One of the most legendary distances in endurance events is the 26.2-mile marathon. Running for that long without stopping sounds crazy to many people, and that’s because it is!
Some endurance junkies run marathons once a month, while others do it just once, as a bucket list activity or for a cause that is dear to the heart. If you're a runner but feel a distance this long is only a dream, here are some tips to help you become a marathoner.
1. Be choosy when picking your race.
It is crucial to find a well-supported race with a good route for your first marathon. You want to look up course maps to make sure that you know exactly what you'll be running on race day. Long-distance races with loops can become monotonous and boring, whereas routes that do not cover the same area twice provide fresh scenery, making your progress more apparent. It is also important to consider topography and whether you need to prepare for a hilly or flat course. Another thing to consider is the race support. You want to find a race with lots of aid stations that pass out water, sports drinks, and energy gels so that you don’t have to carry all of this with you as you run.
2. Find a racing buddy.
Some people love to run with friends while others enjoy running alone. When it comes to a race like the marathon, having someone to train with is the best insurance policy you can have. At some point, you may lose the zealous spirit you had when you first signed up for the race, so knowing that someone else is depending on you for company during those long runs might be the only thing that gets you out the door on some days. Having a running buddy isn’t only good for motivation, but it also provides some entertainment. A three-hour run goes by a lot faster when you have a friend to chat with, so lose the headphones and find someone to go on this journey with you!
3. Invest in running shoes.
Having suffered a knee injury myself, I cannot emphasize enough how important this one is. Shoes really do matter, especially when your weekly mileage is high. If you live near a big city, find a running store and get someone to analyze your stride to help you find the best shoe for your needs. If you do not live near a running store, try out different specialized running shoes to see what works best for you. Make sure you have this figured out and your shoes broken in well before race day rolls around.
4. Educate yourself on endurance nutrition.
Your body is not designed to run 26.2 miles without refueling and rehydrating. Make sure to have a nutrition plan that you have tested out during long runs. Look at where the aid stations will be ahead of time, and map out how much you need to drink at each of them to make sure you're getting adequate hydration. You need around 16 ounces of fluid per hour for an endurance event. You also need to plan when you will take energy gels or solid foods and how you will carry them if they are not passed out along the course. Start hydrating a day or two before the race by avoiding alcohol and taking in a lot of water. Lastly, eat a large but healthy breakfast about 2 hours before the beginning of the race. Foods like oatmeal, bananas, bagels, and peanut butter will give you the energy you need to succeed.
5. Have confidence and enjoy it.
Many marathon rookies waste a lot of energy on anxiety in the days leading up to the race, but once your race starts all of your doubts will evaporate. Have faith in your training and know that your body really will come through and perform. Once you find that trust, everything will fall in to place. Your body will find its rhythm and perform like the amazing machine that it is. Set a realistic goal for yourself, and know that no matter what your time is, it will be a personal record!
No matter where your fitness journey takes you, your first marathon is a big moment. After enduring hours of running and crossing the finish line, there are really no words to capture the sense of accomplishment and pride that you will feel.