26 Things You Need to Know Before You Train For a Marathon: Part 1

I know, longest post title EVER.  But, it’s for a good cause.   I’ve been thinking through this whole marathon process a lot lately.  I know it’s nothing new.  People run marathons all the time.  People run ultra’s and 90 mile weeks.  I don’t.  I’m an average Joe, a good ole normal runner who has run A marathon and is about to run my second one this year.  I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned a few lovely things about this process.  So, if you are considering training for a marathon, here are some things you need to know.  26 tips is a lot, so we’ll break this up into two posts.  You can thank me for these later.

1.  Find a smart training plan and stick to it.  
Finding a training plan can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  Or several completely different needles to be exact.  There are so many to choose from.  How many days a week should you run? Should you cross train?  How high should your long run mileage go?  How many weeks should I train?  What on earth is my marathon goal pace???  I found myself wrestling with all of this the first time around.  This time, I decided to train smarter.  I read a book, adopted the methodology and went for it.  For the most part, I’ve stuck to this plan like glue.  If you haven’t tried Hanson’s, I highly recommend it. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back.  However, if this isn’t your cup of tea there are tons of options online.  Try to find a plan that builds gradually with your mileage, has enough running built in, and encourages different types of efforts on different days.  If you are curious about Hanson’s, see my review here. 
2.  Choose your race.
This may seem obvious, but it’s a necessary part of the process.  May I suggest a destination race if this is your first marathon??  Good, I just did.  It’s so much more fun to go somewhere and make a trip out of it.  Our first was the Napa Valley Marathon.  My hubby and I got away ALONE and spent an amazing weekend in wine country…where we couldn’t walk half the time.  Sounds romantic right?  We did have massages, but that was a necessary evil so we could sit down to pee and walk down stairs.  Anyway, there are TONS of awesome marathons in the US every year waiting for you to come experience them.  Check them out here.  Make sure you choose a time of year with a mild climate(unlike me who is about to run a marathon in the dead of winter) with mild to cooler temps, a manageable course(not too hilly but maybe not entirely flat.  Some elevation change is good for your body when you are running that far) in a place that you’d love to visit.  It makes the experience so much more memorable.  Next on my list is Chicago.   
We spent the day in San Francisco before heading to Napa..so pretty!

3.  Get your crew on board

This is really important.  Training for a marathon is a huge time suck.  You need your people in your corner.  It takes energy, time and sacrifice and you need a support crew but you also need the people close to you to be understanding of your crazy life for the next 16-18 weeks. 
4. Build a Base  
This is something I didn’t do the first time around.  I had knee surgery in August and turned right around 3(ok maybe 2) weeks later, started running and rehabbing and ran a marathon 6 months later…with an injury in my other knee.  Crazy.  So, this time around I spent the entire Spring/Summer building a training base.  This just means I found a comfortable weekly mileage(for me that’s 25-30 mpw) and stuck to it.  I went into marathon training with a solid running base and my body adapted beautifully.  I’m about 4 weeks out from my race having had no injuries or major issues.  

5. Buy a foam roller.  
Keep this bad boy in your house and use it before and especially after runs.  It’ll save your life along with STRETCHING! Yes, I’m yelling that at you.  It’s important people and could be the difference between injury and getting to the starting line healthy. 

6.  Know how to Hydrate
This may seem obvious but DRINK!!! Drink water and electrolyte replacements on a regular basis.  Not just surrounding long runs.  Get a great big 32 oz water bottle and carry it with you throughout the day.  This is important and something I need to be better out now that it’s cold.  But, coming from someone who dehydrates rapidly, I know how important this step is.  DO IT!!
7. Have the right gear
People say running is cheap.  Not true.  Well, not true if you’re me.  BUT, having the right gear is important.  Don’t let this picture scare you.  You won’t start out with this kind of crazy.  This is before a 16 mile run.  Start with baby steps.  Get fitted for the right shoes and go from there.  
8.  Learn to get up early.  

