Many people dream of running a marathon. Running 26.2 miles in a day is a difficult undertaking, but it’s not a goal that’s out of reach. Most marathons start very early in the morning. If you prepare your body for waking early, and you maintain a regular pace, you can finish your first marathon.
There are a few key things to remember as you prepare for a marathon. The most important thing is to rack up a lot of training miles - distance is more important than pace. A marathon is about endurance, and logging plenty of miles helps ensure your body won’t quit before you cross the finish line. Don’t overwhelm yourself with a complex, highly technical training program. Here are some tips to help you develop an efficient and realistic training program that works for you:
Run Six Days Per Week
Again, you have to put in the miles. There’s no way around it. Allow yourself at least two months for training, and try to log at least two 40 mile weeks ahead of the event. Map out a five to seven-mile course and run it six days per week. For the first few weeks, don’t pay too much attention to pace, your pace will improve as your endurance improves. And remember, rain is not an excuse to skip your run. If you opt for a treadmill workout, change the incline throughout your run to simulate outdoor running.
One Short and Fast Run
When you’re a few weeks into your program, and you’ve established a habit of daily running, integrate a pace workout. Keep your high-intensity sessions short, so you don't exhaust yourself. Above all, prioritize running six days per week. Don’t wear yourself down with extensive fast runs. Make the high-intensity run part of your last workout before your rest day, so you have time to recover.
One Slow Distance Workout
As you continue your program, add in a long-distance workout each week. A 16-mile run at a 15-minute mile pace will take you four hours, and it will help condition your body to perform for a long duration without failing. Be conscious of your pace, and go slowly, so you don’t feel like skipping the next day’s workout. Do not do your longest run in the days immediately preceding marathon day.
Slow and Steady
Of the people who mess up their first marathon, most miss the mark because they start too fast. A solid strategy to prevent exhaustion is to walk for one minute at every mile marker. This short walk feels like a reward, and because you’re still moving, it won’t add too many minutes to your finish time.
If you’re dedicated, and you spend at least two months doing regular runs with occasional intensity workouts mixed in, you’ll find yourself well-positioned to cross the finish line at your first marathon. You’ve got this!