When I decided to run my first marathon, I knew I was crazy. But I also knew it was going to become one of the hardest and greatest things I would ever do in my life. Both of those things eventually became true.
Rest assured, a marathon is hard. It is supposed to be. When you think about it, running for 26.2 miles is an unholy distance. You will feel elation, excitement, exacerbation, frustration, pain, and then jubilation all in the span of a few hours. And for me, the best part, was that I did it. I personally did the work to cross the finish line. I may have been in pain by the end, but the pain was far outweighed by the medal around my neck. Here’s how I rocked my first marathon and you can too.
Run Other Races Before Your Marathon
I did not grow up a runner. In fact, I grew up hating running. But after my days as a competitive tennis player ended, I needed something else to challenge me. So, I picked up running. Before my first marathon, I ran two other races. The first was a fun four-mile run through Kansas City on a chilly spring morning. The second, a half-marathon through the streets of New York City on a brutally cold February day. Those two experiences helped me to understand my body more, but also taught me how to prepare for race day. When you put your mind and body through something like a race day, you’ll know exactly how to prepare and how to handle all your emotions come marathon morning.
Build a Training Schedule
When you decide to run a marathon, you need to prepare for it. Very few people can just wake up one day and go run 26.2 miles; and chances are, you aren’t one of them. Therefore, you need to build yourself a schedule. Maybe pick up one of these books to help you build your training schedule:
- Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide: Advice, Plans, and Programs for Half and Full Marathons
- Marathon In Three Months: How To Train For A Marathon In Twelve Weeks
Celebrate Yourself Along the Way
Training is hard work. I will never forget some of my longer training run days through the streets of New York. Some days I ran in the snow. Others in the blistering cold wind. But when you’re training to do something crazy like run a marathon, you can’t skip a single training day. Celebrate the milestones along the way. I remember the day I ran my first 16 miles; St. Patrick’s Day 2012. I finished, texted a friend, and grabbed a beer. Oh, and because you’re running so much, you can almost eat anything you want.
Find a Running Buddy
Not everyone likes to run with other people (and I’m definitely one of those people), but sometimes running with someone for a short run is a fun way to break up the monotony of the training. And if you don’t really like to run with other people, talk with your friends who are also training for a marathon or who have trained for a marathon before. That buddy will help you along the way; you can share your ups and downs and the trimuphs and setbacks.
Learn Your Body
One thing that no one told me that I wish they had was to listen to your body. It will scream at you when it needs a break. And while I will never advocate deviating from your training program, when your ankles hurt, your knees ache, or you are just worn down, take a day off. But just one. Get back to your training as soon as you can. But a break here and there will help you get to the finish line in the best possible shape.
Learn Your Pace
There are two things to consider when determining your “pace”: your actual time per mile and your heartrate. I used both in determining my ideal pace for race day. Personally, I focused more on my heartrate because by controlling my heartrate through uphills and downhills and flat periods, I knew that I wouldn’t overwork myself; and therefore hit a wall before the end. There are a few devices that can help with both of those measurements.
Do the Same Things on Raceday
One of the worst things you can do on raceday is change everything you’ve been doing in your training. For instance, if you’re a coffee drinker (like I am) and you typically begin each day with a good cup of joe, do it on raceday, too. But don’t suddenly start chowing down on bananas or carbs or Gatorade if you don’y typically do so. It’s important to let your body remain considstent so your body doesn’t get freaked out about what you’re about to do.
The ultimate thing you need to do on raceday is simple: Have fun! Enjoy the people around you. Enjoy your surroundings. Listen to the music playing throughout the course. And when you cross the finish line, celebrate. For me, it was an accomplishment I never thought I woiuld achieve … and I wanted to enjoy every moment.
A marathon is just that; a marathon. It’s a long journey. But it’s a fun one too. Enjoy it, follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to cross that finish line knowing you crushed it.