When I signed up for my first half marathon 7 years ago (which was also my first race!), I didn’t give it much thought. My family members had decided to run one, and I jumped on the bandwagon without really thinking it through. I definitely questioned my decision many times during training, but as soon as the race was over, I knew I wanted to do it again. But not just the same thing – next time I wanted to do something bigger. And that’s how I decided to run my first marathon.
My journey to the marathon distance was a rather common one. I completed a half marathon first and loved it. I couldn’t believe I accomplished the distance, and was eager to see what else I could complete. There is something incredibly addicting about long distance running. The fact that nearly every person questions their ability to complete the distance prior to running it for the first time is what makes the accomplishment so great.
Runners have a hunger for more. Once we begin, we realize that we can accomplish more than we ever thought possible. As we start checking goals off our list, we wonder what else we could accomplish if we really tried. Our limits suddenly expand, and we find ourselves planning for something we used to never think was possible.
Enter the marathon. The marathon is a distance that has challenged me, chewed me up, spit me back out, and still left me wanting more. I’ve experienced few things in life as addicting as distance running, and am so glad I’ve found this addiction.
Maybe you’ve run a few half marathons now and are ready to take the natural next step. Maybe you’ve increased your fitness this year after losing a lot of weight and want to make a bold statement. Or maybe, it’s been on your bucket list forever but you’ve always been nervous about committing to running 26 miles.
Whatever your journey has been, it’s one that has led you to the place seen by few others: you’re ready to run a marathon.
The marathon has to be my favorite distance of all time. Training for my first marathon allowed me to accomplish new distances each week. I was able to check a distance of my training plan that I had never conquered before. Each Saturday my watch would beep and tell me “congratulations, you’ve set a new distance PR!”. My first marathon is an experience I will never forget, one that has changed my life.
If you are preparing to run your first marathon, you are about to have the experience of a lifetime. Enjoy the journey, even though it’s not always pretty. And no matter what you do to get to that finish line, know that you are preparing to accomplish something that only 1% of the population has completed! You are already a champion.
Here are some tips for transitioning from a half marathon (or shorter distances) to a full marathon.
So You Want to Run Your First Marathon…
Commit to it.
Running a marathon is a huge commitment. No matter what training plan you choose, you are going to have to dedicate hours to long runs at some point in your training. Make sure you are 100% committed ahead of time – don’t enter training unsure of whether it’s something you want. Set your sights on your goal and promise to complete the preparation necessary to get there.
Plan for it.
You can’t run a marathon without training (maybe you can, but I’m sure it would not be very enjoyable)! Once you’ve decided that this is something you are going to do, set a race day and find a training plan. Plan out a day each week to dedicate to long runs, plan your week day runs, and set aside time for strength training and recovery. Develop a schedule that will allow you to fit those runs in without causing too much havoc to your weekly schedule.
Focus on distance, not speed.
Running your first marathon is all about running far, not fast. Narrow your focus to one main goal: completing the distance. Pushing yourself to increase your pace while increasing your distance for the first time will only lead to injury or burnout. Focus on completing the distance for your first marathon, and add speed in later.
Practice fueling and hydration.
Practice makes perfect! Training is the time to experiment with different types of fueling, water bottles, and timing so you know what works best on race day. Once you find the perfect formula, stick with it and keep it consistent throughout training. This way your body will know what to expect on race day, and you’ll know how it is going to respond.
Celebrate the small accomplishments.
Every run during marathon training is not a long run, but there is definitely something worth celebrating each day. Celebrate the fact that you’ve made it this far, that you decided to sign up to begin with, or how strong your body is becoming. Enjoy the process!
Know that you are going to suffer at some points.
Be prepared that training isn’t always going to be sunshine and rainbows. Running a marathon is hard, and getting to that point is even harder. You will have some terrible runs, and no doubt want to quit at points. Pushing through those tough spots is what makes us stronger, and the more you endure during training, the more prepared you will be for race day.
Remind yourself why you wanted to do this in the first place.
Speaking of those tough moments – always remind yourself why you started in the first place. When you feel like quitting, draw on that motivation and excitement you had at the beginning. Remind yourself why you wanted to do this and push through the hard moments. It will be worth it in the end.
Hold yourself accountable and stay consistent.
If you are relying on someone else to keep you accountable during training, you are so much more likely to fail. Hold yourself accountable. You are ultimately running a marathon because of something you wanted to do. Stick to your training plan. Understand that life happens and it’s okay to miss a few runs, but be able to tell the difference between an unpredictable circumstance and laziness.
Increasing your mileage really takes a toll on your body! No matter how many miles you fit in, your body is not going to get any stronger if you aren’t allowing it to recover. Invest some time in stretching, strength training, and foam rolling. Plan for this extra time and don’t skip it! Your body is accomplishing some incredible feats during training, so give it the respect it deserves.
And finally… enjoy it!