This week last year, I registered for my first half marathon and decided that I would keep training to run a marathon! It was a six month journey that changed my life. Here is what I wish I knew before signing up!
When I started toying with the idea of running a marathon, I had no idea what that would mean for me. Like most dreams I have, at first it was really nebulous. I figured I was already running a bit, and had tentatively agreed to running a half marathon with Katie, but didn’t take the idea of the marathon seriously. I didn’t do a lot of research, but just piggybacked on to Katie’s training plan and figured it would be fine.
Most First Time Marathon Runners Get Hurt
First time marathon runners tend to make one of two mistakes that result in their getting injured: they push themselves too hard when training or they don’t push themselves hard enough and get hurt on race day.
When you shift from running 5 or 6 miles every day to trying to run much longer distances, the shift to 13 and 15 miles is often done too quickly. Jumping from 5 to 8 miles isn’t that big and first time marathon runners can get over excited and jump to 10 or 12 the next week (and then pull something). This especially true for those (like me) who didn’t really follow a training plan.
The alternative happens when you pick a marathon on a date that doesn’t allow you sufficient time to train. You get hurt on race day because deciding you’re going to add an extra 6-8 miles day of guarantees you’ll either be miserable and slow or broken. You can only push your body so far without giving it time to adapt.
Pick the Right Marathon
I talked a lot about this after I ran mine back in June because this was by far the biggest mistake I made. Instead of considering the terrain and climate for race day, I decided I was just going to run the one that was on a convenient day. There is a reason that most marathons are in the spring and the fall. The summer doesn’t often offer optimal conditions to run 26 miles.
Also, think about the conditions you’ll be training in. If you’re going to run a marathon that is all hills, the footbridges over Lake Shore Drive are not sufficient. You need to be running up and down flights of stairs. Or, like normal people trying to run their first marathons, just sign up for a flat one near you. Even if it means its in the middle of midterms.
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You Actually Need to (Have Time to) Stick to a Training Plan
About halfway through my training, I decided that for the sake of my schedule and school work that instead of following the weekly plans that required workout out every day and running 8 miles before class three times a week, I would just make it up as I went. I added a mile or two to my long runs every weekend and then ran or lifted weights for less than an hour on weekday mornings. This was enough to help me finish the marathon, but it wasn’t enough to do it without walking large parts of it.
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Long runs on weekend mornings, especially given the temperature in May and June, required waking up at 5 or 6 am and running until 10:30 or 11 am. I would then have to stretch, shower, cook, hydrate, and nap before making it out the door around 1 pm and be a functioning human. It made it so that I couldn’t go out the night before or make it to any Sunday brunches. The nap was the only way to make sure I could be any degree of productive later in the day.
You Might Not Lose Weight
The idea that you’re running a marathon brings pictures of super skinny runners. I was always hungry when I was training and would eat accordingly. I had to put better things in my body because I could feel the fat and carbs from the night before so I was healthier, but I ate multiple meals a day some weeks during my training. I also gained a lot of muscle, so although the numbers on the scale weren’t changing, I started getting definition I wasn’t before.
If you want to lose weight while training for a marathon, you need a regimented diet plan along with your training plan because otherwise you’ll eat everything in sight.
Running a marathon is a huge accomplishment, but in order to actually make it through training and the race, you really need to be thoughtful about the way you’re going about it.
While I was writing this post, I realized there are a ton more things I wish I knew, so if you’d like to see a part 2 of this post, comment below or tweet me @xoxorosana_blog!