Training for Your First Marathon
Deciding to run the first marathon is a huge endeavor, unlike anything you have ever done before. Although it is a truly rewarding experience, no one will ever tell you that running a marathon is easy. However, with the right training regimen, you can make the experience a whole lot more pleasant.
By building up how many miles you are able to do both in a week and in one go you prepare yourself for the incredible distance of 26.2 miles. Properly training is also important because it helps you prevent injury since the slow addition of more mileage gives your muscles time to recover and grow stronger. Furthermore, having a training regimen will prepare you for the mental aspect of running a marathon as you become more comfortable with the sensation of running for hours.
Before You Decide to Run a Marathon
Running a marathon is not an endeavor that should be taken on lightly. The extreme distance covered in this race can have severe effects on the body, so make sure to get the green light from your doctor before signing up for the race.
It is also a good idea to start with some smaller races before signing up for a marathon. Do a 5k, 10K, or half-marathon first, and make sure you are already in the habit of running regularly before deciding to do the full. When you do decide to sign up, also make sure to give yourself plenty of time before the race to do as training for a marathon is a process that takes months.
Creating Your Training Plan
Training plans for marathons typically range from 12 to 20 weeks, with the amount time recommended by most trainers right in the middle at 16 weeks. Each week you should be doing three to five runs and slowly increasing the total number of miles that you do.
Base Mileage: The number of miles that you are able to run in a week is your base mileage. A good goal is to have a base mileage of 50 miles a few weeks before your race. To get to this high number continually increase the number of miles you do each week. However, never increase this number by more than 10% and make sure to listen to your body, easing up on the mileage for a week or two if need be.
The Long Run: This is the key training aspect of preparing for a marathon. Start at a mileage that seems reasonable to you and slowly add to it over time, with the goal being to run at least one 20 miles run before race day. Keep in mind that the lower the mileage you start with is the longer it will take you to get to 20 miles, so give yourself enough time. Also, it’s a good idea to scale this run back every so often as a way to prevent injury. Try adding mileage for three weeks, rather than doing a slightly shorter run than your peak for a week before adding more mileage to that peak number again. Finally, don’t push yourself in terms of speed on these long runs, as finishing the mileage is the much more important aspect.
The Other Runs: Throughout the week you need to be going on shorter runs as well. These runs will help you reach your base mileage and can be a variety of lengths depending on how many you do and where you are in your training. Like the long run, these runs can also be done at a mellow pace. However, if you want to work on your speed, it is these other runs where you will be able to do that. Through interval and tempo runs you will be able to greatly improve your pace, which will not only help you get a better time but can make running fast feel downright easy.
Rest Days: Rest days must also be built into your training regimen because it is on these days that your body is able to recover and you become stronger. During marathon training, a rest day means a day without running, but you can still do some cross-training, like biking, swimming, yoga, or weight lifting, that will improve your strength in another area. If you are doing three runs a week put a rest day between each when you can do some cross-training instead. If you are doing 4 or 5, a couple of easy days next to each other and always give yourself a rest day the day after a long run.
Tapering: Two to three weeks before your race begins to ease up on the training. This will ensure that your body is fully healed so that you are at optimal performance for the actual marathon. This paring down of mileage and difficulty is a necessary step in training, and something you need to plan into the training schedule that you devise.
Other Things to Consider
Here are a few more things you should consider while training for your first marathon:
Keep a Log: Keeping a log that includes that date, mileage, and time for your runs will help you track your progress. It will also be of great assistance if you are attempting to increase your speed throughout your training.
Hydration: Although you will have access to water during race day at multiple stations along the course, you will need to figure out a way to get water during your long training runs. Hydration backpacks and belts are an option, as are handheld water bottles with straps. You can also plan a route that has water fountains or go out beforehand and stash water along the way.
Keep Your Schedule Flexible: Not every week during your training will go according to plan, and sometimes you will need to be willing to reorganize your running schedule around your life. The key word here is “reorganize” since you need to make sure to continue training even when it feels like you don’t have time.