First-time Marathoner Explains It All: Training Basics

On January 8, 2023, I became a marathoner, joining the 0.01% club. Clearly, there are more sane people in the world than I thought. But, if you’re interested in taking up running or want to know what goes into this four-to-five-month journey, welcome. Here is where a first-time marathoner explains it all: training edition.

Are Four Months Enough?

I guess. I am not a professional. I am not a coach. I do not play one on T.V. However, based on my personal experience, yes. Four months of training can be enough to successfully finish a marathon. However, every athlete is different.

What Did Training Look Like?

There are a few different types of runs that went into training: easy runs, long runs, and “workouts” which were more about speed. It’s important to keep 80% of your runs on the “easy” level, meaning about 2 – 3 minutes slower than your 5K race pace. So, if I average a 10:00 minute per mile pace for my 5K, I would run my easy runs anywhere from 12:00 – 13:00 minutes per mile. That reduces risk of injury and helps your body recover more quickly between runs. This easy pace is also used for your long “easy” runs (17 miles are bad enough – why torture yourself at race pace?). The other 20% of your runs are more for speedwork.

Food is Fuel

Be prepared to be hungry. You will need to adjust your diet to ensure you’re taking in enough carbs, if you don’t do so already. As someone who has been brainwashed by diet culture, carbs were pretty low on my “desirable” food list. But, it comes to a point where if you’re going to train to be an athlete, you need to fuel like one. Down with diet culture!

You Will Pee A Lot

Hydration is another priority. You will pee. A lot. Not just on the day of your longer runs, but also during the week between your maintenance runs. It’s important to keep up your hydration throughout your training. So, get acquainted with those bathrooms at work and make sure your toilet at home is cozy. You’ll be a frequent visitor.

Sleep is for The Strong

Athletes need ideally 8-plus hours of sleep. So, say good-night to your late-night partying until you’ve crossed that finish line because 4:30 AM comes very quickly and no matter how many times you get up for those training run, it does not get any easier.

I Gave Up Alcohol

This is not necessary. This was a personal choice. I figured if I’m putting my body under all this stress to perform something so strenuous, I don’t need to add to all that with alcohol consumption. So, yes. I did this whole thing cold-stone sober.

You Don’t Have to Run 20 Miles

After working with a coach, I learned that you don’t need to do a 20 mile run during your marathon training. I’m a newer runner and on the average-to-slower side for now. So, training up to 20 miles would mean running for about four hours. Studies have shown that running more than three and a half hours can increase your risk of injury and impact recovery time. So, I only trained up to 17 miles. Was I nervous to casually add another nine to complete that marathon on race day? Heck yeah. But you learn to trust your training and yourself. What’s another nine miles, anyway?

Running is Physical and Mental

Physical strength and endurance are great, but that mental strength needs to be there, too. Your brain hates discomfort. It will tell you anything and everything to talk you out of completing that race. It will tell you to slow down, to sit down, stretch for one minute – it will be fine. You will have the dreaded thought: You can just stop – no one is making you do this. Train yourself during those long runs to ignore it. Find a mantra, keep moving, and get that medal.

Training For A Marathon Helped Me Grow

I learned so much about myself and other people during my marathon training. As a creature of habit, once I fell into that cycle of running almost every day, it got to be easier to keep the momentum going. It also showed me that I am capable of doing a lot more than I thought – physically and mentally. It also showed me that doing pretty wild things can inspire others to jump on the bandwagon and do great things themselves.

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