Best Ways To Run Your First Marathon

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qualifying time for boston marathonRun your first marathon

What are the best ways to run your first marathon?

The runner I respect the most, outside of my wife, is Emil Zatopek.

What I respect about him is that he was a Soldier in the Czeck Army who had to undergo a great deal of hardship for his own success and somehow found joy in the midst of all that.

He is the only three-time Olympic champion in three distance events.

The 5000m, 10,000m and the marathon.

An incredible feat that no one has duplicated since.

The military, isn’t what I necessarily call, the easiest occupation to have when trying to run well.

It takes time and an extraordinary amount of will to work through the demands of a military work week while working toward running goals.

Zatopek was quoted as saying,

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.

Regardless what your occupation, the truth is, you can prepare to run your first marathon.

You may be a sprinter, never run a step in your life or have participated in another sport completely unrelated to distance running and accomplish a feat that not many people get to do.

I wanted to share 10 tips that can help you overcome concerns that you may have that running and finishing a marathon may not be up your ally. The truth is we all underestimate our abilities.

I do this all the time in the military. I have over 10 years experience as a Soldier and over five years as an Officer, but I see others who have been doing it far longer then I have and begin to think I do not match up to their expertise.

I am not as influential.

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A trick I use is simply to accept that I have something to contribute.making running a habit

We all have strengths and can give back. It could be fitness advice, plans and operations advice, tactical experience or just motivation that others around us can use.

Running is what I have done since I was a teenager. It is what I have dreamt and thought about for every second of the day for the past 20+ years.

It has helped me overcome sadness, disappointment, discouragement and taught me things that no book could assist with.

I want to see you feel the effects of the healthy benefits running long distance can provide in your own life.

I began running marathons in 2002, had no idea I would ever run the distance until I got an email from the sports specialist of the US Army World Class Athlete Program ten years ago.

I had just run a then-PR of 53.21 at the 2002 Army Ten-Miler and was sitting on an athletic high.

My best time previously was the 55.23 I ran in college in a time-trial run my collegiate coach, Jack Hazen set up for us.

The email read,

Would you like to be a part of an Armed Forces Marathon team competing for Lung Cancer Research at the New York City Marathon? You will be starting in last place with aims of passing as many people as possible. $1 will be donated for every person you pass. Would you like to participate?

It was a blessing because running marathons was never something I thought I was capable of doing. It took one person and a little opportunity to get involved in a sport I never thought I was be involved in.

Marathons are about tenacity as much as talent – John Bigham

I don’t think people realize how easy running truly can be if the willingness to run consistently is placed within their schedule.

All things seem hard at first but the more practice is put into the activity the more routine it gets, running is no different.

I hope the following ten tips will get you out the door preparing to run your first marathon


Believe In Yourself

You need nothing more to run the 26.2 mile distance. It doesn’t matter if your overweight, not an ‘athlete’ or consider yourself one or spent your entire upbringing playing another sport.

The marathon is a running event every person can complete regardless if they think so or not.

You can’t live your life listening to criticisms and negative news. Running produces pleasure endorphins in the brain.

Imagine participating in a sport that makes you feel better.

It is a fact that so many miss out on because they think running is too hard, not fun.

Be patient, let it come to you. I promise you it will get easier.

You will lose weight and running will become automatic.

Life will be more enjoyable and you’ll see attempting to run a marathon as a target goal that you will have no problem achieving but the most important tip is to believe in yourself.

Stop at if need be, motivation helps us get through the tough parts of life and if you ever need my help don’t hesitate to ask.

train for a marathonThink in Smaller Segments

Don’t see the marathon as the 26.2 mile distance as this long, drawn out event that is too far, too complicated for you to finish. Think of it more in the lines of many little races linked within a large, enjoyable experience.

My friend, 2.06 marathoner and Olympian, Ryan Hall, puts it like this,

I don’t think about the miles that are coming down the road, I don’t think about the mile I’m on right now, I don’t think about the miles I’ve already covered. I think about what I’m doing right now, just being lost in the moment.

You have to start each day with the initiative to just get out the door to run a few miles.

You don’t have to run everyday, nor do you have to be running high mileage to run a marathon.

Running 100 mile weeks is not needed to run your first marathon.

Make The Commitment

This corresponds well to #1, committing to running, even if for only a few days a week, is the bread and butter foundation you have to work toward to run and finish a marathon.

Start out running 2 days a week and build yourself up to running 4 days a week until your fitness gains are so great, you are now able to handle running 6 days a week.

Aim to be what the majority of the world is not, a believer in delayed gratification

We live in a results-oriented culture here in the United States. Our philosophy doesn’t relate well in other cultures, where patience and long-term thought is the rule.

Running a marathon and especially, finishing, takes a patient individual.

Focus on you

You cannot focus on what other athletes are doing, it doesn’t change your reality.
I am speaking specifically to those of you who doubt that marathoning is not for you.

You don’t have the build. You have thought about doing it but it is too far to run. Too complicated. Your not capable.

Think of the strengths you have. What passion do you have? What are you good at?

Now, take that hunger you have and apply it to this goal you have to challenge yourself physically to accomplish running and finishing your first marathon.

I love seeing people out running who are, what our society deems ‘unfit, out of shape, obese etc”. The fact that someone is out doing something your not should make you all the more motivated.

