My first marathon was the 2002 New York City Marathon
I had never raced further than 13.1 miles prior to the race and after having been involved within this sport for the past 21 years, there is nothing that compares to testing your limits by running a marathon.
I would not advocate running a marathon unless you have built up to a minium of 30 miles per week.
Training for a marathon is one thing.
Racing in one is another story and you have to have the patience to have built up the stamina and endurance to finish the distance.
There are many veteran distance runners here at rundreamachieve that can give you additional feedback.
Readers of RDA are some of the most disciplined, focused people you can meet and if you have run several marathons in the past much of this may be information you already know.
My focus in writing this post is specifically for beginner marathoners or people who may have attempted one in the past but didn’t finish.
Don’t let this sway you in anyway.
Some of the world’s best distance runners have had to suffer a DNF (did not finish).
People seem to forget that this distance isn’t about the event itself, but the process.
What are you doing in the weeks and months leading into a marathon that is going to make you a success.
There is a big difference between wanting to do something and taking action toward it.
The fact that you have come to rundreamachieve seeking answers clearly shows me you are in the latter category.
Here are a few first time marathon advice tips I wish I would have adhere to when I first began running marathons.
The body doesn’t produce iron.
You have to obtain it in your diet and far too many runners who feel fatigued, stressed and overtrained could very well be anemic without knowing it.
I never considered taking an iron tablet back when I first started running and now that I am writing this I realize I have not taken my iron tablet yet today so please excuse me.
OK, lets get back to basics.
You always want to take an iron tablet with a glass of orange juice or with Vitamin C.
Vitamin C helps absorb iron into the body more efficiently.
The reason why eating foods high in iron is so important is it will guard you against fatigue and performing below your potential.
If your body runs low on iron your body’s ability to transport oxygen to your working muscles is diminished.
Less ability to get that vital aspect of your body’s physiology will cause your to fatigue and slow down quicker.
This is what we want to avoid altogether.
I learned a very hard lesson in this.
I never took this serious and to be quite honest with you, never knew anything about iron and what it exactly did for the body and how it pertained to running performance.
You lose iron through sweat, through foot strike hemolysis which is the bursting of red blood cells when your foot strikes the ground.
Females lose it through menstration and most often than not, are more suceptible to anemia than men.
Keep an eye on your diet.
Eat foods rich in iron like red meats, spinach, nuts, cereals high in iron such as Total Raisin Bran among others.
If I were to give a debut marathoner first time marathon advice this is one of the most important tips I could possibly share and one that so many runners (my past self included) never consider.
You and I sweat often and a lot.
This is something most runners miss
You lose iron through sweat.
Runners have the training down.
The motivation is there but it is the little things sometimes we miss.
I started running in 1992 and it wasn’t until 2007 before I went in and got a blood test to check to see if my iron stores were low in my body.
You can always choose to run a more challenging marathon down the road.
I would advocate finding a marathon that is flat, has minimal or no hills whatsoever, to offset any additional stress that running a marathon will place on your body.
Great options would be the Chicago, Berlin, Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Frankfurt or Scotiabank Toronto Marathons.
A flat marathon course will be the easiest on your body.
The last thing you want it to run your first marathon with multiple hills on the course.
Take any uncessary stressor out of the picture by picking an easier, flatter course to begin with.
Once you build up additional strength and stamina you can work your way up to more challenging marathons like Big Sur, New York City or the Boston Marathon.
3. Wear the right shoe that fits you best
We are all different.
Some of us are tall, others are short.
We are heavier or thinner.
The good thing is it doesn’t matter what you look like or how much you weigh.
Anyone can run a marathon with enough work ethic and focus.
It takes those two key characteristics to truly make big things happen.
You want the right shoe on your feet when you race though and an easy way to find out what is best for you it to visit your local running specialty shop.
They can do a gait analysis on you to see how you run.
If you have a flat foot the last thing you want to do is to try to compete in a marathon with a shoe that is built for someone with a high arch.
The marathon is already difficult enough as it is.
There is no sense in making it any more difficult than it needs to be.
If you are are a supinator, meaning your foot pulls inward as you land on the ground you certainly don’t want a shoe that is more geared for the athlete who is a pronator (lands on the outer edge of his/her ankle as their feet impact the ground).
I am a pronator and you wouldn’t catch me wearing a shoe designed for a supinator if my life depended on it.
Bad juju, take anything that isn’t going to help you in your quest out of the equation.
Get to the start line healthy, don’t wear a shoe that will cause an injury you surely don’t need.
