How to Truly Enjoy Your First Marathon
Training for and running a marathon is an amazing feat, one that every year many people make their goal to achieve. Around the world, runners sign up for a race, download a training schedule, and try to attack the marathon; in fact, more Americans are running the marathon than ever.
But it's safe to say that a fair number — maybe even most — will run their first marathon and never run a second. It may be that they just wanted to check it off their bucket list. Fair enough. But what about those runners — maybe you're one, or afraid of being one — whose first marathon was, well, a nightmare? Put another way, how do you go out there and have a fantastic time and make sure you enjoy the whole experience so this is just the first of several, and maybe many, marathons to come? Here are some dos and don'ts of marathon training and running from my own experience and that of other runners and coaches:
DON'T go at it alone: Making the decision to run a marathon is a huge deal and you do not want to be solo in your quest. Most beginner training programs are 18 weeks long and you will want to be sure that you have plenty of support along the way. Tell people you are training for a marathon. Talk about it at work. Log your miles on a social media site like DailyMile.com, which is one of my favorites. By engaging friends and family you'll be sure to have people cheering you along during the tough road to marathon day.
DON'T set a time goal: The best way to make sure you enjoy your first marathon day is to not set a goal time. Your first time out should be for the experience of running the distance and the sense of accomplishment in finishing. There is no need to put more pressure on yourself with a time goal.
DON'T change your routine: Training is just a way to make sure your body and mind are ready on race day. The routine you set during the 18 weeks is a way to become comfortable with the things you'll encounter during all 26.2 miles. Have a breakfast that has worked well during your training? Don't change that on race day. Does a pair of shoes fit perfectly and feel good? Resist the temptation to buy a new pair at the expo. Race day is not a time to try something new; think of it as a day to continue what you have practiced during the last weeks of training. Trust in your routine.
DO go to a running specialty store: The first thing you should do after signing up for your first marathon is to head to your local running store and get fitted for a pair of running shoes if you haven't already. Too many people buy shoes based on how they look or what they've seen in ads. Going to a running store will ensure that you get into the best pair of shoes for your body.
DO read a running book: Catch the bug during training and download a running book! By reading inspiring words by other runners you will be thrust straight into the marathon day feeling. Training is a long time and it is set that way so you are prepared. To keep up the motivation and positive feelings read a book that captures the spirit and emotion of the marathon, it will help ease your mind and spark your inner competitive juices The Long Run, Born to Run, and Running with the Buffaloes are some that keep me inspired.
DO take days of rest: One of the most common issues with first-time marathoners is that they feel their training schedule isn't preparing them adequately; new marathoners have a tendency to not trust in the system of training and overrun. Trust the schedule and do take the days of rest indicated by your training program. By resting you're allowing your body to prepare for your next training run and giving yourself a chance to repair muscles that are being taxed. Rest days are a runner's best friend, so stay in tune with your body and, if you need to, say out loud "sometimes less is more."
— Scott Miles, Running Report
Scott Miles blogs at iRunnerBlog.com and is co-founder of #RunChat, a twice-monthly Twitter chat for runners. He has completed multiple races, from marathons to 5ks. When Scott isn't running or blogging about it, he is a sales executive, a supportive husband, a Mets fan, and enjoys everything that the New York City area has to offer.