If you're a first time marathon runner, you've got a lot to think about. Your training will become your primary focus for the coming months, and you'll be thinking about your upcoming race and how to get ready for it every day. Here are 5 tips for a first time marathon runner that will help you best prepare for your big race.
The marathon your pick is almost as important as your training. You'll want to do a race that's on a date that gives you at least six to eight months to train. Training for a marathon isn't anything you want to rush. The most important thing is to complete the marathon injury free. Six to eight months gives you plenty of time to start slowly and build your endurance. It even gives you enough time to recover from any minor injuries you might sustain along the way.
In addition to the right date, you want to pick a marathon that has the right course for a beginner. Don't pick one that's too hilly or in the middle of the hottest part of the summer. You'll find plenty of marathons to fit your needs.
This applies to both the actual marathon and your training. Let's say you start your training in January. First, pick one day a week for your long day. This is the day you'll run the most miles. Depending on your level of running fitness, build to a long day of 16 miles within five to six weeks of starting your training. For example, if your current longest day is 4 miles, that should be the length of your first long day. Once you reach 16 miles, make your next long day 10 miles. Then alternate between 16 and 10 miles each week for the next 16 weeks, or through about May. Then, in June increase your mileage to 18 on your long day, dropping it back to 12, and then upping it to 20. After your first big 20 mile long day (congratulations, by the way!), drop your long day mileage back to 10, and then follow that with a long day of 20 miles the following week. Alternate between 20 and 10 mile long days until three weeks before your race. Three weeks before your race, your long day should be 10 miles. Two weeks before your race, your long day should be 12 miles.
A note on long days: take the day after your long day off from running. This will allow your body time to heal.
In addition to your long day, you should be running about 16 miles spread out across the other five days. The day before your long day should be a relatively easy day.
You'll want as few distractions as possible on race day. If it's an out of town marathon, then plan on staying at a vacation rental for maximum privacy. You'll also have the most control over your food when compared to a hotel, since vacation rentals have full kitchens.
Taper the week prior to the race and don't run at all two days before your race.
The day of the race, try to stay as relaxed as possible and remember your training, both what worked for you and what didn't. Don't try to change the way you run on the day of the marathon. Your goal should be to finish your first marathon in a solid time with no injuries.