How to Get Ready to Run Your First Marathon

Fitness Tips

How to Get Ready to Run Your First Marathon

On race day morning, there’s nothing but 26.2 miles of road between you and the finish line. However, it takes many more miles of training, a hefty dose of mental fortitude, and a firm commitment to your goals just to get to the starting point.

Think you can go the distance? Good. We think you can too.

Deciding to run a marathon can feel overwhelming, but here are six pieces of practical advice to help you set out on the right track.

Get Ready to Run Your First Marathon

1. Know What You’re Up Against

Successfully running a marathon is one part physiology and one part psychology: both your body and mind must be prepared for the challenge.

If you’ve never trained for a marathon before, it’s likely that you’ve never run close to that distance in one stretch. In preparing to run a marathon, it’s important that you bolster your physical endurance with your determination to push through pain and exhaustion.

To put 26.2 miles in perspective, that’s the same distance as running across an American football field 386 times. It is roughly the same as walking the entire length of Manhattan, and then back again. You could cross the Golden Gate Bridge 15 times and still come slightly short of a marathon’s distance.

Research shows that in 2014, the average marathon completion time was four hours and 21 minutes, so you can expect to be hitting the pavement for the equivalent of half a full workday, especially if this is your first foray into long-distance running.

If you’re starting to rethink the whole marathon thing, consider tackling a smaller race first. Work up to running a 5K, then a 10k, then a half-marathon, until you feel ready for the challenge. If you’re still on board, congratulations and get ready to work hard!

Get Ready to Run Your First Marathon

2. Follow a Tried-and-True Plan

Find a training plan that fits your level of experience and timeline. There are tons of plans to choose from out there, but you’d be wise to choose one that’s been developed by a fitness professional and experienced marathoner. Even better, work with a personal trainer who can gauge your unique fitness profile and tailor a plan just for you.

If you’re physically active but not already a long-distance runner, you should ideally give yourself 18-30 weeks to train before the big race. If you’re starting from the couch, extend your training schedule by several months. It’s critical that you give your body time to adjust to the intensive strain you’re putting on it. You can minimize the chance of injuring yourself by running with proper form.

Plan on going for three-to-five runs per week. When you look at the months ahead on your calendar, if you can’t reliably stick to a training schedule, now may not be the time to take on a marathon. Consistency is key, and if you skip runs you will fall behind on your plan and may not be properly conditioned for the race.

3. Train in the Marathon Environment

If you’re running a marathon in balmy Florida but do all of your training in an air-conditioned gym, you may be surprised by how the different climate affects your performance come race day. As much as you can, train in an environment that mirrors the terrain and climate of the actual race so you know what to expect.

Your training plan should include several long runs that near, but fall short of, the final marathon distance. It’s important to feel confident that you can complete the race while still holding onto the motivating force of working toward a goal. Saving the final push to 26.2 miles for the actual race day will make the marathon itself feel more memorable and special.

Get Ready to Run Your First Marathon

4. Track your progress using a fitness wearable or smartphone app

As your training miles add up, you’re going to want to keep track of your progress. Use a fitness wearable or app to log your workouts, particularly the distance and time of each of your runs. Knowing your running pace will help you predict your finishing time for the actual event.

While training, many professionals recommend running at a pace of thirty- to sixty-seconds-per-mile slower than you’d want to run during the race. On days when you’re training on a treadmill, use a networked fitness tracker like Preva to accurately record your stats.

On your non-run days, feel free to do other exercises, like swimming or functional training. Mixing up your off-day workouts will allow you to improve your conditioning while giving your leg muscles a chance to recover.

5. Wear Running Shoes That Fit Well

You and your training shoes are going to be spending a lot of time together, so make sure you buy a well-constructed pair that fits properly. Don’t go for the bargain-bin sneakers; they’ll only fall apart on you halfway through the training season – invest in some real running shoes.

Visit a reputable shop that specializes in running shoes. Their staff should be knowledgeable on the subject and can help you pick a pair that works with your unique foot structure. Some stores even have a treadmill so you can give the shoes a quick test run before buying. Be sure to pick a properly fitting pair that is comfortable, otherwise, you risk developing blisters or muscle pain that can interfere with your training.

Get Ready to Run Your First Marathon

6. Train in Good Company

Connect with members of your gym who are training for long-distance races or join a running club. Being social will let you get advice from seasoned long-distance runners, plus you’ll likely enjoy the company of people who share similar goals.

In addition to finding good training buddies, involve your personal support network of family and friends in your training. Let them know your goals, keep them up-to-date on your progress, and invite them to cheer you on at the big event. Being accountable to people you care about will help you stay motivated and will encourage you to continue when training gets tough. Best of all, they’ll be there to celebrate your victory knowing how much time and hard work it took you to get there.

If you keep these guidelines in mind, work hard, and train smart, you’ll be well on your way to crossing the finish line of your first marathon.

Check out other articles on marathon prep, training and recovery from Precor:

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Lauren Holstein
Lauren Holstein's picture

Originally from New Jersey, Lauren feels right at home in Seattle’s coffee-drinking, outdoorsy, bookworm culture.

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