Marathon Training Tips for Your First 26.2 Miles
When I first started running in 2005, I wasn’t a serious competitor and I never considered running a marathon. That’s just plain crazy, I remember thinking, shaking my head as my sister-in-law trained for her first 26.2 miles. She shared stories of how my brother drove to meet her on her long runs to deliver Gatorade and water so she wouldn't have to lug the annoying containers around. Her marathon training tips meant nothing to me.
Yeah, no way, I thought!
Then, somewhere down the road, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, running a marathon was something I ought to do. You know, before I got too old. When I learned I’d been accepted into NYC’s coveted race (a race I'd gleefully been a spectator at for years), I put aside my fears and began preparing.
Google “marathon training,” and you’re likely to uncover loads of sources and training guides. Since Hal Higdon is a trusted name in the sport, I chose a program that sounded suitable for my level and created a Google doc to record all of my runs.
For most of the summer leading up the marathon, I had a running partner, Karen. We shared the online running diary, and diligently recorded the length of the day’s run. Often we included an anecdote or quip about the workout: “14 bleah. Terrible. Limping 10:20/sweaty miles.” Translation: “I ran 14 horrible miles, limping half the way through the brutal heat at a very slow pace of 10 minutes and twenty seconds per mile.”
Neither Karen or I belonged to a running group, nor did we have any interest in joining a club. The thing about marathon training is that you have to really want to go the distance. Self-discipline, I learned, is paramount. If I was supposed to run 8 miles on a Thursday, for example, but only managed to get in 7.25 miles according to my Garmin watch, I’d make up the .75 lapsed miles on the next run.
As a result, my social life dropped off substantially. Going to bed at 10 p.m. on the night before a 20-miler became far more appealing than meeting friends for happy hour followed by dinner on a Friday night.
Fortunately for me, my partner had completed a few marathons in his running heyday, so he understood my obsession. When I crashed following a three-and-a-half hour distance run, stretching out for hours on the couch in my yoga pants and compression socks, he’d just smile and indulge my post-exercise laziness.
When, after my first 16 mile run, I came home and cried that I'd never be able to run a marathon, let alone in under four hours (my goal)--what was I thinking?--he assured me that the first long-distance training run was always the hardest.
Barring major illness or a serious knee issue, just about anyone can run a marathon, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you already have a strong running base. Once you've established that you're in it for the long haul, choosing a training plan is a matter of personal preference based on your running level. The single most repeated phrase I heard from experienced runners: Don't skip the long runs. Make sure to incorporate the prescribed cross-training. Take rest and recovery seriously.
Know that what you get out of the marathon is dependent not only upon what you put into it but what you put into your training. New running shoes are always a good motivating force. Check out the slideshow above for inspiring ideas before you lace up.
By Stacey Gawronski