Countless first time runners slog through months of hard work only to miss their marathon goal. It could be overtraining. It could be an injury. It could be waiting too long to get started. Whatever the cause, here are five key marathon tips that will make sure you arrive at the start line ready to have the run of your life.
Pick and Stick a Training Plan
While training for a marathon isn't rocket science, there has to be a method to the madness. From building up your mileage to inserting recovery periods, from identifying your longest run to managing the taper, there are quite a few bigger picture items that you'll need to manage.
As a beginner marathoner, most of this stuff isn't even on your radar...until it's too late. Many newbies are worried about picking the right shoes or trying to fit a workout into each day. Or they waste training time by just piggybacking on whatever their running buddies are doing that day. Finding and sticking with a quality training plan will improve your fitness and give you confidence to complete the marathon.
Get Fit For a Pair of Shoes
The absolute worst thing you can do as a newbie runner is to shop for your shoes online. Reach out to your local running network and find a good local running store; ideally a mom-and-pop operation. Have the salesperson watch you walk in bare feet and make some shoe suggestions. Take the shoes outside for a brief test drive (so wear active clothing and wash those stinky socks first!) and hopefully the salesperson can watch you there as well.
A great deal more goes into picking the right shoe outside of whether or not your foot will actually fit inside of it. There are foot width considerations, the dynamic motion of your foot as it lands (pronates/supinates/etc) as well as your natural gait and stride length. Having someone walk you through this process will go a long way toward identifying the proper shoe for you. It might not be perfect, but it will most certainly be better than what you find online by yourself.
Pick a Rest Day (or Two)!
Running is both fun and empowering. Yet few will acknowledge that it has a darker side...addiction! It's easy to fall in love with running; you look and feel better and early improvements are fast and furious. But too much of even a good thing can set you back.
Avoid falling into a daily running routine across all seven days, at least until you have been consistently running for three months. This will allow you to develop a better understanding of your personal running limits.
Until that time, however, rest is just as important as any single workout session. As a beginner you should consider two rest days, with at least one falling on the day after your longest run of the week. As you gain fitness and confidence, you can move to just one rest day a week (still after your longest run).