Whether you're an experienced or new runner, running 26.2 miles for the first time can seem overwhelming. The marathon, however, isn't only reserved for skilled, experienced runners. With proper planning, a positive outlook and adequate training, even beginners can cross the marathon finish line; these tips will get you going.
Find a Coach or Training Plan
If you're a new runner, a certified running coach can help you develop proper form and assess your fitness level. A coach can also create a safe, attainable training plan for you that builds mileage gradually and incorporates adequate rest and recovery.
A coach-led running group is another fantastic resource to help you develop a training plan, and find training buddies in your area.
If you're looking for motivation or want to run for a cause, there are a number of charity groups you can join such as Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training (TNT). For the last 25 years, TNT has helped individuals of all athletic abilities prepare for endurance events and raise money for charity. Check their website to find a running group in your area.
Start off Slowly and Increase Your Mileage Gradually
Marathon training shouldn't be one size fits all. Whether training by yourself or with a group, make sure your plan is reasonable and accommodates your personal fitness level.
Just because a marathon is 26.2 miles doesn't mean you will be running 20 miles a day during training. Find a plan with a gradual buildup so you're not overexerting yourself and risking injury.
Think about how you can fit running into your lifestyle. If you can make training seem less like an obligation and balance your time for workouts, work and family, you'll have a better chance at being successful and enjoying the process.
"Many beginners assume they have to run every day and run a lot of miles, but they may not run 26.2 miles until the day of the race," TNT running coach Kelly Flynn says. "When I give people a training plan, I make sure they understand it's just a guide and they need to figure out the best way to fit training into their lives."
Focus on Finishing
The focus for new runners should be on finishing the race and the significant accomplishment involved in doing so, rather than dwelling on their performance or time.
"We want to make sure beginners finish in relative comfort," Flynn says. "It's important that they enjoy the experience and don't get injured."
If you're training with a group, remember that everyone has a different fitness level; try not to compete with or compare yourself to others.
"Everyone's an individual," Flynn says. "The most discouraging thing is going out on day one and you can barely do 3 miles, but the person next to you is doing it with ease. Just because something works for somebody else doesn't mean it's going to work for you."