Take each day and patiently give your utmost to yourself. If you are in the above category you, too me, are the most capable individual.

Why? Cause running comes as a harder to task to those who are heavier or are not accustomed to how it makes you feel. I respect anyone who simply tries. I don’t expect my readers to want to train at the level I compete at.

Your willingness simply to try is far more impressive then fast times and should be respected equally.

Every morning on my way into work at Fort Campbell I see an older heavy set gentleman (probably 60 years old) who is out running at 5.30am. I think of that man’s initiative, not the world-class athletes I have trained and lived with.

To see a beginner out trying to do something, which takes a great deal of initiative says a lot. It is much harder for others. It has been somewhat easier experience for me, but sharing with people who are trying so hard and not getting noticed is an extraordinary honor.

Be patient with yourself and give yourself a chance.

Hydrate Well and Often

Probably the second most important tip I can give outside of #1 is hydrating well and often. I have made countless mistakes in not intaking the proper fluid in my marathons. I waited until I was thirsty to start drinking and this is far too late.

Running 26.2 miles is something you can do, but your body has to be hydrated or your muscle function will not be working at full capacity and you will quickly succumb to fatigue.

Grab a couple cups at the aid stations as you pass by them. Stop and walk briefly and take the time to drink down the entire content of the cups. Your body will thank you for it as you enter in the later stages of the race.

Don’t worry about getting a cramp. I have done this many times and never experienced it. What I did experience was a headache that I gave myself by worrying too much about it.

We do this all the time, worrying about things that never happen. The quickest way to finishing a marathon is drinking properly and often so that our bodies do not overheat and become dehydrated. So important!

Increase Mileage Slowly

Don’t be in a rush. If your first marathon is 3 months down the road then take your time in building your fitness. There should never be a rush. You really only need 10-12 weeks to fully prepare to run a marathon and often times, even less.

If you have never run a marathon and wonder how on earth you are going to go from never running a step in your life to completing 26.2 consecutive miles, you have to have a long-term approach.

Start running your first week with only 10 miles. Run 2 miles a day, 5 days out of the week and the other two days just stretch.

It can be that simple and build your mileage from that. Expect to be sore early on but don’t let it hinder your confidence.

I promise you, give yourself the benefit of the doubt and you’ll soon be running 10 mile runs without a problem. I don’t care if your overweight or don’t consider yourself a runner. You can do this but you have to do it intelligently with care in how you approach the preparation.

Enjoy The Experienceprogression running

Nothing great was ever done without that individual enjoying what their doing. I know my strengths as a runner and athlete. It is what God gave me the ability do well and somehow take the pain of doing with a joyful heart.

I see others in the military enjoy doing things that I see as completely mad. Who would want to spend 10 days out doing military field exercises or stay up until 2am in the morning doing military plans and operations?

I will tell you who.

Someone who has learned to love and enjoy what they do. I relate to the people I work around in the same way as it relates to my own expertise with fitness and running. You have to have the joy or find joy in uncomfortable activities if you are to excel.

Do not get weighed down by times you want to run, feelings of uncertainty that running a marathon is just too difficult.

You can learn to like and eventually enjoy the sport but you have to be patient and take your time.

Listen To Music

I do not wear an iPod when I race but I do wear one during my easy and long runs. I have found running with some music to be extremely helpful on days where my own motivation is running low.

I have done runs as early as 2am and having music playing has got me over the hump of rising so early.

The majority of marathons around the world permit runners to wear their iPods which is a great way to get you to the finish line of your first marathon. I am certainly an advocate of listening to music as you run.

Some of the worlds fastest marathoners wear headphones in training. You may never see them wear them in a race but they do wear them in training.

They are a great way for runners to get through the tough mental blocks that pop up from time to time during the duration of a marathon.

This could certainly be exactly what you need as your running in your first marathon. Food for thought.

Never Underestimate Your Ability

You came to the right site, the right post because I will not allow or permit anyone visiting this site to underestimate their ability.

From today on, running a marathon IS a goal you WILL reach. You will exceed your expectations.

When I was in college and had never run a marathon I ‘considered’ running one in the future but wasn’t sure I had that capability. I had run all through high school and was a junior in college.

I had run a 1.11.44 half-marathon in a time trial my coach had set up for us to try to qualify for the NAIA National Marathon Championships. I needed a 1.15.00 to qualify.

I ran well under the time but never ran it, regret it ever since.

marathonbeginnerPatience is everything

I saw running the then-Olympic Trials Marathon standard time of 2.22.00 as humanely possible, but was unsure I was capable of putting not only one 1.11.00 half-marathon (faster than I had ever run) but two back-to-back half’s to qualify together.

You have to always believe in yourself. I can’t stress the importance of this. Doubting yourself is a complete waste of precious time and energy you could devote to your preparation.

If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think. – Tim Ferriss

I hope you can take away some of this advise and use it in your preparation to run your first marathon. I look forward to hearing your story.

You have all the capability in the world to run and finish your very first 26.2 mile . Take your time, enjoy the experience and don’t be afraid of the distance!

Think of it as a 26.2 mile journey that countless supporters out along the course will help you get through.

Volunteers out on the marathon course are some of the most caring and considerate people you will ever meet. Embrace their support and get to the finish line as the champion you already are.

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