How To Train For Your First Marathon

Running a full Marathon, 26.2 miles (42.2km) for most people seems like a completely insane, impossible, painful and pointless thing to do. However for many reasons, whether it be to make a life change, to help a worthy cause, to win a bet, there are approximately 600,000 people who run marathons annually.  If you do decide to take on this challenge there are many crucial steps that need to be taken to not only cross the finish line but to ensure you run your safest and best marathon possible.

The first step is committing to running a marathon and knowing why you are doing it. It is very easy to say you want to do it, and even sign up, however, if you do not have a strong enough motivation, it will be much easier to lose motivation along the way and give up.

Runners at a Marathon

The next step is deciding how much time you will need to invest in training. Most professional plans require a minimum of 4 months of training for a first marathon. Of course, there are many runners who train for less time or do not train whatsoever, but if you want to ensure success – invest the time!

The Marathon itself is not only about training for the run, it also requires some organization for the event. First off, pick a marathon that is suitable for you. Perhaps one next to your home, or one far away that you can make a fun vacation out of, which of course requires booking a nearby hotel that will provide you with a good night sleep the night before. And do keep mind, you most likely will not be able to walk so easily a few days following the marathon.Then, of course, the most important step in marathon preparation is creating your training plan. There are many professional trainers and running coaches that can help you every step of the way, however, this is not crucial, as there is a myriad of online resources to help you formulate your perfect weekly running schedule.  Most plans recommend 4 runs a week, with 1 long run every weekend. Each week, the long run gradually increases in distance, and mileage for a 4 month program usually ranges starting from 15 miles a week, to 34 miles by the end of the plan.

The most important and obvious step in marathon preparation is creating your training plan. There are many professional trainers and running coaches that can help you every step of the way, although, is not crucial, as there is a myriad of online resources to help you formulate your perfect weekly running schedule.  Most plans recommend 4 runs a week, with 1 long run every weekend. Each week, the long run gradually increases in distance, and mileage for a 4 month program usually ranges starting from 15 miles a week, to 34 miles by the end of the plan.

 

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However, there is no one solid plan that works for everyone and it is ok to make your own changes that will work best for you.  It is crucial to understand how to be flexible with yourself without completely going off track. No matter how dedicated you are, life will always hit you with surprises. It is recommended to practice waking up early since most races are in the morning. Do your runs at the same time can help your body be in less of a shock on race day. However, when it comes to flexibility, be ready for anything, and don’t sweat the small stuff like changing around the day or time of your long run.

A very beneficial addition to training for a marathon is doing it with someone else. This will help you stay motivated and on track, however since this is not always an option, simply having other people know your schedule can serve as an extra push to get out and run according to plan.

And it is also important to understand that training for a marathon is not just running.  The way you eat and sleep before training runs can change everything and takes just as much effort. After 20 mile runs, you will inevitably need to replace that energy with tons of sleep and carbs.It is useful to keep track of your running results, but it is less helpful to race during your training runs. Training runs increasingly get more difficult, so you are better off focusing on finishing rather than the end time. It is useful to keep track of your running results, however, it is less helpful to race during your training runs. Training runs increasingly get more difficult, so you are better off focusing on finishing rather than the end time.

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Another way to stay motivated throughout your training is to set goals for yourself. This does not mean obsessing over each run, but it can be helpful to look at your time and set a goal for next time.

And if you have purchased new shoes for the marathon, make sure it is not the first time you are wearing them. Before you start your training, a new pair of running shoes can be exciting and great for your feet – however always avoid wear new ones for a race before they are broken in!

When it comes down to crunch time a month or so before the race,  if it is truly important to you run your best race, try giving up any vices, such as alcohol or sweets. And when it comes down to the night before, your every move can make a difference. What you eat the night before will carry you throughout the marathon.  It is recommended to eat as many carbohydrates as possible, however easily digestible ones, such as pasta, rice, or potatoes,  and not to overdo it to the point where you can’t run the next day.  Higher fiber foods should be avoided at all costs since no one wants to have to make a bathroom stop mid-race.

run4You will want to sleep well the night before, however sleeping too many hours can cause you to feel groggy. Do whatever you have been doing throughout your training when it comes to sleep.  The morning of, you are going to want to wake up early and leave time to eating a proper breakfast, but do know what your body requires and what your stomach is capable of handling before such a distance.  And always leave time to go to the bathroom the morning of.

While running the marathon after all that hard training, one of the hardest aspects is finding the right pace. As excited as you may be to finally be running your first marathon, don’t use all of your energy at the start, think of yourself as a car engine that needs to save gas for a long drive. Try to run at your training pace, and know what speed you can maintain to make it to the end.  You can even use race pacers. And as thirsty as you may be, try to refrain from drinking too much, or even eating the snacks handed out along the way. Take what you need, but anything more will cause major cramps.

Especially towards the end, completing a marathon because almost entirely mental. Every marathon runner is confronted with something called the wall, where the body hits a point that it feels it is completely done, usually occurring just a few miles before the finish line.

 

The real struggle is between you and your mind. A useful skill is knowing how to control your mind and having the inner strength to talk to yourself, and encourage yourself to continue despite the pain. For many music can help them disconnect their body from their mind, while others use meditation.

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Another invaluable way to make it to the end it to have as many cheerleaders as possible.  And no matter how tired you are, always finish strong and give it your all. There is no better feeling than crossing the finish line of your first marathon! Most likely you’ll be signing up for your next one and forget the real struggle it really was.