WENDY WINN, FOUNDER OF CUSTOM PERFORMANCE
FIRST TIME MARATHONER JUMPING OFF POINTS
“Hey, Wendy! I just signed up for my first marathon!! EEEK! Do you think I can do it? Am I crazy?”
Well, “Yes and yes.”
It’s true. I think most people can run a marathon. I think we have more grit than we know inside.
Are you crazy? Also yes. But in a good way. You need a little flavor of crazy to make it through training.
“Where do I begin?”
Let’s get a few things straight:
Running a marathon is a lifestyle change. (As opposed to say running a half or 5k, which is a “race.”)
While the marathon is hard, the hardest part is the TRAINING. The race itself is filled with water and fuel stops, spectators, and adrenaline; it’s the party you came for. It’s the slogging through 18-mile training runs solo in the summer heat around your neighborhood that will be far less glamorous.
You have to know your WHY. And, it has to be a real juicy “why,” not just “because my friend is running a marathon.” Why the why? Because it has to be meaningful. Marathon training is tough stuff and you need to remind yourself nearly daily why you are doing it.
Mantras: At Custom Performance, we practice mantra creation all the time for marathoners. You’ve got to be your own coach and cheerleader during a marathon and you have to give those voices scripts.
I believe all first-time marathoners (unless you have other distance running experience), should do a Run/Walk program! Sound lame? No way. The goal of training to run for 4+ hours is to train yourself to physically be on your feet propelling yourself forward. A run/walk program allows you to stay on your feet for a long time by building in walk intervals. Your run interval is longer than your walk one. Oftentimes, even a 5, 6, or 7:1 interval is a great place to start. It rarely negatively affects your time, because you are only walking for a minute. Trust me! This brings us to:
FOLLOW A “TO FINISH/ BEGINNER” PROGRAM
You are not an intermediate marathoner if you are a true beginner. Don’t be a hero; you’ll just get injured or overtrained and it will be too hard to even get to the starting line. In marathon training, your ego is your enemy.
RECOVERY AND NUTRITION
Marathon training is a lifestyle that includes: a good amount of sleep, tons of food, and time off of your feet. Recovery for your body is the number one way to prevent injury.
Nutrition is absolutely essential. What does this mean? It means you have to get used to consuming calories while you are running and also consuming a considerable amount more to recover. An old rule of thumb (not applicable to everyone) is to consume 100-150 calories per mile run ON TOP OF your normal daily consumption. Example: You’ll require about 1,000 more the day of a 10-mile run. Yes, really. Also, low-carb diets are not a possibility for successful endurance running. Carbohydrates are fuel for running, along with proteins and fats for recovery.
Time off your feet is essential to rest your legs.
Sleep is God’s gift of recovery to humans.
MOBILITY, STRENGTH AND SOFT TISSUE WORK
You need to know how to “stretch”, albeit a warm-up or cool down because your muscles, tendons, and joints are working HARD.
I highly recommend a gait analysis to anyone who is going to begin training. A FULL body gait analysis, not just your feet. You can see any outstanding weaknesses in your gait that will no doubt become problems after several hours of running.
Most long-distance runners will become injured at some point. We all have weaknesses and need to work on them with strength exercises to prevent further injury.
Foam rollers and self-massage tools are great for the self-management of tight and sore muscles.
SHOES AND GEAR
Your shoes should support your feet and provide enough shock absorption needed to run on a road (if that is where you will be running). You should buy two pairs of the same shoes for marathon training and switch to the newer ones closer to the race (2-3 weeks out). Running shoes should be half to a full size bigger than street shoes. Your feet will swell with running.
You’ll need body glide or a similar product to prevent chafing.
You’ll need clothing you can feel comfortable running in and can layer, and you need to be able to carry fuel on your body with your clothing (via a belt, vest, or pockets)
Pick your socks early and stay training in them. Body glide your feet to prevent blisters.
HYDRATION, HEAT, AND ELECTROLYTE MANAGEMENT
You must drink water before and during a race to ensure hydration.
Similarly, you must be aware of electrolytes: the most important is sodium, but also potassium and magnesium. If you are training and sweating, you will be losing sodium. Losing sodium can result in cramping and decreased muscle firing. Oftentimes I recommend salt packets to replenish and you will practice with these on long runs. Magnesium and potassium also must be replenished after a run.
Heat increases perceived exertion and sweat rate. You must always take caution to avoid overexertion in the heat, so you don’t get a heat stroke and have a medical emergency. Similarly, be aware that water and salt intake will need to be higher as your sweat rate increases.
Stop running and cool your temperature down with ice (water, bath) and shade if you begin to feel too hot, dizzy, or disoriented.
ELIMINATE THE EXPECTATION OF PERFECTION
NO TRAINING PROGRAM OR RACE WILL EVER GO 100% ACCORDING TO PLAN
This is a fact so believe it now 🙂
You’ll need to talk with your coach about your fears, motivators, and mottos. You can then develop not only a plan for training but a plan for race day. This plan will include not only plans A, B, and C but several contingency plans
OK GREAT, WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
- Look at a training plan. I usually recommend Jeff Galloway’s beginner “to finish” run/walk program.
- Apply it to your calendar immediately. Got a wedding on the 17th? Great. Figure out how you are going to work in your 15-mile run that week with appropriate recovery.
- Buy shoes, socks, and gear and start using them to make sure they work for you.
- Start investigating fueling (electrolytes, glucose, AND food). The quicker you learn to eat while running, the more successful you will potentially be at avoiding the wall.
- Purchase some of those items and test them on shorter runs (see the idea here?)
- Get a coach or accountability partner. You need a support system to run a marathon!
- Buy a foam roller and stretch strap.
- Get your running form looked at as well as recommendations for strength and mobility based on YOUR BODY!
- Assess your training every day to see how you can improve (recovery, hydration, nutrition, sleep, etc.)
Good luck. You can do it!