Though exact numbers vary, less than one percent of Americans have
ever completed a marathon. When you begin to consider all that goes
into such a feat-months of training, early mornings, late nights, sore muscles-it's little wonder that going the distance is such an accomplishment.
Yet people who have run even one marathon will attest that those 26.2 miles
are both challenging and exhilarating. There's nothing quite like stepping
over the finish line and knowing your body has achieved something incredible.
If you're ready to tackle your first marathon, but aren't sure where to start, here are ten tips to get you started:
1. Check in with your doctor. It's always a good idea to talk with your doctor regarding any new fitness plan. You can discuss any concerns you have regarding your decision to begin running and how it may affect any health conditions you have. Your doctor may also have advice on how to manage some of the physical challenges of running a marathon.
2. Invest in proper running shoes. Running shoes are expensive, but training in proper footwear will help prevent injuries. Find a store that offers custom fittings, and don't settle on a pair of shoes just because they are cheap.
3. Find a training schedule. There are countless books and training schedules written for first-time marathoners. Look for something that has cross training and rest days built in to it. Avoid anything that forces you to run more than four days a week. Find one that you feel speaks to your ability and comfort level.
4. Stay motivated. Training for a marathon takes several months, and there will be days when you curse yourself for deciding to race. On those days especially it is important to stay motivated. Find a training buddy or listen to your favorite music while you jog. When you reach major milestones-your first five-, ten- or twenty-miler completed-reward yourself.
5. Choose a race with plenty of preparation time. If you've never run before, you won't be able to (safely) complete a marathon in a month. Consult the training schedule you've chosen, then pick a race that fits well with your timeline. Advance planning also allows you to take advantage of early registration fees. As an added bonus for all your hard work, consider choosing an out-of-town race so you can reward yourself with a mini vacation as well.
6. Listen to your body and don't forget to rest. Your muscles will ache, and you will feel
sore. Those things are natural. But if something really feels wrong with your body, it
probably is. Don't just "push through the pain"; if you do, you run the risk of further injury.
Seek medical attention if necessary and take time to rest every week so that your body
7. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after every run, and throughout
every day, whether you are running or not. If you are properly hydrated, your urine will be
clear. After long runs, drink a rehydration beverage to help replenish lost electrolytes.
8. Participate in shorter races. During your marathon training, consider signing up for a
few 5k or 10k races. Discover how your body reacts with an adrenaline rush. Feel what
it's like to run in a crowd.
9. Walk. Many new and seasoned runners take walking breaks, and you should too. There are even training programs that use a run-walk strategy that help keep the body rested throughout the duration of a race. At the very least, walk through the water stations so that you have time to rehydrate during the big day.
10. Be excited! Give yourself plenty of time on race day morning, and then enjoy the day! Chat with other runners, thank the volunteers, observe the passing scenery, smile and take your time. Partake in post-race festivities. This is your big day, and you deserve to celebrate your accomplishment!