Completing a marathon is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world, but these races can be extremely arduous and require time spent training. Whether you have just purchased your first pair of running shoes or have been hitting the tracks and trails for years, here are four tips that will help you get through those 26.2 miles and make it to the finish line.

Learn to Eat and Hydrate Correctly

For those who have never pushed their bodies to the limit for multiple hours at a time, it is often difficult to learn how to incorporate eating and hydrating into a run. During your longer training runs, it is important to get used to drinking and fueling up at regular intervals so that your body doesn’t go into a state of shock on the day of the race.

Accept the Setbacks

Every single runner is going to have at least one setback while training for a marathon. From business trips to injuries, it is important to understand that these setbacks are almost always temporary. One great way to bounce back is to have a support team that constantly pushes you in a safe and positive manner. Mental strength is just as important as physical strength. If you have people that are willing to train with you or keep you accountable for your routine with encouragement and praise, you’ll be far better off. The worst thing a runner can do is allow a setback of a few days to escalate into weeks of half-hearted training or no training at all.

Don’t Ignore Aches and Pains

Muscle soreness and general fatigue are completely normal, but you must know when it is time to seek out professional help in case of an injury. As a general rule, issues such as stiff muscles should be gone within 24 to 48 hours. When they do not go away after a day or two, then it is time to speak with a podiatrist from a practice such as Advanced Foot & Ankle Centers of Illinois. You should also be wary of sharp pains, ongoing nausea, and dizziness.  Don’t neglect your body. Nobody knows it better than you do, so be aware of any warning signs of hurt joints and muscles.

Create a Plan

Unlike shorter races, marathons require a comprehensive plan. You should have a fairly good idea of what your pace will be like, how much to eat, and when you will need to take breaks for the bathroom. Having a support team that can supply you with food and water at specific stops will allow you to avoid carrying heavier packs for the entire race. Organize your game plan for after the finish line too. Avoid sitting down for long periods of times in order to avoid muscle cramps. Indulge in healthy light foods like vegetables and fruit to increase your sugar. Drink lots of water.

Completing a marathon might be important to you, but staying healthy and avoiding injuries should be your number one priority. Hopefully, these four tips will allow you to continue making progress in the months leading up to your first marathon.