26.2 miles: a number that seems beyond the wildest dreams of most people. But what if you’ve run a few 5ks and want to work up to the real McCoy? Training for your first marathon can be intimidating, but a structured training routine and practical advice can make it happen. So follow this advice and you can join the masses running through your city.
This advice applies to both before and during the race. Don’t go headlong into a marathon as your first distance running challenge. Start with a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon. Once you’ve proven to yourself you can handle a long run it is time to start training.
The same strategy applies the day of the race. It will be your natural instinct to surrender to the adrenaline and go all out the first few miles. Don’t fall into your 5k pace to start the race! You want to slowly ramp up to your pace speed once you’ve gotten some distance under your belt.
Choose Your Course
Not all marathons are created equal. Yes, all are the same 26.2 miles. But the terrain can vary widely, from the relatively flat Houston course to more hilly circuits like Baltimore and San Francisco. Most beginners prefer to run a flat course, so that they don’t expend extra energy coping with elevation challenges.
Also, keep in mind the expected temperature. Some people can handle cold and drizzle no problem. But if you’re a little wimpy in the elements you’ll want a course that’s likely to have a moderate climate.
Don’t Get Fancy With Your Food
Your body will crave sugar, carbs, and electrolytes as the miles roll by and the sweat keeps pouring out. Gels are a popular way to replenish these lost nutrients, but tread carefully. You will have to carry them with you in your pockets while you run which is uncomfortable. Sports drinks accomplish the same task and are passed out by helpful volunteers along the way. If you do take gels during the run, make sure that your body is used to them in training, and take them with water.
Also, don’t eat anything you haven’t eaten 1000 times before on the morning of the big race. Some newbie marathon runners load up on all kinds of powders and supplements that they haven’t had before and end up upsetting their stomach.
Set Aside Plenty of Time To Train
Your coworkers know you’re pretty athletic, so they ask you if you’re going to run the local marathon with them next month. Sign up deadline is next week, so you put down your name. Surely 8 weeks is enough time to get into shape if you skip a few rest days, right?
If you don’t plan to finish and want to injure yourself along the way, then that’s a great plan! But most runners will need anywhere between 18 and 24 weeks to get into proper shape. Most training routines suggest running about 4 days a week, alternating between short runs (6-8 miles), medium runs (10-14 miles), and long runs (14-20 miles). Days off give your body time to rest.
A religious stretching routine should take place everyday. Most marathoners choose to taper off their training a few weeks prior to the marathon, saving their body by only going on shorter runs.
If you’re planning your first marathon, you’re in luck! The marathon community is incredibly supportive and welcoming to newcomers. Find some other runners in your area and they’ll help you train along the way. Happy trails.