Crossing the finish line after 26 miles, 352 yards is one of the most rewarding, humbling experiences. Some people decide to complete this challenge many, many times while others follow the “one and done” mentality. For me, I thought that is how it would be… I would run one marathon just for the experience and be done with it. Four years later, however, I am training for my tenth and have set the goal to complete a marathon in every state.
I frequently have people asking me for tips for training and running their first marathon so here is my list, along with advice from my marathon-running parents and friends, of top tips for first-time marathon runners.
Get some good shoes. This is so important! I would suggest going to your local running store and asking them to look at your feet and perform a gait analysis. Based on those results, they should be able to put you in a pair of shoes that work best for you.
Run most of your training runs at conversation pace (the pace that you can easily run while having a casual conversation). When I started training for my first marathon I thought that if I wasn’t breathing hard during my training runs that meant I wasn’t working hard enough. That is not the case, however. I’ve learned through multiple injuries and coaching courses that conversation pace is so important to reduce the risk of injury.
Practice with the energy sources (food and drink) that you will use during the race. For some people, eating and drinking while running does not come naturally but for this distance it’s really important to take in calories (carbohydrates) during the race. Practice frequently and with many different types of products so that you can learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Also, have somewhat of a plan for when you want to eat/drink during the race.
Practice in the gear that you will wear on race day. Don’t neglect any single piece, from the shirt and shoes down to your britches (or bra, ladies!) and socks. Along with this, do not wear a brand-new pair of shoes on race day. I’ve heard so many horror stories about people that have done this because they thought it would be better to not wear their worn out shoes for the race. If you think you need new shoes for the marathon, I would highly suggest breaking them in (heavily) before race day.
Pay attention to your pains (if you have any) while training. We like to call them “pings”… Tiny bits of pain that can happen every now and then. I always say to be proactive with these (ice, rehab, stretching, etc.) as soon as you feel them instead of having to be reactive if they turn into a bigger issue.
Train hard, race easy. Find a training plan or hire a coach and stick to the plan as best as you can. The more time you put into your training the easier the race will be. The opposite also applies; train easy and the race will be hard.
Race Day Tips
Try to maintain your form from start to finish. This is hard if you start feeling pain in various places and try to compensate by changing your form. If you notice that is starting to happen, take a deep breath, shake it out, and reset your focus.
Be prepared for mile 20. This goes back to the point, train hard race easy. If you have ever heard of “the wall” you know what I am referring to. However, it’s hard to comprehend until it happens. Trust in your training and know that 6.2 miles will go by faster than you think.
Run your race. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. This can be especially hard if you’re competitive but 26 miles 352 is quite the distance. Focus on yourself and your own pace.
If you’re training for your first marathon, plan on doing one in the future, or even have run one before I hope these tips help with your marathon experience! “If you want to run a mile, then run a mile. If you want to experience another life, run a marathon.” –Emil Zatopek