This post contains affiliate links, any of the links with an asterisk* means I get a small portion if you purchase or sign up using that link.
No one said running a marathon would be easy (because it’s definitely not). However, I wish someone had told me about the mental preparation, lifestyle changes, and “runner gear” I would need to complete my training. (Thank goodness for Pinterest and the many helpful articles from Competitor Running)
Whether you’re still deciding if you want to run a marathon or you’ve already started your training, here are a few things I learned from my experience.
20 Things I Learned While Training for a Marathon
- Invest in quality shoes. There’s a reason this is #1. I would strongly suggest getting a gait analysis, if you haven’t already, at your local sporting goods store to analyze your stride, pronation, and proper shoe type. Having the right shoe is imperative for completing the longer distances and preventing injury.
- Break up your training plan. My coach broke out the 16 week plan into 4-week increments. It was much easier for me to focus on 4 weeks at a time rather than worrying about the longer distances ahead.
- Incorporate Hills & Speed Intervals into your training. It’s a love/hate relationship but you will be thankful come race day when your body is able to fight through fatigue thanks to your training.
- Never make up a missed run. If you are injured or if life just gets in the way and you have to miss a training run, it’s OK — it happens. Rest and get back to your normal training schedule.
- Eat to Run. Don’t Run to Eat. I love running because it gives me that “I just ran 10 miles, I’ll eat whatever I want” feeling. When training for a marathon, I had to slightly adjust this philosophy. Nutrition before and after a run plays a significant role in performance and recovery. (This doesn’t mean I said no to a breakfast burrito but I did limit my weeknight froyo binges and lessened my dairy intake)
- Have a mantra and repeat it to yourself throughout the run. I used “You are stronger with every mile” and “Run with your heart not your head”.
- Dedicate your run to someone. It will help you push through the miles and pain when you are running for someone other than yourself.
- Break up your longer runs into manageable distances. For example, instead of thinking “I have to run 18 miles today”, try thinking of it as 3 five mile runs and 1 three mile run or 4 four mile runs and a 2 mile run. After you finish each set, tell yourself you are starting a whole new run and don’t think about all the miles that have passed or the miles you have ahead.
- Stretch, Foam Roll, Elevate & Ice. I cannot stress this enough. This will help prevent injury and aid in proper recovery. (I foam rolled at least twice/day during training and iced my feet/knees almost nightly)
- *Salt tabs work miracles for preventing muscle cramps on the longer training runs especially during the peak of summer. I took one every hour during my longer runs.
- Use your longer runs as practice drills for the big race. Determine how often to hydrate, when to take energy gels/chews, what to wear, where you need to apply *BodyGlide, etc.
- Use BodyGlide everywhere. Seriously, apply it to your armpits, legs, knees, sports bra lining, boobs, and butt cheeks (you think I’m kidding but you’ll thank me later). No one wants to shower after chafing.
- Hydrate with a sports drink that has electrolytes during your longer runs and after most runs. I love *Nuun tablets and Osmo hydration packets.
- Keep a journal of your progress. If you are mentally struggling with the training, it will help to go back and look at where you were when you started, how many miles you’ve run since, and how much you’ve overcome.
- Join a running group or schedule running dates with a friend! I used to only run alone but once I started running 30-40 miles a week, it helped to break up some of that alone time by running with a friend. It also makes the miles go by a lot faster!
- Don’t give up your social life. I’m by no means suggesting that you go out the night before a training run but It’s tempting to say “no, I have to run” or “no, I’m tired since I just ran 18 miles this morning”. Practice balance by running in the morning so you can make dinner after work or napping after a long run so you can go to the movies later in the night.
- Rest on your rest days. It’s easy to convince yourself to go to yoga or Pilates on a rest day but resist the urge (I’m guilty). Your body will be going through a lot of stress during training and it’s important that you respect it and give yourself time to fully heal.
- *Compression socks are magical. They help limit swelling in your legs and feet which helps increase blood flow to your muscles. I used them during my long runs and put a clean pair on for recovery (I even slept in them post marathon…).
- Practice running without music. This will help you pay closer attention to your performance, your breathing, and your surroundings. There’s so much excitement on race day, you’ll want to listen to the crowds cheering you on.
- Trust your training. You have a plan for a reason and though injuries may pop up or life may get in the way, you have to have trust in the process and give it everything you’ve got. Trust your training and you will cross that finish line.