The 12 tips and strategies this first-time marathoner is using to have a successful marathon block of training.
The tips I’m about to share with you are not earth-shattering. In fact, they are quite the opposite. What I’ve found is that, well yes, marathon training is in fact all-consuming. It has sucked up all my normal happy-go-lucky attitude and replaced it with a walking, talking, barely functioning human.
Here are the lessons I’ve learned that can help you become a marathon runner!
As I’ve gone through my 12 weeks (so far) of marathon specific training, these are the 12 things that I’ve found to be true. And no matter how fast or how many years of marathon experience you have, these tips are relevant.
1) When in doubt, it’s ok to slow down.
Never thought I’d say it, but I’ve done the bulk of my training at 8-minute pace or slower. In fact, of all the miles I’ve run in 2019, my average pace is 8:01.
2) Planning runs, trips, work events, and your social calendar ahead of time will limit your stress.
We have a very busy schedule. I teach, privately coach 2 days a week + write training plans and coordinate everything related to TrainwithMarc. On top of that, Carly teaches 1-2 nights a week AND we have a 2 and a half-year-old. So planning ahead is necessary for me to get in all my runs.
3) Have a really accommodating partner.
I’m really lucky that Carly is a runner and understands that this is something I’d like to get done. She’s done her marathon training in the past and gets it. I’m thankful for that.
4) Find a buddy (or multiple friends) who are also training for something and use them (for training and motivation).
I’ve used Matt for a few of my long runs and that has certainly helped. The pace is quicker and the time flies by faster when I have someone to talk to and help share the pace with. I’m not against solo running – most of my weekday miles are solo and even my recent 16-mile run was by myself. It’s just a fun change when I get to train with someone.
5) Be mindful of dips in motivation and find ways to get yourself back up on solid ground.
I think we all find this dip every once in a while. It’s natural to be in the thick of training and not be able to see the light at the end. This is especially true if something goes wrong – injury, lack of sleep, or some other kind of setback.
6) Get LOTS of sleep.
Can’t stress enough how important sleep is. I wrote about it here. Then, Carly and I went to a talk at the Franklin Institute on “real versus myth” recovery tactics. Sleep is for real the best way to recover.
7) Have a strong foundation.
Go into a marathon cycle already having some miles in your legs. The first few weeks of training should not be your introduction or reintroduction to running. It should be piggy-backed from previous running you’ve done. If you need to, get in shape first, then start training for a marathon. A few people I come across have little training and little experience leading up to a marathon. Personally, I’ve been running for 20 years and just finished training for a half marathon.
8) Find a (marathon) plan that fits your (life) needs.
I have the luxury of also being a coach. For years, I tried to model my running after what fits into the “normal” box of training. I’ve known for years that I need to be unique and I think I finally hit the nail on the head. No injuries, no setbacks. Smooth sailing so far! Don’t forget, you don’t HAVE to run a marathon to be considered a runner. I went 18 years as a runner who hadn’t run a marathon and it’s totally fine! If you can’t run the training runs necessary to run 26.2 miles, that’s ok!
9) Be ready to get out of your normal comfort zone.
Training for a marathon is time-consuming, tiring, and life-draining. There’s no way around it if you really want to do it well. For me, I know that the time I spend training will go by fast. I’m not convinced that everyone else knows that.
10) Run on Tired Legs
I’m not a fan of running on tired legs – I’m kind of a big baby when it comes to that. But I know the importance of finding out where my line in the sand is and approaching it. I gained a lot of confidence from doing two medium runs back to back to help simulate tired legs.
11) But don’t let those tired legs lead to overtraining.
There is such a fine line between enough and too much. My mileage isn’t too much, but the accumulation of work + side hustle + life + training is pretty darn close. I’ve definitely relied on some naps and a few low key weekend days to get by. I’ve also been stressing recovery since I recently wrote about it here.
12) Keep the training fun.
I’ve done quite a few runs that have been in different towns or have had different goals attached to them (see how many high schools I can run past in one run. The answer: 7 in 11 miles). Some runs have started easy and each mile has been faster. Overall, I haven’t been bored by any run and that’s a really good thing for me!
As a first time marathoner, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have been susceptible to injuries my entire life, but I’ve found the perfect balance of enough volume at the right pace with the right amount of recovery mixed in. I’m still aiming for a 3:10 marathon – 7:14 mile pace and I think I’m right on track for that to happen.
What piece of advice do you wish you followed a little closer when you were training for your last long race?