Getting Over Your First 26-Mile Finish Line

As we approach three of the largest Marathons in the United States taking place this fall in our own metropolitan areas, New York City, D.C., and Philadelphia, with only a 6 month countdown until the Boston Marathon, the excitement grows for returners and newcomers taking on these 26-mile challenges. It is a dream for many of us to join these newcomers and multiple-timers as they complete one of these hugely popular courses across the U.S. The sense of accomplishment, months of training and self-discipline, along with the support of family and friends through the journey, makes this an extremely rewarding experience.

Signing up for your first marathon can be more easily said than done… but it’s totally worth it! And more and more runners are taking on marathons as their first race. If you’ve been storing it away on your bucket list, or have even slightly considered participating but can’t imagine it ever possible, we crafted a few tips to make the journey seem a little less intimidating…

Time Frame: Give yourself the proper amount of time for preparation. According to Runner’s World, marathon runners should give themselves about 20 weeks for optimal training, to allow for wiggle room for unexpected events or needed recovery. Experienced runners or “multi-marathon per-year” runners, of course, will need less time to prepare.

Training Groups: Find a fun group of runners in your city to push yourself along the way. For those of us who have a hard time running alone, there are plenty of groups that vary in distance and pace to motivate you to stay on track. It can even be a good option to create your own with people in your area and build a schedule that fits your groups level. Meetup is an awesome resource to discover and create marathon training groups.

Make a Schedule: Sticking to a proper schedule will ensure you are training your body correctly and allowing for the right recovery period. Active provides a training schedule for marathon beginners over 12 weeks with a 12 week “preamble” to get you started, if you have time to get started sooner. According to Verywell, experienced runners may be able to complete proper training in 12 weeks, however most runners will take closer to 18-22. They provide a number of marathon schedules for both beginner and intermediate runners.

Nutrition Plan: The proper diet is key to preparing your body for race day and keeping your body healthy through training. There are resources from sites like Training Peaks that will help create personalized nutrition plans to guide you through your entire training period. The race day is HUGE as well, and making sure you’re loading up on the right carbs is important. Here is a list of good race day foods by Runner’s World that will give you the right amount of energy for race day.

Announce it: Sharing your commitment with friends, posting on Facebook, or blogging about your journey, will keep you motivated and help hold yourself accountable to your peers, while also finding extra support along the way. Using social media is also an excellent way to connect with other fellow rookies and veteran runners to share ideas, tips and personal challenges.

Fundraise: Running for a cause may be just what you need to get yourself on board and have a great reason to run. As many of you know, that’s actually the only way to get registered for the Boston Marathon without having previous race times, but this is not the only race that hosts charities. Being sponsored can be an awesome way to raise money and support a charity you connect with, while meeting a great group of other runners on your team.

Invest in the Right Gear: Lastly, making sure you have the proper gear before you start conditioning is key to maximizing your training as well as for avoiding strain and injury. For novice marathon runners, this most likely means investing in a new pair of shoes or two, a hydration belt, a distance tracking device and comfortable athletic wear.

Marathon ready?! Look out for first-time racer blogs and their personal experiences on here. Tag us at #citysportsrunners to tell us your story!

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