Maybe you’ve already conquered a marathon or two. Maybe you’ve always wanted to tackle a marathon but got lost somewhere in the uncertainty of the training quagmire. For most people, running a marathon is one of those intimidating bucket-list items that is often pushed down the list in favor of experiences that require less of a time commitment. The distance, 26.2 miles, may also seem daunting and unattainable, but do not let this intimidate you. If you have some patience and a plan, running a marathon can be achieved in as little as 20 weeks. You will gain confidence, look and feel better, and improve your mindset in the process. Whether you’re starting out or need a routine recalibration, the following are some tips to pave the way for success on the path to your next marathon.
Most of us take twenty years to get out of shape, but we want to get back into shape in twenty days. It is important for runners to strength-train as this prevents common injuries, and this takes time. A good training plan will provide time to strengthen the body for the physical training that it will endure. New runners can also start with jog or walk workouts. Jogging for a short period of time followed by a brief session of walking is great for beginners; it’s the first step to experiencing long durations on your feet while only jogging a fraction of the workout. This strengthens the mind and builds confidence over time.
Get the proper equipment.
Shoes are the most important equipment for a runner. A good pair of shoes will set up a runner for success and consequently, a great marathon experience. A local running store has professionals who fit runners in shoes that work with different foot types and running styles. Most local running stores allow consumers to run in a pair of shoes for thirty days on a trial basis. To avoid blisters and chaffing on the body, you should also run in high-quality fitness gear. Look for technical fabrics like polyester, spandex, and nylon as these fabrics stretch while you run, helping to wick sweat in the process. If training during the winter months, it is imperative to buy cold-weather running gear. A warm, but lightweight hat or headband that covers your ears makes it tolerable to run on those cold winter mornings. Most running hats also have a nifty slot in the back for runners with ponytails. In addition, gloves and a running jacket are ideal for wet and windy runs. Investing in a GPS-enabled running watch is also highly recommended. Activity trackers are great, but a GPS watch will track distance, time, pace, calories, and sometimes cadence, altitude, and heart rate depending on the type and model.
Keep it positive.
Finishing a marathon is a major achievement. A good goal for your first marathon is to finish strong and with a smile on your face. Training for a marathon is a major time commitment, physical challenge, and a financial investment. Keep the training process positive and avoid stressors such as finishing under a certain time or placing in your age group; save that ambition for the next one. Keeping lofty goals and expectations at bay are keys to a successful experience.
Have a plan.
There are many intangibles when following a marathon training program. Nutrition and rest/recovery are vital during training. Experiment with foods and hydration before, during, and after your training to find what works best for you. Expect a training plan to incorporate interval workouts, hilly runs, cross-training, strength-training, and long runs. It is also imperative to dial into a specific race pace. Observe your paces during long runs and find a pace that can be comfortably run. Lock into your desired pace early in the race and keep it throughout the marathon. This strategy will ensure you finish with a smile on your face. Friends will be in awe at your marathon-finishing photo where you are beaming from ear to ear.
20 WEEK BEGINNER-INTERMEDIATE-ADVANCED RUNNING PROGRAM GUIDE
Beginners – Very little or no running experience with some experience in hiking, yoga, walking, or other general activities.
Intermediate – Running a few times a week for several months and can comfortably run 3-4 miles. Also have experience with cross-training, such as CrossFit, racquet sports, hiking, basketball, biking, yoga, swimming, etc.
Advanced – Consistently running over 25-30 miles per week for at least several months and have experience with cross-training.
Every 4th week is an easier week to give our bodies a little more time to rest/relax. The weekly volume/mileage generally increases 10-20% each week. After week 4, the beginners switch from tracking their volume in time (minutes) to miles.
The sooner you go online and register for a race, the better! Being financially committed to a race gives us that extra motivation. Also, to break up training, there are several training races to run throughout your 20-week journey. Included in this plan is a 5k race at week 5, a 10k race at week 12, and a half marathon at week 15. Adding in races along the way allows us to practice race-day nutrition and hydration and mimics the excitement and nervousness that we will feel on marathon morning. Treat these smaller races as dress-rehearsals to prepare for your big day!
- EZ: Easy pace
- LR: Long Run
- Cross-Train: Hiking, swimming, biking, or other sport activities.
- Tempo: Think of this as comfortably uncomfortable. A pace that isn’t EZ but is something that you can maintain (in between 10k and half marathon pace for advanced runners).
- Fartlek: Translates to “speed play” in Swedish. This is intermittent fast running followed by periods of slow running (recovery).
- Strides: Toward the end of your training run, do 3-5, 15 to 30 second bursts at tempo pace.
Jawn Angus is a runner who has competed in 44 marathons in 38 US states, Canada and Australia. He is also an Ironman triathlete and owner of Marathawn Jawn Coaching based out of Seattle, WA and Scottsdale, AZ. Jawn is an RRCA Level II run coach, USA Triathlon Level I coach, and ISSA Strength & Conditioning certi ed trainer who offers running, triathlon and strength coaching online. He holds a degree in Healthy Lifestyles Coaching from Arizona State and studied Sports Nutrition and Exercise Immunology in Australia. When he’s not running, Jawn likes to soak up the Arizona sunshine.