As we get closer to late spring and temperatures warm up, we enter prime marathon season (which lasts until late autumn). For many runners, a marathon is the big event they dream of completing at some point.
But make no mistake, the decision to train for and race in a marathon isn't one to be taken lightly. This even will change your life for months and will place a whole new level of stress on your body, stress you've likely never encountered before. So before signing up for that 26.2-mile race and getting your training plan in place, there are some important points to consider. Make sure you're fully prepared for the journey ahead, because it's the only way you'll achieve marathon success.
1. Do you have enough room in your schedule for training?
First and most importantly, think about your schedule. Do you have the time to train for such an event? Remember, it isn't going to be just time devoted strictly to running; you’ll need to devote time to recovery strategies, as well as food preparation. If you don’t have time to keep up with the necessities of marathon training, frustration will to set in.
If you have any inkling that you may be short on time, considering a half-marathon may be a smarter choice. You’ll still need to devote time to preparation, training and recovery, but it won’t be nearly as much as the full marathon.
Also, remember that even when you aren't training, you may be experiencing higher levels of fatigue than normal, making it harder to do everyday tasks. Having the support of others will be very helpful.
2. Do you have an pre-existing injuries or conditions?
If you’re dealing with nagging knees or a bad back, these problems are only going to get worse when you ramp up your level of training. Evaluate your condition and determine if you're willing to risk further injury. If you're currently being treated by a sports therapists or physician for a specific injury, discuss your plans with them.
Remember that in some cases, it isn’t worth hindering your long-term health and ability to move simply to participate in a marathon.
3. Are you prepared to change your eating habits?
A marathon requires a focus on nutrition and fuel so your body can be prepared for hours of workouts, so if you struggle to eat enough during the day or to eat healthy, whole, real foods, this could become a problem. If your body isn’t getting what it needs, performance will falter and you'll find you have a lot of trouble completing the long training runs you have planned.
4. Do you know the factors of different races?
A trail marathon is completely different from a road marathon, so make sure you know exactly what you're signing up for. Though trail marathons are less common than road races, they can be easier on beginners because of the varied mental stimulation and softer ground they offer. In a road marathon, you're running for 26+ miles on pavement, sometimes with little scenery or elevation. Road marathons are hard on joints and feet, while a trail marathon can lessen impact, as running on leaves and dirt is much softer.
In a trail marathon, each step is also an unknown — over a creek, a rock, up a hill, in a meadow. Running a trail race can be rewarding mentally and keep you engaged with the race. However, it could also feature elevation changes that will affect your time. Be prepared for a slower race on trails and decide which type of marathon you prefer.
Keep these quick points in mind as you make your decision to run in a marathon. If you're well-prepared, it can be one of the most amazing experiences you’ll ever have. Just make sure you're ready!