I e-mailed this to a friend on Facebook looking for marathon advice/tips and thought I’d put it on the blog. Why not?!
For the past four years, I have run the Vermont City Marathon in May. And while I have zero interest in running another one for a while (ever?), I’ve appreciated how they have impacted my life in only the best of ways. It’s a confidence builder. I feel healthy. I’ve made great friends. I’ve learned how to deal with ups and downs in a better fashion. Kind of. I’ve learned more about injuries and prevention.
Every marathon is a big undertaking and I’ve found that each race is different. Many things are out of your control. One time, I felt amazing training, but battled IT band issues during the race. This past year, I felt horrible training (pulled muscle), but felt great during the marathon.
I’m sort of a casual marathon runner, meaning I don’t care that much about time – my best was 3:54 and this past race was 4:28….my slowest, yet happiest! – so definitely ask around for tips from more experienced running friends if that’s your thing.
These are my ten marathon tips:
1. Be flexible. You’re going to create a training schedule, but understand it’s okay if you don’t stick to it to a T. I find it’s rather impossible to do so! I try to make sure that I stick closely to my scheduled long runs though. Unless I’m hurt.
2. Find friends to run the long runs with. Even if my friends and I are running different training plans, we try to meet up the same date/time for long runs. It just makes them so much more fun! I prefer to run them on Saturday mornings, so I still feel like I have the entire weekend ahead of me too.
3. Build a solid running base. Especially around speed training. My physical therapist said that it’s best to have a speed training base instead of starting it during marathon training. (This is why I think I got hurt this year.)
You’re going to be adding a lot of miles each week (although be sure to build no more than 10 percent a week), so also increasing speed puts a lot of pressure on your body if it’s not conditioned for it. You’ll see most first-time marathon training plans do not have speedwork. Like Hal Higdon’s beginner marathon plan, which I love by the way.
4. Core + Stretching is SO important. My core is weak for a runner. Blah. I’d rather run, than strength train. And the older I get, the more stretching I need to do. I try to work swimming and yoga and specific PT strengthening exercises into my training plan.
5. Not running every day works for me. I can’t go out and run 5-6 days a week in a row anymore. So, what I usually do is adapt Hal Higdon’s beginner plan so that I’m running three days (like Mon, Wed, Fri) and a long run. The other two days are yoga or swimming. One or two days of rest. I try to do one 20 miler before the marathon. Again, this is all in an ideal world!
If I ever get more advanced, I’d like to add speed training/do the three-day-a-week plan. But usually after the marathon, I want a break from structured running! Like NOW.
6. Undertrain. I’ve heard it is better to slightly undertrain than overtrain. Although, I way undertrained for this last marathon. Crazy!
7. Buy a FOAM ROLLER. Use a foam roller, especially after long runs. IT IS AMAZING.
8. Chocolate milk is a great recovery run drink. I like to add it to a blender with a scoop of peanut butter and frozen banana chunks. Mix until blended and frothy. It tastes like a milkshake. Mmmmm.
9. CHIA SEEDS! I started bringing chia seeds mixed with water with me on long runs. It is flavorless and turns to a weird gel-like consistency, but it makes me feel energized running. And carry a Nathan fuel belt. Sometimes I take a GU, but since my cavity crisis, I try to stay away from sticky sugary gels on long runs.
10. Don’t let it take over your life! Otherwise, you’ll become over-obsessed (marathon training is already obsessive) and start to alienate friends and loved ones. It’s okay. This will most likely happen to you. Just recognize it. Training is a slow process and there can be lots of ups and downs. You might get hurt. You might have to take a break in training. I got sad and had to step away at times. You might feel invincible and euphoric. Just try to see the big picture and do things outside of running.
Feel free to add other tips. I’m always looking for them!