Many people want to say that they have run a marathon. It’s quite the achievement. However, whether you are an experienced runner or a beginner trying to get in shape, training for a marathon can be daunting. 26.2 miles is what many people would consider a long drive — let alone a run! 26.2 miles is challenging, yet thousands of people of various ages and ability, train for and complete marathons each year.
Before you sign up for the nearest marathon, keep in mind that training for a marathon is a process that requires time. A typical training plan lasts 16-20 weeks, or about 4-5 months, so make sure to give yourself enough time to train. For those who are beginner runners, the time to train may be even longer, but do not let that discourage you. Part of the reason why the training lasts so long is that it takes your body time to acclimate to running higher mileages; those who rush into too high of mileage too quickly may end up injuring themselves.
The best training plans don’t always consist solely of long jogs; instead, a strong training plan will mix long runs with shorter and faster runs to help improve form, stamina, and speed before the big race.
A tricky part in training for a marathon is figuring out the ideal pace for the distance. Most runners have an idea of their pace for some traditional shorter distances, such as their pace for 1 mile or a 5k, but what makes training for a marathon so tricky is that you are often running distances that are longer than anything you’ve ever run before, so you are more unsure of the pacing. Fortunately, there are many pacing guides, such as this one created by Nike or this one created by trainer Jeff Galloway.
One aspect of marathon training that is typically overlooked is ensuring the correct amount of rest days and the right routine for them. As a general rule of thumb, most plans will start with having 2-3 rest days for the first few weeks of a training plan before decreasing to 1-2 rest days as the training picks up closer to race day. What is done during a rest day is extremely important to help stave off injury. Yale Medicine estimates that “at least 50 percent of regular runners get hurt each year,” and if you are training for a marathon, you most certainly would be deemed a “regular runner.” It may sound counterintuitive, but on a “rest” day, it is critical to keep moving in a slightly different capacity. Examples of beneficial rest day activities include yoga, stretching, light swimming, and foam rolling.
Other important questions to ask yourself before you start training for a marathon are “Am I running to meet a certain time” or “am I running for completion”? Common advice given to first-time marathon runners is to just focus on completing the race, and then focus on meeting a specific time at their next marathon. If you are more experienced and looking to hit a certain time, then check out some pacing guides and adjust based on your own times.
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