Once you have made the commitment to do a marathon, you have set in motion a series of events that will take you on an incredible journey. You will be tested physically, mentally, emotionally and perhaps even spiritually.
While this is your own personal adventure to navigate, rest assured that thousands more have done the same. You can use their experience as your road map. As a coach who has helped countless athletes reach the finish line, I am going to let you in on one simple secret for your preparation: take baby steps.
Dream Big, Execute Small
It’s easy to spend the initial part of your marathon journey—the weeks after signing up—thinking about the race. But alternating between finish-line daydreams of elation and late-race nightmares of cramps does absolutely nothing to prepare you for the big day.
Your dreams have pushed you to sign up, but now it’s time to replace the big-picture goals with some fundamental steps. Just as race day is thousands of footsteps from the start to the finish, your training should be, too.
"Overexcited is only a few workouts away from being overtrained."
Why be so granular?
Because year after year, new runners overdo it in training to the point where their races are either total disasters or non-events.
Your experience doesn’t have to be the same. Here are some key incremental steps you can work into your overall training to be ready for the marathon when the big day finally arrives.
1: Find the Right Shoes
Before you can run, you need shoes—proper shoes. Don't do your first runs in the old pair you use to walk around in or mow the lawn. Find your local running store—bonus if they watch you walk/run before recommending a shoe—and then try on a bunch.
Bring your own socks (you might need to get some new ones), and be sure to ask what their return policy is … most are pretty liberal, given the online competition these days.
You might not pick the perfect shoes right away, but you have plenty of time to test them.
More: How to Pick the Right Running Shoes
2. Identify and Reserve Your Workout Window
Wanting to become a runner isn't enough; you need to create the time to work out. Schedule your runs at the start of your week. This ensures that you'll have the actual time to get the workouts done. The added bonus is taking a few minutes to review your week as a whole instead of just making a gut call at the start or end of your day.
More: Why Beginning Marathoners Should Use Training Logs