So you are thinking or have signed up to run your first marathon. You have made the first step in becoming one a few people to accomplish the 26.2 mile race. Okay, maybe not a “few” people, but it definitely is not a common occurrence!
Whether you have ran in official races before or not, we have a few tips below that will help you train as well as help you on the big day! If you have ran in a marathon before, please let us know some of your own personal tips in the comments below.
Training for your First Marathon
- Get a Physical – since you are a beginner and most likely have never ran this type of mileage before, it is important to make sure that you are physically up for the task. In most cases, with proper training, you should be fine, but why risk it? Get a quick check up and make sure.
- Proper Form – pay attention to your form while running. Make sure your head is straight, arms are moving forward and backward (not side-to-side), and your not over striding.
- Warm up and stretch – if you are looking to increase your chances of injury, then feel free to not stretch and warm up your muscles before your runs. Starting out cold and stiff may not cause immediate injuries, but you are in for a long training session for this marathon so think long term and warm up properly and stretch.
- Pay Attention to Pain – you are going to be sore while training and you may develop a few “chinks in your armor” but it is important to keep an eye on any pain, especially if it is over a longer period of time. By focusing on your mechanics and the reasons why you may feel this pain, you can learn to avoid a serious injury in the future.
- Train Early – there are beginner schedules out there for marathon that may start anywhere from 16 to 20 weeks before the date of the marathon. Most of these schedules will note that you should be able to run for about 30 minutes straight before you begin the training. I would take it a step further and starting running 20+ weeks out and make sure you can run 30-45 minutes before you start training. A great foundation can help start a great training schedule.
- Keep Your Schedule Loose – as much as you want to keep to your running schedule, there will be some times where you will miss a run due to an event in your life. Don’t worry. You can make up the miles, or skip this day completely. The important thing is to keep to the schedule as much as you can. And no, just because “you don’t feel like it”, is probably not a good excuse for not running.
- Study Up on Diet and Water – want to make your life a lot easier? Start a diet while you are training. Not a “cut calories to lose weight” diet, but a “I want to stop eating McDonald’s” diet. Focus on some great runner foods like bananas, peanut butter, some veggies, and pasta. Also, if you haven’t achieved your 8 glasses of water a day, you may want to get in the habit. Proper hydration works wonders on keeping your body up for the task of running these distances.
First Marathon Race Day
- Get Some Sleep – it may be hard to contain your excitement for the next day’s race, but getting to bed early so you have enough sleep is very important for your performance during the marathon. Usually these races start early so try to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep at least.
- Eat Breakfast – so you are planning on skipping breakfast before you run a marathon? 26.2 miles on empty? Probably not the best idea. Eat something familiar, something you normally eat before morning runs. Bananas are great and so is a bagel and peanut butter.
- Do Not Wear New Gear – sometimes new outfits can help motivate people, but buying a new pair of shoes, running in a new pair of shorts or a new shirt on race day can lead to some unexpected problems (i.e. chaffing). Try to wear whatever you wore during your training to avoid any surprises. If you need to buy new shoes, make sure you have some miles on them before you start the marathon.
- Start Slow – with you adrenaline pumping and blood flowing, once the race begins you may be running a faster pace than you originally trained for. Be patient and make sure to concentrate on running your normal pace so you don’t tire out too much when it comes to the second half of the marathon.
- Be Prepared for Stops – during the marathon, depending where it is, you may run into some areas that are “bottle-necked” causing you to slow down your pace. This can be common and the more you are ready mentally for this the better off you are.
- Drink Water / Sports Drinks – you need to hydrate throughout the race. You may not have to stop at every water station, but make sure you are hydrated or you may run into complications such as dizziness or other serious health concerns.
- Stay Motivated – remember all the obstacles you overcame during your training? Remember how much hard work you put in? Remember the feelings you had when you told people you were actually running a marathon? Keep all of this top of mind! You want to remember why you are doing this! Having family and friends there to cheer you on helps, but you have to stay positive and motivated mentally.
- Stay positive and have fun!