Before You Start:
1. Register for a Race – This gives you an end goal and a reason for your training.
2. Create a Training Schedule – Runners World Online has tons of free options. Find one you like, tailor it to fit into your schedule, print it out, and post it where you can see it. Every time you finish the workout, check it off and note any changes from the schedule. This will help keep you on track. Or, find a local running store that has a marathon training group you can join for additional motivation and help with creating a training schedule.
3. Buy Quality Shoes – You are no longer just walking or jogging around the neighborhood and this isn’t like a Zumba class at the gym. Your feet are taking a beating for multiple miles; protect them! Go to a running store and be professionally fitted for your first pair of shoes, it is worth it in the long run. (I, of course, highly suggest trying out Mizuno Running shoes.)
4. Invest in Good Clothing – I started doing my training runs in old T-shirts and basketball shorts, but once you start hitting double digit miles you realize that just won’t cut it anymore. Invest in a few good pairs of running shorts, crops, or pants, a couple nice running shirts that are moisture wicking, and some good socks. Ladies, this is the time you’ll also need to find some quality sports bras.
During Your Training Runs:
1. Be Safe – Let friends/family know where you are running and take your cell phone with you. Don’t be afraid to call for a ride if you need it. If you twist your ankle, for example, running the rest of the way home on it will hurt your training plan much more than calling someone to pick you up will hurt your pride. If you are running at night or early in the morning make sure you can be seen. I wear very (obnoxious) neon colors and even have a blinking light that clips on to my shirt (these are sold at most running and sporting goods stores). I may not look the most fashionable, but cars can see me coming and that is the most important.
2. Listen to Your Body – As a distance runner training for a race you must change your mind set. It is no longer just about having a great run that day, it is about the end goal – your race. If you are in pain when running, or can tell something is wrong, it is not worth pushing through. Stop, rest, recover, and save it for another run. By pushing through injury or even through sickness you may mess yourself up more in the long run (says the girl who didn’t listen to her own advice and ended up with bronchitis/borderline pneumonia for 2 months because she thought she could run through her horrible cold). However, that being said, realize not every run will be a great run and learn to tell the difference between runs where you are injured/sick and need to stop, and those where you are just having a run of the mill crummy, hot, or tired run and need to keep going.
3. Hydrate – Carry water, or your beverage of choice, with you on your long runs or plan in hydration stops. I personally run with a CamelBak (the Dart model) for long runs because I prefer it to a hydration belt, but it is all about your own personal preference. Try different hydration methods out while you are training so you’ll be ready come race day.
4. Fuel – Once you start running into the double digits you need more than just water or a sports drink to fuel your body. Many races offer gels or bananas and if you plan on eating these during the race you will practice with the same brand/flavor to make sure they don’t upset your stomach. I personally can’t use gels because the consistency freaks me out (weird, I know) so I carry my own alternative on my long runs and also on race days. I personally am a Honey Stinger Fruit Chews fan because they are the easiest for me to eat during a race and to keep down.
5. Practice Like it is Race Day- Try everything you plan on using or wearing on race day out on your long runs. I mean to the letter. Wear the same underwear, shorts/pants, shirt, socks, shoes, etc. so you can make sure everything is comfortable and stays in place. Pack your fuel and hydration and practice using it. If you want to use cell phone apps or take a camera with you then do it on your long run to make sure it is practical and will work for you. Get the kinks and mistakes out of the way now so you can change and alter anything you need to before the race.
After Your Training Runs:
1. Hydrate More! – When you are back home, drink up! Drink lots of water and also a specialty beverage or sports drink. I’m a big fan of Nuun tablets which help replace essential electrolytes and can be easily added to water. I love that they have less sugar/junk than most sports drinks and hardly any calories.
2. Refuel – Post run be sure you are taking in a good mix of protein and carbohydrates so that your body can recover and rebuild. This could be as simple as a turkey sandwich or maybe you even grill up some chicken and rice.
3. Stretch/Roll – I am the worst about this, but you must schedule stretch time. I do it before I even walk in the door so I won’t get distracted by other things. (I am sure my neighbor’s find the front lawn stretching amusing.) If even after all that stretching you still feel sore? Maybe it is time to invest in a foam roller. It hurts so good!
4. Relax/Celebrate – One of the best ways to get through that long run is to know you have a little “you time” coming up, so be sure to reward yourself. Watch a movie or read a book, cook one of your favorite dishes, or my favorite after an early morning long run – take a nap!
The Day Before The Race:
1. Get your Supplies – Lay everything out the night before. All your clothes, shoes, fuel/hydration, race bibs, etc., so nothing will be lost or left in hustle and bustle of race morning.
2. Get your Transportation Set – Double check and make sure your transportation is confirmed and you know exactly where to be and when, so you will make it to the race on time. This is especially important for large out of town races since you are unfamiliar with the area and crowd size affects transportation a lot. If it is a big race, then leave even earlier than you think necessary. You can’t do well if you are not at the race in time!
3. Set 2 Alarms – You’ll sleep better at night knowing you have a backup. Trust me.
4. Have Breakfast Planned Out- You don’t have to eat a full breakfast, but you do need some fuel before you run. I personally grab something I can eat on the shuttle/bus or in the car on the way to the race. Make sure you have something you can eat in mind so you can grab it and go the next morning.
Fuel up, hydrate, listen to your body, and enjoy!
If you made it this far you have already won the battle.
Celebrate your victory by running a race that makes you proud.
If you read through all of this you must be seriously considering a half or full marathon. Awesome!
Any questions you have still?
Which race are you thinking about?
(Or maybe you are a fellow distance runner who was just curious to check out my tips – How’d I do?)
I’d love to help you along on your journey if you ever have any questions, need motivation, or just want someone to brag to about a great run or a new personal distance record. Abby @BackatSquare0