I’m not trying to tell you what to do, really.  But, if you are going to train for up to 18 weeks you will need to be flexible on when you run.  It may not be practical for you to run at your “normal” time every day.  More than likely you’ll need to learn to get up early to knock a few of these runs out before you start your day.  I never used to run or workout before 9am.  Then, I had my third kid.  6 weeks after she was born I was the insane girl at boot camp at 5am.  Yes, looking back I can see all the crazy and don’t recommend that.  But ya’ll,  I was desperate.  3 kids!!!!  I had been cooped up on bed rest for like ever and needed to escape stat.  Enough of that, learn to be an early riser.  Moving on. 
9.  Say good bye to your pretty feet
Obviously, I’m sparing you the picture of the current state of my toes.  You’ll more than likely lose a toenail or two and have a few blisters that take up permanent residence on your feet.  For men it may not be as big of a deal.  For women, eh hem.  It’s a big deal.  I haven’t had a pedicure because it’s that embarrassing, and pointless.  But, after December 14th I’m taking these bad boys to the salon and giving them the TLC they so desperately deserve, even though it’s boot season.  Buy some toe socks and some Body Glide and cover your feet with it.  It’ll save you some pain later. 
these have been a lifesaver for my toes
10.  Eat all the Food
Ok, so I’m not endorsing shoving fast food in your face and eating whatever the heck you want for the next however many months.  That would sabotage all your hard work.  BUT, I am telling you to eat and eat smart.  Like we clearly did in this picture(no not really, this was gluttony at it’s finest).  Choose good carbs, fruits, veggies and smart snacks. And burgers, lots of burgers.  Can you tell I’m a little at odds with myself on this topic?  Seriously all I crave are burgers.  It’s basically the salty protein I crave nestled between the carbs.  Hopefully you are getting my point.  It’s not an invitation to eat anything, however you will find you have a little room for some splurging here and there. 
11.  Learn to pee in unusual places

If this picture was a bush, it would be more accurate.  Am I right?
I haven’t seen many porta potties out on my runs, but there are tons of trees and bushes that I’m usually spotting wondering if I’d get arrested should I choose to use them.  The point of this one is to map out your run ahead of time.  If you are running long make sure there are either REALLY remote places where you can stop to take care of business, or that you are running past a few grocery stores or gas stations should you need to stop.  You will lose all modesty if you haven’t already from having babies.  Be ready. 
12.  You will want to quit at some point…DON’T
I know we’re only half way through the list, but that’s why I’m throwing this one in.  Once you get about halfway through this process, your mind, body, or both will contemplate quitting.  Don’t.  Trust your training, trust the process and draw from those runs that make you feel on top of the world.  Like most things in life worth having, this takes hard work and dedication.  Lots of it.  It isn’t for the faint of heart but can I just tell you, that even though people may think you’re nuts, it’s totally worth it.  Imagine crossing that finish line and how you’ll feel knowing you gave this everything you have.  If you quit, that’s the feeling you’ll be left with.  You don’t want that.  The upside is if you truly hate it, you never have to do it again.  But, if you’re like me, you’ll swear up and down you’ll never do it again, and by the time you get on the plan to head home you’ve already picked your next race.   
13.  Become a coffee drinker
This isn’t really a thing or something you have to do, but it helps.  It helps me with headaches after long runs and helps keeps things regular if you get my drift.  Also coffee is a great little boost of energy before a run.  If you train through winter it helps warm you up after a long cold run.  Obviously, this one is built on personal preference.  I love coffee so you get it on my list.  
So that’s all for today.  Don’t worry, the rest are coming your way tomorrow once I think of them…kidding.  Hope you have a great Thursday.  I have a 9 mile tempo run and a haircut coming my way today.  I’m giddy with excitement.  However, it’s freezing cold with 20 mph winds so the run part I’m a little iffy about.  If you have ANY questions about any of my tips or training in general, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email.  I love connecting with ya. 
Happy Training!!!!

5 comments on “26 Things You Need to Know Before You Train For a Marathon: Part 1

  1. This list is perfect! Most true of them all: running is not cheap. So many people think it is! I guess it’s only cheap if you don’t race or run long distance.

    My favorite “thing you need to know before training for a marathon” is to study the course! I made the mistake of not studying the course of my first marathon and I paid for it. I was miserable. My second marathon I studied the course often and it was a blast!

  2. Loved this list and couldn’t agree more!!! I laughed at the porta potty, since during our 20 mile long run I had to get down in some bushes. Oh.my.word. But, I felt a whole lot better when we finished!! Oh, and my feet!!!??? Who knew? I saw a running commercial that said “toenails are for sissys”. I’m going to stick with that!!

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