Running a marathon is a very rewarding experience, but can take a toll on your body. I have only run 3 marathons, but through those marathons I have learned a great deal about what to expect during training, and how to prepare yourself for race day.
Here are my own personal tips and guidelines for your first marathon:
1. Prior to signing up for a marathon, I recommend that you have been running for at least one year, and have run a half-marathon. Marathon training is a huge undertaking, both mentally and physically. If you have been running for a solid year, your body has gotten use to running and won’t be in such a shock when you start training. I also recommend running a half before you train for a full. I say this because that half is a great warm-up to marathon training. If you find out through your half marathon training that you just don’t like it, you most likely will not enjoy marathon training. Also, your body needs to get use to longer runs and the emotional side of running. Half marathon training gives you a little of both, without the extreme of marathon training. With that being said, certainly do what feels right for you- but those are just my suggestions 🙂
2. Look at your schedule and make sure you have enough time to train. Weekly runs will consist of 4-10 miles, and your long runs will most likely go up to 20 miles. When I’m marathon training I call it my part-time job because of the time dedication you have to have. You also need to factor in warming up, stretching, and strength training throughout the week. You will want to figure out what times you can run, and may have to move your schedule around. Weekly runs are not as time consuming as your longer weekend runs. Marathon training has to be a priority or else it will not go well. Plan to spend 2-3 hours running on the weekends. It really helps if you have a good Pandora station or music on your iPod!
3. Find what motivates you. If you are lacking motivation it will be difficult to get out of your warm bed and hit the pavement (or treadmill!). Personally, I am a junkie for motivational quotes and personal stories.
4. Tell people you are running a marathon! The more people you tell, the more people will ask how your training is going. You will be held accountable, making it a little easier to stick with your plan.
5. Give yourself goals. If it is your first race I would not give yourself a time goal, as that may set you up for disappointment if you do not achieve that goal. Rather, give yourself small goals during training. Goals give me something to work towards, and when I hit them it feels good!
6. You must be mentally tough. We all know that marathoners are physically tough, but a lot of people do not figure in the mental component. There will be many days that you want to give up and throw a pity part for yourself (at least I hope I’m not alone!). Running 2+ hours by yourself can become extremely boring and make you question why you are even training. When I am having a self-doubt day, or just a poor run, I will think about the reasons why I run and give myself a pep talk. Yes, I talk to myself while I run. Things I often say to myself while running are:
- “Suck it up Courtney!”
- “Just think of how great I will feel when I am done!”
- “Quitting will not get you to Boston!”
It is important to know there will be days that will make you question yourself, but the good days will make up for those of doubt.
7. Plan to spend more money on food. When I am marathon training my grocery bill goes up significantly and I am constantly hungry. I often refer to myself as a human garbage disposal.
8. An important thing to keep in mind with training and eating is that you still need to eat healthy. Running 10 miles is no excuse to make poor decisions in regards to food. Running burns approximately 100 calories per mile, so eating 10 miles worth of calories can be easily done with junk food. You want to make sure you are putting the right kinds of food into your body. Junk food does not give you the right kind of energy (if any) that you will need while training.
9. Make sure you have a support team for the day of the race! I am very lucky and have a very supportive family who attend all of my races. Having family and friends at your event will give you an extra boost of confidence. Plus, after running a marathon you most likely will not want to drive home- that’s where family comes in hand 😉
10. Research different marathons before you sign up. If you’re a first time marathon runner, you need to look at the course map and note the elevation of the course. I did not do this for my first marathon and found out the hard way that the Des Moines Marathon has hills! My body was not use to running that distance with that many hills. Chicago is fantastic for it’s flat surface! If you sign up for a hillier course just make sure you incorporate a lot of hill-work into your training plan.
11. ENJOY IT! Like I’ve said, marathon training and completing a marathon is very rewarding. You should enjoy your training and the actual event. If you do not enjoy training and find it difficult to find any type of enjoyment, it may be a sign that either running is not for you, or the distance is not for you.
I hope these tips help you!