Running a marathon was a huge learning experience for me and I am so grateful for everything I have learned through training and racing. Running has changed for me over the years and what once used to be something that was a pain and I hated to do, running is now an escape for me and a big part of my life. When I started training back in June for the marathon, there were a lot of things I learned immediately and looking back on the whole experience I am able to see other things that were not as apparent at the time. So here are 26 things I learned from training and running 26.2 miles 🙂
1. Training for a marathon is a tremendous commitment: 18 week training plans = about 4.5 months. It is super important to take training week by week to avoid getting overwhelmed.
2. Find the perfect training plan: In order to accomplish this goal, you need to set yourself up for success. Finding a plan that fits your schedule is essential. Once you find a plan, make adjustments if you need to and hang it somewhere where you will see it everyday.
3. Pick a race: Yep, that’s right! Before you even embark on training, pick a race and get yourself registered! When you know you have made a financial commitment, you will be more likely to stick with your training plan and get up super early to go run on the days when you are struggling to find motivation.
4. You will spend more money than you originally thought: You will most likely need 2 pairs of shoes, lots of whatever your fuel of choice is, and proper clothing for the big day. Also, if you are like me, you will spend tons of money at the expo stocking up on anything that says 26.2 on it.
5. Your social life may take a steep decline: Your weekends will consist of getting ready for a long run. When you have to wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning to beat the summer heat, you will choose to stay in rather than go out on Friday or Saturday nights.
6. Adequate sleep is extremely important: I would always have to get my runs in before work, so I woke up extra early to run. Running takes a lot out of your body and sleep is a great way to recover.
7. You will most likely get sick at some point in your training (unless you are blessed with a strong immune system): Running can overall boost your health and is very beneficial for the body, however there is a critical time period after exercise that your immune system is not at it’s strongest. With that being said, just be mindful of what you are coming into contact with -lots of hand washing 🙂 Also, vitamin c is always a good thing and you know your body from anyone else; taking a few days off will be better in the long run, than trying to push through a cold.
8. It is not uncommon to run into a minor injury: Especially if this is your first time running a marathon and you are running more miles that normal, you might run into some problems. My first injury was arch pain and my second was tendon inflammation. It was extremely painful to run, but with adequate rest and some adjustments made to my shoes, I was able to run my marathon pain-free. Again, you know your body better than anyone, listen to what it is telling you.
9. Nutrition is key: Finding a fueling option for long runs is extremely important. Experimenting early in training is always good, so that way you can find what works for you and what you will use on race day. DO NOT TRY ANYTHING NEW ON RACE DAY. In order for a smooth race, just stick to what you know works. It is also important to keep in mind that the body only has the ability to store the equivalence of 1800-2000 calories of carbs. Running a mile burns roughly 100 calories, so you will only be able to store enough energy for 18-20 miles of the race and to avoid “hitting a wall” taking something throughout your run will help.
10. Every run will not be perfect: There are going to be days when you do not want to get out of bed or runs where your pace is just completely off, but every run is important. Whenever I had a “bad” run, I would always tell myself that it is just extra preparation for if something goes wrong on race day.
11. Long runs are the backbone of training: Always make sure to run your long runs every week. Long runs are crucial and build so much physical and mental strength, along with confidence for race day.
12. Don’t forget short runs: The runs over the course of the week are great for building speed. These little guys are important too! It won’t kill you to skip one here and there, but keep in mind that training programs typically increase overall mileage week by week to build strength and endurance.
13. People will think you are crazy: It is not uncommon if your friends think you are insane when you tell them you are training for a marathon. This is especially true if you are young; not too many 20 year olds give up their weekends for training.
14. Appetite increases…a lot: It will be more difficult to deal with hunger and that means eating more frequently. I never left my house without snacks and made sure to load up on fruits and veggies.
15. Your life will become revolved around counting down the days until race day: Running will be the majority of what you think and talk about. People might get annoyed, but who cares! Running a marathon is a big deal and you have the right to shout it to the world.
16. Tapering is good: After you complete the last long run of your training plan and begin to taper, you will start having doubts and want to run more miles. DON’T! Embrace the taper and give your body the rest it needs before asking it to run 26.2 miles. Also take in to account that you are not burning as many calories as you were during the peak of training, so eat smart and remember fruits and veggies are carbs too!
17. Running a marathon is bittersweet: After your very last training run you will experience a roller coaster of emotions. You will feel a great sense of achievement after completing months of training, followed by a heavy heart because you will realize the big day is finally here and what do you do after? Don’t worry, excitement will soon return when you pick up your packet information!
18. Go to packet pickup two days before the race: At the expo there will be tons of great things to buy and sample, which means standing on your feet for a really long time. Try to not overexert yourself the day before the race and definitely use the time to relax.
19. Lay everything out the night before: Pack your bags (extra clothes for after the race), lay out all of your gear the night before so you do not have to worry about it in the morning. Stressing out at 4 o’clock in the morning because you can’t find your shorts is not a problem you want to encounter.
20. You won’t get a full 8 hours of sleep: Once the excitement sets in, you will not be able to fall asleep as easily as other nights and depending on how far you have to travel, you may be waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep the week before the race to prevent being overly tired on race day.
21. Get in line early for the bathroom: The lines will be extremely long, so the earlier you get in line to do your business the better!
22. Drink and fuel up early: It will save you in the long run to start drinking water early in the race to prevent dehydration and not waiting to use gels or chews until you feel that you need to because at that point it is probably too late.
23. You will fee unstoppable: It is an incredible feeling to run with people who have the same goal as you and to see how many people crowd the streets to cheer the runners on.
24. The wall only exists if you believe it does: This is my opinion about the dreaded “wall” that endurance runners face. Do not let negative thoughts enter your mind. Stay focused and let all of the hard months of training do the work.
25. Do not stop running: Your mind is going to tell you to stop, but do not listen to it. The last 6.2 miles are not only physical strength, but there is so much mental power needed to push through the pain. Blast some music, focus on the new scenery, or do whatever you need to do to put your mind in a happy place and keep your feet moving.
26. You will want to do it again: Crossing the finish line is such an amazing experience, it is really hard to explain. At that point you realize you have just accomplished “that crazy goal” you had set out to accomplish 4+ months ago and you feel on top of the world. 26.2 miles is so rewarding and it completely changes your life. You won’t ever want to take that medal off.
These are just some of the common things that may generalize to other individuals wanting or currently running marathons. I learned so many things about myself in such a small amount of time it is unbelievable. Just how every run is a different experience, every race is different and I cannot wait until the next journey 26.2 miles takes me on 🙂