If you’ve decided to compete in your first half or full marathon, congratulations! You’re now one of the millions of people who find joy in taking part in organized running activities. As you are surely aware, you’ve got a steady road ahead of you to prepare for the big day itself — you’ll need to increase your running strength and stamina, as well as becoming mentally strong enough to stay on your feet for upwards of four hours!
If you take your training slow and steady, you’ll be on the right track. Here are some of the other things you should think about when preparing for your first marathon.
It’s to no benefit to you, or your body if you try to hit the ground running too hard at the start. Instead, you should look to build up time and distance proportionately over several months (if not a year) in the lead up to your race.
Nowadays there are many apps and online resources to help you plan a training schedule. Nike even has their own, where you can browse your neighbors’ routines and see the most popular running spots near where you live.
Allow your muscles time to develop. Take it easy as you start and slowly increase how far you run, punctuating your jogs with little sprints. Before you know it, you’ll be completing your first 5 km, 10 km and be well on your way to a half marathon.
Take days off
Whilst it may feel tempting to pull on your running trainers every day, it’s recommended that you give yourself plenty of rest days to avoid injury. Most coaches would advise that you run perhaps three times a week: certainly no more than five.
It is advised not to go from one extreme to the other. When you take a ‘rest day’ from training, try to stay active so that your muscles don’t seize up or stiffen.
Do complementary sports
Many pro runners credit their competitive strength to having a wide repertoire of sporting interests — some cycle, some swim, others row. Indeed, you’ll need your full body strength to push you through a marathon, so any sport that develops your arm and back muscles will be of help.
You should also consider taking up yoga, and in particular the practice of yin. Yin yoga is a slow-paced practice, where students hold poses for three to five minutes, allowing the muscles and fascia (connective tissue) to release and rehydrate. If a runner fails to stretch their muscles out enough, this can lead to injury and inability to train.
Don’t worry if you do get injured
Most runners have a running-related injury anecdote — it’s part of the process of becoming a competitive runner. So, if you do pull a muscle or take a tumble during a jog, try not to panic. To be prepared, you may want to find a Personal Injury Doctor Now who could treat you should you need them.
Most running injuries are easily remedied with a little rest and deep stretching. Do not push through and ignore any pains; the slightest twinge could end up causing longterm damage if gone undiagnosed.
The myth about ‘carb loading’ may or may not be true: the jury is still out. However, what is widely acknowledged is the need for a healthy and balanced diet when training for a race.
Stock up on protein-heavy ingredients, such as spinach, peanut butter, and tofu, as these will help repair muscles between training sessions. Bananas will also become your best running companion as they are easy to grab as a snack on-the-go. Read about other high-performance training foods here.
Celebrate the little wins
Throughout your training program, you’ll defeat landmark distances and times, and whilst these aren’t the end goal they are certainly worth celebrating!
Reward yourself whenever you reach a milestone, as this will keep you motivated to push on. Don’t berate yourself if you fall behind on your schedule, or you have a ‘bad run’ in the last few weeks before your race. As with every exercise, with running, you will sometimes have bad days and sometimes have good days.
Take part in other organized runs
Whilst you’re training, you may find it useful to sign up for other shorter races — say a 10 km or a half marathon if you’re training for a full. Not only will these get you used to the logistics of organized races, but it’ll help you stay on track with your schedule if you know you’ve got to complete that distance by that day.
You will find it easy to locate organized runs in your local area online.
The first 15 minutes are the hardest for everyone
Even the most accomplished runners in the world will find the first 10-15 minutes of a run uncomfortable and exhausting. What’s important though is that you don’t give up — before you know it you’ll be in your stride and the kilometers will simply drop away!
Make the training fun
There are few more encouraging things than training with a friend — if you agree to go running together, you are accountable to each other and will run when you’re not really feeling like it, as you don’t want to let them down.
Don’t take your training too seriously — remember; it’s supposed to be fun! Why not send each other photos of yourself post-run, to make each other smile? Or use your Nike app to upload a photo of something interesting or amusing you saw along your path?
Enjoy race day!
Many spectators attend race days simply for the atmosphere, so you can imagine how electrifying the mood will be!
Make sure you’ve had a good night’s sleep and a healthy meal (you’re best off not introducing any new food into your system the night before your race). Then hit the track in the morning with a smile on your face, determined to enjoy yourself no matter what the result!