Training for your First Marathon: Respect the race
As spring and summer start to get underway here in Richmond, my mind starts thinking about fall races. With the thought of fall races naturally comes the marathon. If you’ve just started running or even have been running for a while, you may have the goal to run a marathon: it’s an exciting goal to have!
However, there’s several things to keep in mind when training for a marathon, especially if it’s your first. I’ll walk you through three things that are necessary to keep in mind and then touch briefly on how we help runners here at Endorphin Fitness.
Respect the distance
The marathon is not a distance you can fake your way through. 26.2 miles of a high impact sport such as running is going to end poorly if you decide to show up at the start line without training. If you like setting long term goals, and you like training, this is great news! Let’s talk through some aspects of this.
First of all, it’s important that you nail your long run during training. There’s a debate whether runners should go over 20 miles in training, or if there’s a fixed mileage. There’s a general rule of thumb, though, and that is there’s not a huge amount of training benefit running over two and a half hours for the long run.
This is going to be a distance that’s much different for someone that runs a seven minute mile versus a ten minute mile. But the time remains the same: we typically keep our runners (with few exceptions) under two and a half hours for the long run in training.
Secondly, get comfortable at this distance. Don’t just go out for one long run and assume that will carry you through race day. Go for a few runs clocking in at around two and a half hours (at the appropriate time in your training block and with an appropriate taper).
Respect the pace
At the end of your training, you’re likely coming off of several weeks of high weekly mileage at the end of your training block. If you taper your mileage, intensity, and frequency appropriately, you’re probably going to feel amazingly fresh on race day. That’s how you want to feel! However, and this can’t be stated enough, you’re going to be running for 26.2 miles!
You need to start at a pace that is possible to maintain across the entire race. This is not going to be your 5k, 10k, or even half marathon pace. My coach typically has me take even 5 to 10 seconds off my pace up to the last 10k, knowing that if I can stay fresh for those last 6 miles, I can make that time back up and finish strong. It’s good race strategy and good pace strategy.
This is something that many marathon training plans may miss, and why having a running coach is crucial. An “off the shelf” plan may give you a progression that generally works for most people. However, a coach can give you an objective look at how your pace is progressing, where your form is going into race day, and recommend that final pace you’ll need to finish strong when you run your first marathon.
Respect your belly
The final aspect to take into consideration is nutrition. You’re going to be out on the race course for several hours- you need to take nutrition into account.
On your training runs, make sure you dial in your fluids, gels, and whatever you are going to eat on race day. This involves figuring out what settles well in your stomach. When we train, we’re not only training our bodies physically and gaining strength in training, we’re also training our stomachs to be able to process nutrition.
You may need to carry nutrition with you. If you’re sensitive to certain types of food, you may even be working with a nutritionist to design something custom for your race. However, even if you’re eating what’s on the course, make sure you know what will be offered and “acclimate” yourself to that food.
However you decide to fuel, you’ll need to fuel. Check out coach Erin’s video on calorie intake for a rough idea of what you’ll need to ingest while running. But overall, find what works for you and stick to it. As coach Erin would tell you, one of the most important things about nutrition is to practice it and not assume it will work for you because it works for someone else.
We’re here to help!
If you’re looking at running your first marathon, or want to get started training for a more ambitious goal time for your next race, let’s talk! We’re experienced long distance runners here at Endorphin Fitness and would love to coach you through your first or your fastest finish. We do this by building a custom training plan for you and then coaching you through it.
Training plans are custom to the individual. They change based on lifestyle, based on the time you can train per week, based on injury history. They change based on what kind of goal you’re aiming at. All of those are taken into account when building out a custom training plan for you.
Some common aspects of almost all training plans, especially for marathons, are duration. We generally look at least 16, maybe even 20 weeks to get you ready for a strong race. All marathon training plans generally run through a process of establishing a base, building volume, then strength training. From there we’ll work at threshold to raise the pace, going above your marathon pace, then come back down to dial in your race pace.
All of these things are taken into account when designing you a custom plan, and these things take time. If you’re thinking about running your first marathon or you want to run your fastest marathon, let us know! We’d love to help you reach your goals.
What was it like when you ran your first marathon? How would you have changed your training program? Did you do any cross training or stick to just running? Leave a comment below and let’s chat! Alternatively, if you want to talk to me directly, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!