Congratulations on wanting to be in the elite company or marathon runners—an exclusive club that includes less than 1% of the world’s 7 billion people. But now what?
There is significantly more to running a marathon than simply strapping on a pair of Mizunos and running like you’re late for the red-eye to New York. It takes specific training in order to build up endurance and, more importantly, to prevent injury. To help make the marathon-learning process easier, we’ve put together an easy 8-step guide to marathon training.
Step 1: Build a Fit Base
You have to learn to walk before you can run. Build a solid fitness base by beginning endurance training with some type of aerobic activity be it running, biking or swimming. Begin with 30 minutes and then increase that over time. Throughout this base-building process you should consult with a medical professional to ensure that your body is in ideal condition for this type of training. You should also implement a simple and complex carbohydrate-based diet for proper fuel to keep your endurance up.
Step 2: Get the Gear
Having the proper running gear will not only make you more comfortable and boost your motivation—it can also prevent injury. Most importantly, buy a good pair of shoes that address any pronation or supination issues.
Step 3: Run
Just start running. Figure out what feels comfortable and “run” with that.
Step 4: Find a Support Network
Marathon running is hard. You know that. It is likely part of the reason why you chose to do it. In order to not be discouraged by how far you can’t run to begin with, create a network of support. This support can come in the form of a running partner or running group/club. The more experienced the runners you can align yourself with, the better.
Step 5: Run Mini Marathons
Remember when we said walk before you run? Before you do a 26-mile marathon, start out with a smaller run. Many cities host local fun runs that are under 6 miles. Once you’ve got one or two mini marathons under your belt, move on to a half marathon (about 13 miles).
Step 6: Pick Your Marathon
When you’ve worked your way up to a half marathon, begin planning your big event. You need to choose your marathon event ahead of time in order to give yourself time to finish your training. Ideally you will want to give yourself at least four or five months. When selecting your marathon, be aware of terrain, weather and altitude.
Step 7: Create a Marathon Training Plan
Work backwards by figuring out how many weeks you have until the event and how many miles you need to add to your endurance. For example, if you have 18 weeks to jump from 8 to 26 miles you need to boost your endurance by one mile per week. After doing the math, figure out whether this is an attainable goal based on how quickly you gained endurance thus far.
Step 8: Run It
As it gets close to the event, start making plans for a carb-rich diet days before the event and cut out your runs in the days before your marathon. Also, make post-run plans that include how to get home (don’t drive), and stay warm. And don’t forget to replenish your fluids and fuel!