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Marathon Training Tips for Your First Ever Race

According to Shawn Richards, CEO and founder of Ultimate Kilimanjaro “Running a marathon is a daunting task. You’re not alone in your desire to run a marathon — there are over 1 million people who participate in marathons each year.” He further addsEven if you’re just planning on running 5Ks run, you’ll need some time to train for a marathon. It takes about 3-4 months of consistent training for your body to build up the strength and endurance that it needs to run 26.2 miles (or 42.2 miles if you’re doing a full marathon).Shawn is an expert in fitness and adventure travel, as well as an expert on the abilities of the human body.

Women Fitness got in touch with Lauren Sheu, RRCA Certified Running Coach and the Founder of Running for Wellness & Amie Dworecki, CEO and Head Coach of Running with Life for tips to run a marathon.

Check out the article for tips for a successful first Marathon Run

Get Prepared

Allow yourself enough time to train. It’s best to have run for at last six months and be able to run for at least an hour before starting to train longer from the marathon. From that point, allow 12-18 weeks to fully train for the marathon. The required time will depend if you are a beginner to running in general or just to marathon training. Allow the most time if a beginner to run. 

Other things that need to be thought out in advance of running your first marathon: Picking out a race day outfit, knowing what the racecourse is like and whether there will be hills, putting together hydration and fueling strategies for race day, etc.  The best thing to do when running your first marathon is to plan out each of these things in advance so that you are prepared on race day.

Have a primary goal of completing the marathon feeling strong.

“While it’s OK to pick a secondary goal of running the marathon for a specific time, it will be a brand new experience for your body and a learning experience overall. It can also be hard to know how to pace yourself in your first race and running your first marathon too fast is a common error beginners make that can lead to poor finishes or not finishing at all (the pace should feel easy and manageable the whole time!)” adds in Amie, who specializes in coaching women and master’s runners in the marathon and ultra-marathon Finishing strong over finishing fast is often best for a first marathon.

Have a Good Training Plan

It is crucial that you have a training plan to prepare yourself for race day.  A marathon is a long and difficult race that takes weeks and weeks of preparation. Make sure that you have a good customized training plan or work with a running coach to create a training plan just for you.  A good training plan will consist of establishing a running base, gradually building up your long runs and overall mileage, and tapering a few weeks before race day. Your weekly long run is essential for building endurance and preparing you for race day. A good marathon training plan will not add more than 10% more miles to your runs each week. So if you start out with 20 miles in a week, for instance, you can add 2 miles the next week for 22 miles

You Don’t have to be perfect to have a Good Result.

Sometimes you may be feeling too fatigued to get your run in and some women can have a more challenging time running at various times around their monthly cycles. At times, you may experience various aches and pains that can serve as a warning flag that you need more rest and mobility work. If this happens to you, honor it. Learn when it’s OK for you to push through it or rest. Then, move on – don’t try to make up missed workouts.

Fuel and Hydrate Properly

“Another important tip to prepare you for your first marathon is to learn how to fuel and hydrate properly.  Running a marathon required very strategic thought when it comes to both hydration and fueling.  You want to be sure that you are staying hydrated during the race, but also be careful not to over-hydrate (who knew that was a thing?!).  You also should test out fuel options ahead of the race during your training to ensure that you find a fueling strategy that works for you.  The last thing you want is to try something new on race day, and run into issues.” shares Lauren, Certified Running Coach who has run 2 full marathons, 5 half marathons, 1 sprint triathlon, and countless 10ks, 5ks, and other races.

Amie Dworecki, whose triumph in breaking three world records for running a marathon on each continent led her to become the second woman listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for such a feat adds, that one should practice fueling before and after the runs and during runs that last over 60-75 minutes. She further adds “One difference between training for shorter races and the marathon can be fueling. A rule of thumb is to eat half your body weight in grams of carbs before your run and to take in 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour in any run lasting more than 60-75 minutes. Eat a similar amount of carbs after your run as before with protein, in 4:1 carbs to protein ratio. You may have to try many different types of running fuel during training to find what works for you.”

Prepare For What You Will Do If You Hit “The Wall”

During long races like marathons, some runners will experience something called hitting “the wall”.   Hitting the wall happens when you deplete your stored glycogen and become overcome by fatigue and exhaustion.  Hitting the wall can be very difficult both physically and mentally.  It is common for it to happen when you are at the end of a marathon (on around 20+ miles into the race).  To avoid hitting the wall, ensure that you have adequate carbohydrates in your fueling.

Aim for a Target Pace throughout the Race

Another thing that you can do to prepare for your first half marathon is to aim for a target pace throughout the race.  Know what your marathon pace is and try to stick to it consistently.  Don’t go out too fast and burn yourself out early on. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  The goal is to stay steady to finish the long race.  Find a pacer for your target race pace and stick with them during the race.  This can really help you to stay on track and also have a supportive group of people to run with and support you throughout the marathon.

Run by Effort over pace if you need to push a stroller during your training runs. 

Pushing a stroller can increase the intensity of a training run, and so it can make the run too hard if trying to run at the same pace as without a stroller. Going back to the concept of conversation pace, make sure you can still have a conversation (or sing a simple song) during your training runs.

Use a product like “Body Glide” or similar lubricant on any areas that chafe, and keep this on hand before your marathon. 

Some women feel self-conscious about this, but in reality, women (and men!) of all sizes have this problem, so it’s better to go in prepared.

Balance your training with Strength work, Core, and Yoga.

These activities can help you prevent injury, reduce the stress you may feel about fitting in workouts and the race itself, and make you a better runner overall.

Practice Running in the clothes you will wear for the race before race day.

Wearing the same clothes makes sure they work for you and will leave you confident as you arrange your clothes the night before. Don’t wear (or eat/drink) anything new on the day of the race!

Practice extra self-care on your recovery days, and get a lot of sleep!

Recovery is the key to successful marathon training. Don’t skimp on this.

Have confidence in yourself that you CAN do this.

Your mental game goes a long way in preparing and finishing the marathon. Some women like to choose a mantra, like “I can,” that they repeat to themselves when things get hard.

Remember, “Running is 90% mental.”

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