With New Years resolutions just around the corner, you may find yourself saying your goal is to run your first marathon.
After running CIM recently, I realized the amazing influence I have had in my own running community with sharing my story about becoming a first time marathon runner. In light of that, I decided I wanted to write a blog post about my thoughts for those dabbling with first time marathonning. These thoughts are all my own and I am not a certified coach or athletic instructor, so please be advised this is all my own experience and advice.
I recommend you currently have a love for running and are doing it regularly. If you think signing up for 26.2 is going to be the thing that finally motivates you to put your running shoes back on, you might want to think again. I say that because training for a marathon will push you into the deepest cycles of training that fatigues even the most diligent runners who are already logging dozens of miles a week already. I recommend going into your training with a solid base of running to begin with.
If you’re looking for a motivation to start running and break out of hiatus, try a shorter distance as your spark, like a 10k. If you’re doing zero, you might find yourself daunted, overwhelmed and annoyed with the time and requirements that 26.2 training demand.
I am glad I waited until I had run 5 half marathons before doing my first marathon. I am not saying that 5 is the magical number that you are “ready” or “not ready” but it was a good number for me. At that point I felt I had really gotten a decent grasp on what a race day looks like. I understood things like starting corrals, aid station etiquette, clothing choices, fueling choices and race day prep. It was a good starting point to get ready for the marathon. During my 5th half marathon I had finally gotten a good level of endurance built up. My half marathons before that were usually tough after miles 10/11, and you need that endurance and stamina for marathon training. I’m glad I had done 13.1 enough times before diving in to training for 26.2.
Pick a healthy and realistic training plan
My first marathon I picked some training plan I found on the internet. Bad move. It was far too ambitious for me. It had a 21 and a 22 mile training run on it and TONS of weekly miles. It had no cross training. In short it was the wrong plan for me. I did the 21 mile run but was mentally burnt out by the time 22 came a long so I did a 16 mile run instead. I did not log nearly all the weekly miles, and I allowed myself to cross train even though the plan didn’t call for it.
I have been much more successful for marathons 2, 3 and 4 because I have a running coach who I can talk to in real time about my schedule, where my head is at and what cross training I want to incorporate. If a running coach isn’t an option for you, also check out local training groups. Real people giving you plans instead of a piece of paper can make a huge mental difference.
Your long runs are LONG. Be prepared. Long runs are tough during your first round of marathon training. You have no idea what to expect and for many people, anything past 13.1 is absolutely foreign. Be prepared for what that’s going to be like.
For me, success with those long miles includes things like running one or two of my long runs with friends (I mostly always run alone), running some of my long runs at a race for the on course support (for example I ran a half marathon that had similar course dynamics as the marathon I was training for the day I was supposed to do my 18 mile long run during my Summer 2018 marathon and then ran 5 extra miles before/after the race), and a big one I enjoy is going to dinner with friends the night before a super long run. Fueling up is important and since it’s a necessity, it’s nice to visit with friends before waking up the next day for the early miles.
I also plan lots of self care during those long runs. I will make no plans for the rest of the day during some of those long run days so I can stay home and read, rest, go to a movie or do something mindless. The really long runs, for me, are mentally draining so it’s nice to be able to check out after them and rest for the end of the day.
You will experience all your normal feelings but to the extreme
If you think you’re tired, hungry, emotional and exhausted now, be prepared. You will experience that to a new level.
You will question why you did this. It will be hard and it will drain you.
Even the most veteran marathon runners have told me that they have struggled through training. You’re alone during these runs, it’s a challenge to stick to a strict training calendar, and sometimes it feels never ending, but you’re not unique in feeling that. Reach out to someone if you need a boost, or take a day to reset your mind.
Keep your why close by.
Remember why you’re doing this. Remind yourself daily. Crush those runs because of it.
Just know it’s all worth it in the end.
The minute you cross that finish line and know you achieved something great makes all the challenges worth it.
Cheers to running 26.2, for all of us who are crazy enough to do it. You got this.