Prepping for Your First (or Tenth) Marathon


Last month, we explored the origin and history of the mother of all races: the marathon. Today I’d like to share some tidbits that every aspiring marathon runner should know, whether this will be your first time at the starting line or a seasoned marathon veteran.

1. Give It Time — Thanks to the advent of the internet and convenient running-themed websites, runners have few excuses to be caught off-guard by an upcoming race. They can set their schedules well in advance and get an early jump on training. Prospective first-time marathoners should invest 4-6 months to dedicated training. Even hardcore runners should allow at least 4 months of daily training.

Experts say to avoid increasing your mileage by more than 10 percent week over week. So give yourself the time to ramp-up gradually and safely.

2. Give Your Body a Break — As we’ve covered in previous posts, your body needs time to recoup and heal. Continually pushing yourself too hard each week could lead to an injury that will make you miss the big race — or leave you with lifelong damage. If you go hard several days in a row, allow for a lower-impact “rest” day.

You may fear that easing off the accelerator will cost you in the gains department; quite the contrary. Your body will retain its level of endurance for up to two weeks. So periodically allow yourself a day or two of alternative exercise such as swimming, biking, or even walking.

3. Get Your Head in the Race — It’s often said that “The body cannot go where the mind has never been.” An arduous road race is every bit as mental a feat as it is a physical one. While it’s important to listen to your body for cues, you also need to have the mental capacity to push through minor setbacks and break through the wall. Learn to tune out your own self-doubt. You’ve got this.

4. Marathons Aren’t Pretty — Any long-distance runner will tell you that the act of running a marathon itself takes a physical toll on your body. Continuous friction will likely cause blisters, chafing and bloody abrasions. You can try to minimize the damage by applying anti-chafing gel or pads, Vaseline, and nipple tape. But even with such precautions and properly fitting running gear, marathoners sometimes lose toenails, and often cross the line with blood-soaked shirts.

5. It’s All Worth It — Marathons consume your life with months of training, the upheaval of your everyday schedule, and grueling mental and physical challenges. But once you cross that finish line, you’ve become part of something bigger. You’ve shown to the world — and to yourself — that you have what it takes to train for and complete one of the toughest races in the world. But more than that, you will have entered a family of runners who share similar stories of pain, determination, and victory.