The Training Guide for Running Your First Marathon Successfully (and Safely!)

It’s that time of the year again! Training is kicking off for many fall marathons and since you decided to check out this article, it may be safe to assume that you are looking for tips on how to make this training segment your best one yet or you took the plunge and signed up for your first 26.2 (congrats!!!). I remember when I decided to run my first marathon and the anxiety I had due to the unknown. I was never a runner in school and really had zero knowledge about anything running related. My first 26.2 miles and the 4 months leading up to it were basically all just trial and error. Now that I have four marathons under my belt and have learned so much, I hope these tips can assist you with your training and maybe answer some questions you already have about how to run your first marathon successfully!

 

  • For starters, in order to run your best it is important to acknowledge that everyBODY is different and what may work for one runner, does not necessarily work for another. Use your training to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

 

  • Assuming that you have already signed up for your race, now is the time to find a training plan! For my first race, I used Hal Higdon’s Novice One training plan. The plan is 18 weeks and is perfect for first timers with a base around 20 miles. If you are starting from scratch then you may want to look into a 22 week program to build your base before the mileage starts increasing. Finding a plan that works with your schedule and lifestyle is extremely You probably shouldn’t pick a plan that requires 6 days of running per week if you only have time for 4 days. Another great option is to hire a running coach! If you have the money, coaches are great motivators and can monitor your progress sometimes on a daily basis!

 

  • Once you have a race and a plan, invest in some running gear. I typically go through two pairs of running shoes with higher mileage training segments, but I recommend getting fitted at your local running store to help prevent any injuries that could be related to your footwear. Also, think about hydration. Before I found my new route for longer runs, which has plenty of water fountains, I always carried a handheld water bottle with me. Next is my favorite -clothing! Make sure you find some good comfortable and moisture wicking clothing because there is nothing worse than being uncomfortable hours upon hours while running.

 

  • I am going to dedicate an entire bullet to fueling because without giving nutrition the attention it needs; you can find yourself in big trouble –very quickly. Nutrition and hydration are also very dependent on the individual. I found that a big bowl of oatmeal and fruit 2-3 hours before a long run is just what I need so I don’t bonk. I have also experimented with Generation UCAN, GU, and various Clif products to find out what I can and can’t do on the big day. Utilize the long runs during your training to figure these things out and NEVER try something new on race day. It is especially important to not neglect hydration. Most likely you will run some of your hottest miles leading up to the big day and if you are not properly hydrating before, during and after you can get stopped in your tracks. Utilize handheld water bottles, find routes with access to drinking fountains, or strategically place water bottles at various locations before you start your run. Just make sure that when you find things that work for you, you stick with them! I also would recommend that you orient yourself to the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sometimes we get into the mentality that we have to keep pushing through the pain, but if you start experiencing dizziness, nausea, chills, or a headache you should find shade and water asap!

 

  • 16-20 weeks is a long time to be demanding so much from your body, so listen to what it tells you daily. If you start training too quickly or increase your mileage too much, you put yourself at greater risk of becoming injured. I still haven’t had an injury free training segment, but I have learned to take extra rest days early on and I have always been able to make it to the starting line with fresh legs (knock on wood). The long runs are the backbone of your training, so I would advise making sure you can log all of those before the marathon, but if you fall ill or start developing an injury, your training will not be ruined if you have to miss a one or shorter run. Your body will actually benefit more and heal quicker without the extra stress of running.

 

  • There is safety in numbers. Running partners or run groups are great not only in terms of safety, but for motivation as well. If you are like me and tend to do a lot of your runs solo, always make sure you tell someone the route you plan on running and how long you will be gone. You can get pretty far from home 10 miles out and if something goes wrong, it’s nice to have a plan in place. Wearsafe has taken runner’s safety to a whole new level by allowing runners to be connected at a push of a button to their pre-identified network. My tag has improved my training tremendously and taken the worry out of hitting the trails and creating my own path.

 

I could go on and on with tips about how to run a successful first marathon, but hopefully these can provide you with a good starting point. I am always happy to provide more advice, so feel free to reach out to me on Instagram or my blog! Training is going to be hard and tough, but it’s always worth it. I say this frequently, but the marathon is more than just 26.2 miles; it’s a celebration of the months of training, the early mornings, and all of the hard work you had to put in to get you to the starting line. Enjoy it! You only run your first marathon once and if you do it right, you’ll have a memory to last you a lifetime and you may be just be crazy enough to do it again.

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