A beginner marathoner asks for tips for her first 26.2.

I just started running six weeks ago; I train three days a week and have already built up to running a 3K in pretty decent time. I know this may be crazy, but I’d like to do a marathon some time next year. Is that a realistic goal or is it going to take much longer to train for something like this? I plan to do a 5K and 10K race by August.



Welcome to running! Yes, giving yourself a year’s time to build up to a marathon distance is good planning and very realistic. Including shorter races along the way as part of your training plan is a wise move too. As you increase your distance, plan on including a half marathon or two before running the full marathon distance as well. These other races will help give you a better feel for running the full marathon distance.

Be certain that you cross all your “T’s” and dot all your “I’s”before beginning your training. First, it’s always best to check with your physician before beginning any exercise program and get the green
light. As you train remember the human body adapts slowly and therefore responds best to small gradual increases in training stress. Muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, the circulatory system, the cardiovascular system, and the respiratory system, all adapt at different rates to training. They need a minimum of six weeks to make adaptations to the stresses placed upon them, so proceeding gradually is very important. Training periods of greater workload, like mileage increases or speed work, should be followed by periods of reduced workload, often referred to as a “cut back” week, where mileage is reduced and speed work less intense.

Besides just logging the miles, there are many other factors to educate yourself on too, like hydration and nutrition. There is so much to learn! Obtaining the proper equipment, like shoes, is really important especially when training for a marathon. Have your current shoes checked out at your local running store by a shoe fit specialist. Tell them your weekly mileage to date, your goal to run a marathon, the running surfaces you train on, and how often you run so they can prescribe and fit you with the best shoe for you.

Running clothing is also important, especially in the summer weather. High tech fabrics that help wick sweat and dry quickly make running more comfortable. They also reduce chafing, blisters, and keep you cooler. Your local running store may also be of help with training information, run nutrition, and races in your area.

Here are some other training tips that will help you towards your goal:

  1. Keep a training log. Write down your daily mileage, run times, race distance and times, and how you feel. It’s hard to remember what you did later, so write it down immediately.
  2. Increase weekly mileage by 10%. This allows for a gradual increase in mileage and reduces the risk of injury.
  3. Include a “cut back” week every third or fourth week of training. “Cut back” means reduce your mileage and use it as an easy week.
  4. Run 3 or 4 days a week. Include one long run, two shorter runs for speed and strength, and an optional easy recovery run day. For speed, focus on your run pace one day a week by running slightly faster in short increments of time or distance. For strength, include some hills one run each week. Long runs are runs that increase your distance. Run these at a slow, comfortable pace, about 1 or 2 minutes per mile slower than your expected goal pace.
  5. Always alternate a hard day, with an easy day, or a day off.
  6. Always allow at least ONE day a week completely OFF for rest and recovery. Two days a week is OK, too!
  7. Monitor your resting heart rate. Take your resting pulse each morning before arising. Keep track of it in your training log. After several readings, you will have a baseline number. As our fitness improves, our resting pulse decreases. If you see your resting heart rate spike up by 10% or more above your normal resting pulse, take it easy that day. This can be a sign of fatigue, lack of recovery between workouts, or an illness coming on and it is best to take the day off, sleep in, or change a hard workout to a very easy one, until your resting heart rate returns to normal.
  8. Consider cross-training one or two days a week to increase your aerobic conditioning without additional running. Swimming, cycling, or rowing are good options. Keep cross-training activities to 45 minutes 1 or 2 times a week, and do them at a very moderate intensity level.
  9. Consider addingstrength training to your routine twice a week. This can be weight training, or a Pilates or Yoga class.
  10. Always listen to your body. If you are tired, rest. If a workout feels hard, it is hard.

Marathon training can be life changing because of its impact on our lifestyle. Training encourages us to make positive choices with our diet, social life, and sleep patterns. It is a significant journey and commitment. Having support from family or friends is very helpful too, so start recruiting your support team now! Maybe even one or two of them will decide to join you! Enjoy the training process and celebrate all of your accomplishments along the way.

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Courtesy of runnersworld.com

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