One of the most beneficial fundamentals all athletes seeking to run their first marathon can do is to find someone who has not only run one, but can lead you on the right path and get you to the finish line.
This isn’t about hitting a world-class time or qualifying for the Olympic Trials.
I am very humble when I say this.
Runners who can finish a marathon are overachievers.
Finishing a marathon in and of itself is a massive accomplishment.
Runners at my caliber are very caught up in pace per mile, earning an Olympic Trials standard or making a World Championship team.
They seem to forget in their haste for greatness that simply finishing a marathon for someone else, unlike them, is their Olympics.
It may be their life-long dream or something they have on their bucket list to do before they pass on.
I was very lucky in that I had a great coach in Lisa Larsen Rainsberger.
She is the last American female to win the Boston Marathon and had outstanding personal bests of 2.28 for the marathon, 1.10 for the half marathon and ran 53.20 for 10-miles.
There was no excuse but to succeed with a coach like that and that is what I want to pass on to you
Find that mentor or coach that will help you get to the finish line successfully.
We don’t have all the answers.
I have been heavily involved in this sport since I was 15 years old.
I started running in 1992 and am just as serious today about what I do as I was then.
I still seek out knowledge.
What are the best coaches teaching?
What are they having their athletes do?
You can never stop searching and a coach can help assist you in finding your way and help you to master this distance.
5. Increase your mileage
This entails learning to run longer because you have to teach yourself to experience in training what you will deal with in the race.
The marathon demands a lot out of you.
The quickest way to being able to complete a marathon successfully is building up your stamina (by running more minutes at a faster speed) and by increasing the distance you run (building your endurance).
If you have running a marathon as your goal build your mileage up gradually.
Do not try to go out and do a 20 mile long run the first week into training.
This is quick way to depress and de-motivate you.
What I want for you is to see the process and not to take your eyes off the event itself.
Start off doing a 8 mile long run, than 10, than 15 and so on.
Success in this race is all about the process and it doesn’t come in a matter of days but many weeks and months.
What are you doing in the hours after you complete that workout?
Here are a few questions or thoughts to ask yourself
Am I allowing myself enough rest?
Did I eat enough after that long run?
I need to set out a time to get to bed earlier so I can get the most back from the work I put in today
I need to ensure I really take it easy tommorow because today was a tough workout. I want to ensure I am recovered before I run my next hard effort
What would a veteran in this event do to ensure they were ready to run a great marathon?
6. Consider purchasing a heart rate monitor
Training with a heart rate monitor is a great way to take your mind off of worrying about hitting splits and focusing your energy on maintaining a constant effort.
I have used heart rate monitors since I was a freshman in college.
I competed for Jack Hazen while attending Malone University.
Jack, the 2012 London Olympics head men’s and women’s distance running coach, advocated using heart rate monitors to ensure we weren’t running faster than we needed to be.
It is very easy to go out and run faster than you should.
An effort that may seem feel comfortable may be too aggressive and if you are not yet recovered from your previous hard workout your heart will not lie.
Your heart rate may be a nice 140 beats per minute running at 7.00 mile pace one mile down the road, but if you get to mile 4 and you are running 9.15 pace running at the same heart rate you obviously are not recovered.
Everyone is different and you may or may not feel comfortable wearing a heart rate monitor.
This is only a first-time marathon tip that you can consider.
Running with a heart rate monitor doesn’t gurantee you or I marathon success but it can assist you in getting to the race in the best shape possible.
- It makes training more enjoyable. It is very difficult at times when you are trying to hit a specific pace on a run. Wearing a heart rate monitor is a great way to take your mind off the place and placing it on just focusing on running at a planned heart rate. Staying in a planned heart rate zone makes running more creative and less taxing
- It will guard you from running too fast on days that should be comprised of relaxed, recovery running. What you or I may feel as a relaxed pace may be too aggressive for our own good. A heart rate monitor can guard you against pushing too hard on the gas pedal.
- It helps you train the body’s energy system more efficiently. If you are wanting to increase your stamina running at a heart rate of 110 beats per minute isn’t going to do that for you. Running easy for endurance is one thing, building stamina is another story.
Stamina is being able to maintain a sustained and more challenging effort for a longer period of time.
A heart rate monitor can you help you finely tune your training so that you can learn to understand where your heart rate is at different efforts.
You can than fixate your mind on maintaining those efforts in training. It takes the guesswork out of training for marathon, makes it more interesting and fun.
I hope these first time marathon advice suggestions will hep you get to your debut marathon healthy, ready to race and better prepared.