How To Train For Your First Marathon

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Running a marathon can be seen as the ultimate test of your physical ability, but it can also be much more than that. The journey you embark upon as you begin to prepare you mind and body for the challenge of running a marathon is no light undertaking. Even the most experienced runners find the task of running a full 26.2 miles a daunting task, but the pursuit of bettering yourself and pushing your body to the limits can become addicting. If you have had the goal of running your first marathon, here are some tips to best prepare you for the challenge.

If you have had the urge to participate in a marathon, you most likely have developed an affection for running. Typically, the average person will run a 3-5 miles for every weekday workout. You’ll want to run 3-5 miles four or five days a week, plus add in some cross training as well.

If you want to make it through the full 26.2 miles, you’re going to have to become used to “the long run.” Your training regimen leading up to your first marathon will require you to up the mileage each and every week. This can be done by slowly increasing the distance of your weekend run. Start at 6 miles, and increase weekly. Before you start to taper in the last month leading up to your marathon, you’ll need to do at least a 20+ mile run to best acclimate your body to the longer duration of a marathon.

In addition to long runs, you’ll also want to work on speed work, which will help strengthen your aerobic capacity, and give you that extra edge while running. Speed work includes interval training, which deals with running a length at full speed, tapering off for a recovery period, then starting all over again. This allows your body to become used to maximizing aerobic capacity. Tempo runs are another way to work on your speed work. Longer than interval runs, these runs last anywhere from 4-10 miles, and are run at a sustainable pace. These types of workouts teaches your body to sustain a challenging workload over a long period of time, which is exactly what you want to increase. These runs can be done in place of any of your weekly runs, or even in place of a long run, if the mileage matches.

Getting ready for your first marathon isn’t just all about athletic training , you’re going to have to develop a disciplined diet if you want to compete (or even finish). You’re going to want to start eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Instead of 3 big meals, increase that to 6 smaller meals about 2-3 hours apart from each other. Make sure you stick to high-quality, nutrient-packed foods like sweet potatoes, broccoli, lean meats, and fish. This type of diet will keep your body fueled throughout the day, and give you energy to make it through your training. 

You inevitably will start to see food as fuel. That late night cheeseburger, or the extra holiday treats will leave you feeling less-than-your-best. You may not believe it, but you will feel the difference on your runs if you eat a health meal the night before as opposed to junk. And maybe more important than the food you eat is the water you need to drink to stay hydrated. Carrying water with you on your run is a great idea, especially for the longer runs. But be sure to hydrate plenty during the day too.

Training for a marathon can be tough work, but the process of putting in hard work will all be worth it when you cross that finish line. The person that finishes the race is not the same person that began the journey to prepare yourself to reach your goal. Keep your mind set on your goals, and don’t stop striving for success. Get a coach, join a club, or train with a friend. And most of all, good luck.

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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