Marathon Man: How to Prepare for a Big Race
Running a marathon is something that sits on a lot of people’s bucket list and can be a challenge for anyone who embarks on the mission. However, the accomplishment is well worth the effort and those who do jump on the marathon bandwagon find themselves running in these events repeatedly once they’ve completed their first.
But, where do you begin when it comes to getting your body and mind ready for such an endeavor? Below is a list of 12 steps that’ll help you prepare for your first marathon.
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12. Pick a Marathon, Any Marathon
Once you’ve made the decision to scratch “marathon” off your list of things you want to accomplish before you die, the next step is to choose a race. The good news is, you have a plethora of options to choose from. There are low-key local community marathons where you compete against hundreds, to high-profile city races that includes tens of thousands of participants. You can start off with a shorter marathon or dive into a longer one. Some people choose to make a difference and participate in marathons that raise money for charity. You can choose a race organized close to home or join an event a little farther from where you live.
When it comes to your first marathon, do some research and find a race that suits you the best. Just ensure you choose one with ample time so you can train for it, but not too far away that it falls off your radar. The rule of thumb when it comes to racing in a marathon is that participants should be running a steady mileage base for a minimum of one year before thinking about starting to train for a race.
11. Consult A Physician
Training for a marathon can be a physically and emotionally exhausting process; you also open your body up to potential injury. Before you jump into a marathon training program make an appointment with your doctor. They will not only be able to give their stamp of approval for you to move forward, but they might also be able to give you advice and tips on training methods and diet.
Once you’ve decided on the race and been given some advice by your physician, it’s time to start setting some goals! What do you want to achieve from this first marathon?
You may simply want to cross the finish line, or perhaps make it to the halfway point. Maybe you want to squash time goals or your current endurance level? Regardless, keep a running journal and write down the initial goals you have when it comes to this marathon and what you plan to achieve in the end.
9. Create A Training Schedule
Marathon training schedules span 12 to 20 weeks. First-time runners should try to increase their weekly mileage runs by a minimum of 50 miles over the course of their training. It is advised that a runner should fit training in at least three to five times weekly with their base mileage, with a long run every seven to 10 days so their bodies can slowly get use to longer distances.
With these points in mind, set a schedule of weekly training runs and place them into your calendar. Be realistic around scheduling to ensure you have enough time for each running session. One of the most challenging parts of marathon training is adding these training sessions amongst the many other things going on in your life; from work, to family obligations, volunteer jobs, hobbies, and much more.
8. Time to Start Training
As mentioned above, base mileage runs should occur three to five times weekly. Weekly runs should increase by only 10 percent each week, never any more. It’s important to stick to this regime for a multiple of reasons.
First and foremost, the goal is a realistic one that will help prevent injury. This goal also helps avoid running into mental fatigue or any emotional exhaustion that can occur with some individuals when training for such a big race.
7. Don’t Forget Your Long Runs
As per your training schedule, your long run sessions should occur once every seven to 10 days. It is advised to increase long run mileage by about one mile each session until you hit 10 miles, and two miles each long run after that. It is also recommended that for every third long run, individuals should consider the idea of scaling back the miles a bit, to avoid training pressures on the body or injury. So, you might run 10 miles during your long run initially, then 11, then 12, and then 10 the next go, before hitting 13 miles during the next long run.
6. Recovery Is a Must
Putting the time into each running session is important, but allowing your body rest and recovery is equally vital. Rest days during training are just that, days to allow your body to recover from the incredible workout it has done. Rest days also help avoid injury and mental burnout.
If you are one of those people who like to go-go-go, dying to do something physical during your rest days, it is strongly encouraged to avoid any fitness activities that are high impact. Think about going for a hike, a swim, take in a yoga class, lift some weights, or ride a bike.
5. Energy Gels and Drinks
Glycogen is the main source of energy your body turns to when it comes to running a marathon. Levels of glycogen decrease over time as you run, and muscles can feel heavy and tired.
Energy gels and drinks that contain carbohydrates are the easiest things to carry during a long run when you feel those glycogen levels draining. It is always a good idea to consume them before a long run. For any running session that may take over two hours, you can carry some energy chews or gels in a pocket. It is recommended to consume about 60 grams of carbs for each hour when running.
Training for a marathon is about more than just running — it’s about remaining committed to an all-around healthy lifestyle. This also includes choices you make around diet and fueling your body with what it needs to rock your running sessions and first marathon. To keep your body strong, ensure to consume a good helping of carbs as soon as you can after you run. They will help increase your energy supply (i.e. glycogen) and the protein will assist with muscle repair.
Additionally, as running enhances iron loss, make sure to have enough iron in your diet. Consume foods that are high in vitamin C as this will help your body absorb iron as well.
3. Mix It Up
Running the same route can get mundane and boring, adding to the mental fatigue that can occur during marathon training. Don’t be afraid to add a little change to your runs and the areas in which you circle. If you are running in a local marathon, try running in the places that the race outlines. This will also help prepare you for race day and what to expect.
2. Stay Hydrated
As you head into the last week before the marathon and your running is on point, ensure you are well hydrated. Make sure you drink a nice big glass of water before you head to sleep the night before your marathon. Drink another tall glass first-thing when you wake up.
Days prior to the race, ensure any areas that have suffered chaffing get a good dose of Vaseline; try and keep them moisturized. It may seem like something small, but the last thing you want on race day is any distractions.
1. Don’t Try Anything New
Your big day is finally here! You’ll be excited, nervous, and ready to dive in and make the entire marathon a day to remember. You might want to do something special for the event, but the best advice for race day is not do anything out of the ordinary before you hit the marathon. Don’t try anything new on race day (e.g. new running shoes or attire for the race, do not try new foods/drink) and stick to your normal routine. Please remember, you can always do something special to celebrate after the race is over.
In terms of breakfast, go with a high-carb meal before heading out. Foods like oatmeal, fruit, and bagels will help fuel your body and keep you going for your first-ever marathon.