0.5% of Americans have run a marathon, and there are more than 570 marathons in the United States each year.
If you've had a marathon on your bucket list for some time, now's the time to do it. While training for a marathon isn't easy, the sense of achievement you'll feel is well worth it.
The more prepared you are for your marathon, the more you'll enjoy it. Read on to learn everything you need to know about training for a marathon, eating for a marathon, keeping yourself injury-free, and enjoying the process.
Before you start training, it's important to get specific about why you want to run a marathon. After all, these reasons will help keep you motivated even when you're tired, the weather is bad, or you just plain don't feel like running.
Here are just a few reasons to run a marathon:
The marathon is often known as the mother of all races. When you conquer this distance, you'll feel like you could do anything. When times are tough, you can remind yourself that you've run 26.2 miles. That takes commitment, and mental fortitude- meaning your self-confidence will be through the roof.
Training for a marathon will strengthen your heart, grow your muscles, and increase your endurance. You're likely to notice that you can't run as well when you eat junk, and you're likely to end up in the best shape of your life.
It can be challenging to make friends as an adult. But the running community is incredibly diverse, welcoming, and tight-knit. Once you've committed to running a marathon, you can reach out to your local community of runners. You're likely to find someone to train with, and shouldn't be surprised if you make some lasting friends at the same time.
There are also several other benefits you can expect, including:
These are just some of the reasons why people choose to run a marathon. Make a list of all of the reasons that apply to you, so you can look at it when you're not sure if you really want to put on your running shoes.
Even if you've never been a 'runner,' it's completely possible to train for a marathon. The first step is to train for a 5km. If you've never run a 5km before, you can treat this like a mini-marathon.
There are some excellent apps you can use to gradually build up to a 5km. This involves walking and running for alternate periods so you can build up your fitness. Check out Couch to 5k or Run5k- both of which can help you get a base level of fitness.
Of course you can always join our 30 Day Running Challenge to get you started too.
By the time you finish these programs, you should be running for around 30 minutes three times a week. From there, you can train for your marathon by using the following steps:
One of the first things you'll need to do is consider what you're eating. Nutrition is a massive part of running, and your body will need the right combination of nutrients to run and recover efficiently.
This includes macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fat. It also includes micronutrients like vitamins (vitamin a, d, e, k, c, and b-complex vitamins) and minerals like zinc, iron, copper, sodium, magnesium, and iodine.
You can get enough macro and micronutrients by eating a balanced diet which includes plenty of colorful vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and fruits.
Before you run, eat a low-fiber, high-carb meal at least three hours before you run. An hour before you run, eat some carbs like a bagel, pancakes, or a waffle (aim for 50 grams of carbs).
For runs lasting over an hour, you'll probably need energy gels, Gatorade, or energy chews which will help you stay fueled.
After your run, eat a mix of protein and carbs within 30 to 60 minutes after you finish. Protein helps you repair your muscles, while carbs restock your energy (glycogen) stores.
While running is one of the cheapest ways to exercise, you'll still need to invest in some gear. Unless you want to be washing your running clothes several times a week, you'll need at least four outfits that can be used for running.
Look for material that wicks away sweat. Aim for clothes that can be layered so you can stay comfortable no matter what time of the year you're training in.
Most importantly, go to a specialty running store. Ask them to analyze your form so you can choose the best shoe. Investing in the right shoe for your foot type can often be the difference between finishing your marathon strong and dropping out of your training program with an injury.
When training for your first marathon, your aim should be to train just enough that you can complete a marathon, but not so much that you get injured.
You'll also need to make sure you get enough sleep. You may notice that you sleep more deeply than usual, especially after your long runs. Try not to plan late nights before you have your long run, and don't overload your schedule while you're training, so you have enough time to rest.
You'll need to gradually increase your mileage and incorporate recovery and rest into your training program. Rotate your hard workouts with easy days, and have at least one day a week with no exercising at all.
You'll have one long run each week, and you should increase your weekly mileage by 10% each week. Your long run should be increased by one mile each week up to 10 miles, and then two by two miles.
You should also incorporate cross-training into your marathon schedule. One day a week, do a form of aerobic exercise that uses different muscles. This could be cycling, swimming, or even walking. You can also combine exercises, like riding an exercise bike at the gym and then hitting the pool.
Strength training is hugely important when you're training for a marathon. That's because you'll often lose your lean muscle tissue when training for a marathon. A good strength training program can help you stay strong.
You should schedule your strength training on days without long runs. For new runners, these workouts should ideally be on days when you're not running at all. Strengthening your glutes, hips, and core can help improve your running form and correct muscle imbalances, which will help prevent injuries.
The idea of running a marathon is exciting, but it's natural to feel like the day-to-day training is a grind- particularly when you're in the middle of your training program.
Use metal training strategies like meditation, visualization, and reframing any negative thoughts. If possible, find a race buddy you can train with so you can keep each other motivated. If not, use your long runs as a 'treat,' where you can enjoy some 'me time.' Download an audiobook you've been dying to listen to, create an awesome playlist, or use these runs as a chance to explore a new part of your city.
It's hugely important that you taper off before race day. This allows you to recover from all of the training you've been doing, which means you'll have peak energy and performance on race day. It also allows various hormones, antioxidants, metabolic enzymes, and glycogen stores to return to their optimal ranges.
This doesn't mean that you'll completely stop training, but you will cut back in the last few weeks leading up to the race. This will allow your immune system to improve, minimizing fatigue, and ensuring you feel rested and ready for race day.
Your tapering will begin as soon as you complete your last long run. This will usually be somewhere between 20 and 23 miles. You'll reduce the volume of your training mileage each week. You'll also cut down your long run.
Cut out your cross-training, drop down to lower weights for strength training, and continue light stretching and abdominal exercises. During the first week of tapering, increase protein for muscle repair. During your entire taper period, reduce your fat intake and increase complex carbs. Make sure you drink enough fluids and decrease caffeine and alcohol consumption.
Training for a marathon is an exciting time in your life. Don't be surprised if you get addicted to that feeling of crossing the finish line. With the above tips, you'll be able to train healthily, reducing your chance of injury and ensuring you feel fresh and ready on race day.
Need some stylish, comfortable running clothes for your training? Check out our store today for a wide variety of shirts, hoodies, running belts, and more.
As runners, we’re lucky. We don’t require expensive equipment or special sports pitches to practice our favorite form of exercise. Plus, it’s free!
What we do appreciate are a few things: a mild climate, plentiful routes, tracks and trails, a supportive local community of runners and perhaps some company.
Ever wondered where in the U.S offer these wonderful qualities and are the best cities for runners? Well, now you do.