-Take the time from that half marathon we recommended you run, double it and add 10 minutes.
-You can also use a VDot calculator to help determine a realistic pace for you based on your performance in a past race.
Find a good training program
There are tons of free marathon training programs out there but that doesn’t mean all of them are good programs or even programs suited specifically for you. When selecting a training plan, there are two big things to consider:
-Your goals for the race: If you’re just striving to finish the race regardless of your time then you’ll likely be looking at a less intense plan than someone who has a specific time goal.
-Your current life situation: Don’t choose a plan that has you running 7 days a week if that’s not something that feels sustainable to you based on your lifestyle. Choosing a less frequent training plan might require a longer training timeframe but trust us; your body and your lifestyle will thank you.
Regardless of what type of plan you end up choosing make sure you do your research! It’s better to spend a little longer choosing a program if it means you’re going to stick with it.
PRO TIP: Friends with other marathoners? Ask them what training program they did to prepare for their first marathon. It might just be something that would work for you too!
As a runner; you already know the importance of having the right gear. But the gear you use to run a few miles a few times a week is not the same gear you need to run a marathon! There are a few things you’ll need to consider:
-Shoes: Your shoes are, by far, the most important part of your running wardrobe. The best thing you can do for your feet is to visit a specialty running store, tell them you’re training for a marathon and have them fit you and recommend what type of shoes you should be using. They will probably cost upwards of $100+ but that is well worth the potential problems or injuries of running with the incorrect type of shoe.
-Shorts and shirts: Your choices here are going to somewhat depend upon the time of year you’ll be running. Use this great What to Wear tool on Runner’s World to help you get started understanding what you might need.
-Lube: The repetitive motion of running (especially at marathon distances) can cause intense chafing. Luckily, you can address this in advance by lubing up the most commonly chafed areas (thighs, nipples, armpits and anywhere clothes might rub) before your race. Trust us, you will only make the mistake of not lubing up once before it becomes a regular part of your race preparation.
-Other: Again, depending on the time of year, there are additional things you might need like a hat, sunglasses, water bottles, etc. The specialty running store salesperson or What to Wear tool can likely recommend what you’ll need based on seasonality.
Drink and run
We can’t stress enough the importance of proper fluid intake during a marathon but like much of what we’ve talked about, this is something you need to ease your body into by incorporating fluids into your training. Start working your sports drinks and energy gels into your semi-long to long training runs. It’s best to use the sports drink that will be available on the course so your body isn’t surprised on race day. Find out how often your marathon will have aid stations and practice drinking at that rate.
While running your first marathon will be hard and time consuming; given adequate training and preparation, it can also be the experience of a lifetime. The feelings of accomplishment and success upon crossing that finish line are unexplainable and will not soon be forgotten. Who knows, you might love it so much you’ll sign up for another.
These 5 tips are a great start but there’s so much more that goes into keeping your body in shape for a marathon. For additional tips to help keep you healthy while training, check out our FREE Quick Blueprint to Fast Healing From Any Muscle Pull eBook!