I’m writing this from my bathtub.
Well, to be honest, only half of my body is in the tub. My upper body is sort of resting over the side of the bath, tapping the keys on my computer. Why is this important information? Because I just ran the Boston Marathon, and my legs are so sore that just walking fast seems like an intense workout.
So forget sitting at a desk—I needed to soak in an Epsom salt bath for at least an hour to relax these tired muscles. Before you get the wrong idea, I’m elated that I’m sore today. Because it’s proof that I ran my butt off yesterday—and I couldn’t be more proud.
Here’s the thing: I’m neither super-athletic nor incredibly talented. I didn’t grow up running (in fact, I only started two years ago), and I actually hated anything sports-related for most of my life. So when I announced that I was running a marathon, everyone I knew was pretty surprised … myself included. That being said, it’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And my experience proves that anyone can run a marathon—you just have to train for it!
Keep scrolling for five tips to training for your first marathon!
I’m not going to sugarcoat it—training for a marathon is not easy. It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely time-consuming and often uncomfortable. Depending on your training plan, you’ll likely run for about an hour four to five days a week, and then throw in a long run on Saturday or Sunday. And considering that training takes anywhere from six months to a year (depending on your schedule and fitness level), that’s a pretty big time commitment.
So, pick a race that gets you really excited. Personally, I love traveling to my favorite cities for races. Running through my old hometown of New York City was one of the best days of my life—it was incredible to run through some of my favorite places in the city and remember all of my good times there. Some runners enjoy participating in scenic courses—the Big Sur Marathon, with its views of the California coast and the Redwood forest, sells out every year—or running through a new city they’ve never been to before. And some runners like to pick large, famous races like the Chicago or London Marathons, because they’re well known. Regardless of how you pick your race, make sure you sign up for the one that really gets you excited. It will make waking up before dawn to run a lot easier if you can picture yourself crossing the finish line at your dream race.
Don’t think that you can do this on your own. Even if you’re a running expert (and let’s assume that if this is your first marathon, you probably aren’t!) it’s really helpful to have an outside perspective from someone who knows their stuff to give you advice and guidance.
If you enjoy working one-on-one, consider working with a running coach who can give you a training plan for the race and check in on your weekly running progress. Getting a private running coach isn’t totally necessary, though. There are plenty of books written by running coaches (Marathon by Jeff Galloway is an all-time fave!) that contain detailed training plans. Or you can embrace technology (yes, please) and use an app for your training.
Nike Running Club’s Marathon training program is top-notch—it’s easy to follow or adjust to your goal, and because the app syncs with the Apple Watch it makes going out for a run a no-brainer. All you have to do is open the app and get going—your digital “coach” will tell you what to do.
As mentioned, marathoning is not for the faint of heart—at times, training can be punishing on your mind and body. That being said, you shouldn’t feel terrible throughout your entire training process! Listen to your body, and don’t be a slave to your training plan. If you need to skip a run in order to get more sleep, or take it easy for a week because you’re fighting off an injury, do it. Trust—forcing your bod to stick to the training plan when you’re not feeling good will only lead to injury or fatigue.
It might sound corny, but let yourself fall in love with running. So many of us have negative connotations with the sport—who can forget running laps in Phys Ed class as some sort of punishment for a minor offense? Yes, at first running is uncomfortable, and downright painful. But as you get better and practice, it becomes easier. Running becomes second nature; after all, it’s one of our most primitive instincts.
When you can release the idea of running as punishment or chore (or something that you need to do in order to burn calories or lose weight) it suddenly becomes much more enjoyable.
There will be moments when you think, “I can’t do this!” Don’t worry, that’s totally normal. But once you make it through training, the hard part is over. You’re home free—the race is the fun part! While you’re running the course, your thoughts will swing like a pendulum from “THIS IS AMAZING!” to “THIS IS TERRIBLE! NEVER AGAIN!” But there is no better feeling than crossing the finish line and realizing how incredible you actually are. When you look back on it, you’ll think about how quickly the whole race went by … and you’ll probably start plotting your next marathon!