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Five Things to Know Before You Run a Marathon

Tips from a marathon finisher in training for two other marathons

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels
Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels

While running a marathon could seem like a crazy idea for many people, it’s something that most of us can do given proper training, willingness to go an extra mile (pun intended) and positive, can-do attitude.

For someone who is relatively new to running, thinking about conquering a full marathon distance is still something that makes my heart quiver. But as someone who’s done it once already, I wanted to share a few tips that helped me cross the marathon finish line and have been my bread and butter during this training season as I’m getting ready to run Absolute Moscow Marathon in September and TCS NYC Marathon in November.

Think Positively: You may have heard that running is less of a physical sport, but rather a mental one. Our bodies are built to be strong and our legs can carry us for 26.2 miles and beyond, without a doubt, however, it is our mind  (or the inner critic inside) that may limit us from crossing that coveted finish line. My friends have heard me say: “If I could run a marathon, anyone else can!” and truly believe in this. Try focusing less on how hard and challenging it may be. Instead, think about how amazing you will feel once you do it (spoiler alert – it’s an exhilarating feeling!).

Be Patient: Nothing happens overnight and running a marathon isn’t an exception.If you’ve ever tried learning a foreign language, you know that it takes time to get the hang of the vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. But you have your end goal in mind – speak and understand a new language – and you take gradual steps toward it. It’s similar with running: start small by running a few 5K or 10K races, continue building your strength and endurance and allow your body some time to adjust to the new “language” before you embark on your long-distance journeys.

Stay Consistent: Practice makes it perfect and practicing consistently will really make wonders to your running performance. I found in my training that working out 4-5 days a week helps you maintain good balance – it gives your body the challenge it needs but at the same time it gives you a few days to socialize with friends, go to concerts or just spend your evenings watching TV or doing nothing at all. It’s also been helpful for me to diversify my workouts and add spinning and core training on top of running for a well-rounded routine.

Develop a Timeline: As we discussed previously, being ready for a marathon doesn’t happen overnight, but what are the telltale signs that you’re on the right track and will be ready in time for a big day? Thinking strategically about your race and doing so ahead of time is key. Map out the days that you may be away during your training period or days that you may not be available to workout, schedule your long runs in advance so that you can allocate enough time to complete them without feeling rushed or trying to juggle multiple things on those days, include all smaller races that you may be running as part of your training into a bigger picture. Whether your training is six months or twelve weeks, planning all of the details in advance will help you stay focused, less stressed and more efficient.

Work with a Running Coach: You may know your body well, but finding a coach who can seamlessly guide your through your running journey may be a game changer. If it’s your first marathon, you may have many questions but not all of the answers so partnering with an expert who’s not only experienced in long-distance running but also a certified physical trainer can help you advance in your training faster and achieve your running goals. They will work with you on overcoming any obstacles that you may be facing on your running journey, maximizing your training time and energy for the best outcome.  I was fortunate to work with a coach for 2.5 months leading up to TCS NYC Marathon 2018 – we aligned on an aggressive goal that I was able to meet with consistent, injury-free training, healthy nutrition leading up to a race and confidence that everything is possible. Thanks to modern technologies and digital tools, we’ve done all coaching sessions remotely through phone calls and the Training Peaks app, making training less time consuming, flexible and affordable.

Marathon training is very personal and the way you may approach it depends on so many different factors, including your health condition, work schedule, and personal priorities and obligations, among others. However, once you make a decision to run a marathon distance and set your mind to cross the finish line, you’re already halfway there. Think about it as a journey rather than a destination and as the saying goes, “Nothing is impossible to a willing heart.”

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