Have you decided to run a marathon? Then you have come to the right place.
Here’s the truth. Running a marathon is one of the hardest feats. But before you sign up for the race, there are some things you need to know and consider.
You should never decide to train and race in a marathon lightly. It’s a big commitment—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Training for a marathon—especially the first time—can change your life for the weeks and months to come and will put your body under the ultimate ordeal—the type of stress you’ve never encountered before.
Without further ado, here are the main things to consider while preparing for your first marathon.
1. Setting A Goal
The first thing to consider when deciding to run a marathon is your goal.
If this is your first time, you should strive for a simple goal, such as completing the 26.2 miles, instead of focusing on finishing the race within a certain time.
Sure, it’s nice to have a time goal but enjoying the process and every step of the way also matters. So don’t try to bite more than you can chew.
2. Your Eating Habits
Training for a marathon requires calories and lots of them. And not just any calories, but high-quality calories, especially if you’re serious about running your best race.
For this reason, you’ll need to look carefully at your eating habits. As you rack up your marathon training, your nutrition needs will go up drastically, so make sure to be ready to handle this.
If you struggle to take in enough calories or are eating lots of junk food, this could become a problem.
Failure to meet your body’s nutritional needs means limited performance and mediocre results down the line. And you won’t be getting the most out of your training as planned.
I hate to state the obvious but training for a marathon can take a good chunk of your schedule. Most training plans will have you running four to five times a week, including one long run a week of around 15 to 20 miles.
Depending on your fitness level, goals and plan, you could be logging at least 30 miles per week.
Good marathon training plans also include cross-training—the non-running activities designed to improve your endurance and strength.
Some of the best options for runners include biking, swimming, yoga, strength training, and hiking. These activities can also eat up a lot of your time.
Again, don’t try to bite more than you can chew.
All this time spent on marathon training means time away from your family and friends. You’ll also need to wake up early each morning, and the day impacts how busy your overall schedule is.
For these reasons, I’d urge you to take an honest look at your schedule and choose where running is on your priority list.
If you cannot commit to the extra time for training and recovery, chances are you won’t make it far down the road.
4. Plan Ahead
So you’re already in good shape, have the time to train for the event, and have chosen a realistic goal.
What should you do next?
Of course, you need to sign up for the marathon.
Once you register, you’re committed. After that, there’s no going back.
Now you can make a plan on how to tackle training.
Pushing the sign-up button is the first actual actional step toward running 26.2 miles. It’s the first step among many.
And as they say, the first step is always the hardest—but it gets easier after that.
Most marathon events will require you to sign up online far in advance. It’s not unsheared for some events to sell out fast, especially the popular ones.
I’d recommend committing to a marathon at least six months out from event day, and the typical signup fees can range from $70 to $300, depending on the event.
By putting your money on the line, you show real commitment, giving you a clear timeline and triggering your motivation. Really!
5. Strength Train
Although ALL marathon training plans revolve around running, strength training is part and parcel of any well-rounded program.
Strength training has a lot to offer. It can help you build strength, improve endurance, enhance mobility, etc.—all of which help you improve performance and protects you against injury.
And please don’t take my word for it. This research shows that adding resistance training into a running plan can help improve the efficiency of endurance running.
At the very least, plan to hit the weight room two to three times a week. Focus on multi-joint, compound movements that build strength all over your body.
Some of the best exercises for marathon runners include:
6. Your Injury History
No one can deny that running is good for your body, but it can also stress your joints, especially your ankle, knees, and hips.
Although having a previous injury in your doesn’t have to spell the end of your marathon training, it’s something you should pay attention to.
That’s why if you are currently dealing with a painful knee or nagging back, these issues are only going to get worse when you rack up your miles.
Therefore, if you’re currently recovering from an injury or managing a condition interfering with your ability to run, logging in further miles may put you at risk.
To avoid caution, consult a doctor or a physical therapist to discuss your condition before deciding to register.
7. Your Goals
Having a time goal for your first crack at a marathon can force you to set out of the gate faster and cause you to bonk in the second half of the event—which can put the prospect of a finish at risk.
DNFs are never nice. They may discourage you from toeing the line again. And you don’t want that.
8. Your Mileage Base
Although you don’t need to be an elite athlete to train for a marathon, having a solid running base first is key. You should have the mileage foundation for completing 26.2 miles without much suffering.
That’s why if you’re a complete beginner or new long-distance running, aim to run regularly for at least six to nine months before registering for your first 26.2 miles. Building that base might take less time if you’re already in good shape.
At the very least, you should be already running regularly, at least three to four days a week, for around 30 to 45 minutes away, before taking on marathon training.
You should already be comfortable running at least five miles at a time and have been logging the miles for more than six months.