Running a marathon is an amazing accomplishment, a pinnacle of athletic achievement. As such, it’s not really something you think about one day and then go out and complete the next.
If you’re considering running your first marathon, there are a few questions you’ll want to ask yourself before you sign up:
How Long Have You Been Training?
You can get away with only training for a few weeks for a 5K. A marathon? Not so much.
If your answer to “how long have you been training” is anything under a year, you’re not ready for a marathon.
Your training checklist should look something like this:
- Run regularly for a year
- Run at least two to three times a week
- Add distance over time: 1 mile, 5K, 10K, etc.
- Run at least one half marathon
- Cross train with a few other activities like yoga, swimming or strength training
Ignore flashy programs promising to get you ready in a few months. Allow yourself at least a year of training before entering your first marathon.
Do You Have Time to Spare?
By the time you’ve gotten your running distance close to 26 miles, your training runs will take upwards of two to three hours. Before you commit to marathon training, ask yourself: Do I have time for that?
Or put it this way, do you have a lot of responsibilities and very little (regular) free time? Do you have:
- A demanding job?
- An overbooked social life?
- Young kids?
- Primary care of a sick spouse or aging parent?
While the above commitments don’t make it impossible to make time for marathon training, they do make it difficult. If you can’t find the time now, it’s okay to wait until this busy portion of your life has passed.
Are You Healthy?
Running a marathon is extremely physically demanding. Even the best, most experienced marathoners can come away from a race injured or otherwise in pain.
If you try to complete a marathon when you’re already injured or sick, imagine how much worse you’ll be afterward.
In other words, don’t ignore those aches and pains. If you have questions or concerns about your health, check with your doctor before continuing with training or attempting a marathon. This is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.
Do You Have the Right Gear?
Your comfort, health and safety can depend on having the right gear. More important than brand or popularity is finding the gear that fits and serves you the best.
Make sure you have:
- Shoes that fit perfectly. Ignore “men’s” or “women’s” labels. Find the shoe that fits your foot and supports your stride.
- Comfortable and running-friendly clothing. Chafing happens, so be sure your clothing doesn’t have rough or poorly placed seams that will exacerbate the problem. Pick seasonally (weather) appropriate gear that works well for you, whether that’s loose, snug, wicking or otherwise.
- Medical or anti-injury accessories to meet your personal needs. Compression socks can help prevent injuries while running. Braces or joint supports, orthopedic inserts and prescription running glasses are just a few of the aids available for athletes.
Don’t forget this most important mantra: nothing new for race day. Not the socks, not the underwear and definitely not the shoes. You want to wear tried, tested, broken in gear that you’re sure works best for you.
Do You Know How to Prevent Injury?
Running can bring about a whole host of injuries and irritations. Are you familiar with the most common injuries and how to avoid them?
If not, it’s never too soon to start reading up. From moleskin for blisters to cross training and calcium to prevent stress fractures, there’s a lot you can learn to help you make it safely through your race.
Do You Have a Fuel Plan?
Remember that mantra, nothing new for race day? That applies to pretty much everything, from your shoes to your snacks.
Research meal plans and nutrition recommendations for marathoners. Then, put it into practice.
No really, practice! Try different meals, snacks and hydrating drinks during training to see how your body reacts. If you can, find out what drink will be handed out during the race so you can use the exact brand and flavor during your training as well.
How’s Your Willpower?
Marathoning isn’t just mental (the need for extensive physical preparation should have been your first clue) but the mind does play a big part in finishing.
You have to be able to:
- Want it enough to commit to training
- Push through when you hit the wall
- Keep yourself motivated mile by mile
- Believe that the reward is worth the blood, sweat and tears
So what do you say? Are you ready to run your first marathon?
If you’re not, no need to be discouraged! Use these questions to help guide your preparations and get you on track to check “run a marathon” off your bucket list.