Have you ever heard of someone who has run a marathon and never been trained for it? Yes, there was one, and the only one ever: Pheidippides, the Greek soldier who ran to Athens to report the defeat of the Persians in 490 B.C.!
Running a marathon is an endeavor that cannot be achieved without a proper training, not to mention it’s your first time.
While you may have a good reason and believe you can run a marathon, the next thing to do is to pick a race and go for your training. Here are the key aspects you should keep in mind before you start your training.
Set Your Goal, Be Clear About It
Having a clear goal keep you focused on what you are heading for. As a first time marathon runner, you may just want to finish the race by the official time limit. Yet setting a better time goal during the training can be good for you: in case something unexpected happened during the race day, you can still have time to catch up and finish your first race.
You may be wondering how to set your time goal for the marathon as it’s your first time. It varies for beginners and experienced runner, every runner is different. One thing for sure: be realistic!
A good starting point is to take the U.S. average marathon finish time in 2016 as a reference. The median finish time for men was 4:22:07 which was around 10 minutes per mile pace, while the median finish time for women was 4:47:40 which was around 11 minutes per mile pace.
Now you have an idea on what an average marathoner finish the race. There is no need to worry too much at this moment, simply think of yourself as an humble and average person, and you will finish at the time of the pack of average marathon finisher. Get start your training, once you reach the point that you feel comfortable about your pace, you can adjust for a more realistic goal afterwards.
Have a Training Plan, Track Your Progress
A proper training help you build up your endurance progressively for both your body and mind, strengthen your muscles and prevent injuries, prepare you with the capability and stamina to go for your first race.
A typical training schedule for a marathon is around 16 to 22 weeks, depending on whether you are a beginner to running or a runner who aims to run your first marathon.
Training for a marathon can be in various ways depending on the cost and benefit:
1. Personal coaching – getting a personal coach can be the best way for you to achieve your marathon goal, as your coach will give individual training customized for you. Some coaching is in person, there are virtual coaching online as well. It costs you some money depending on the expertise of the coach.
2. Join a running club – it can be your second choice as cost is concerned. The good thing is you meet many new friends with common goals, less boring than training on your own, and have a fixed schedule that make it easier to beat your procrastination.
3. Follow a training plan online – there are numerous training plans you can find online, whether it’s computer based or mobile apps, some are free, some may need a one-off charge.
Once you have found the training plan that fits for you, follow the training and keep record of your progress, so you know if you are in the right track or need more efforts to catch up gradually.
Get Used To The Running, Or Better Fall In Love With It
Training for a marathon is rigorous, it needs discipline and commitment. Running is the cornerstone of training for a marathon, whether it’s long run or tempo run, there is no substitute. It is what you stay with during your hard time over months of training, it is wise to get used to it, and better love running at least a little bit.
While the whole training is never easy, to help you love running is not that hard, as long as you don’t intimidate yourself at the onset. It’s always possible to start with easy runs, especially you start earlier than you plan, so you don’t have to push too hard and have some more time to get yourself used to the run. And you will fall in love with your running when the time comes.
Start Your Training Early
Have you been cramming for exam in college? Probably, though not always. Yet it’s not going to work in marathon training.
Training for marathon takes time, there is not shortcut. It is not sensible to trust those 4-week schedule on finishing a marathon. Perhaps those are for experience marathoners, not for a first time marathon runner like you.
While we all want to stick to the plan, things happen all the time. You may encounter something unexpected that you have to skip some runs with no other choice, such as work life balance issues, injury during the training, extreme weather. The list goes on.
So once you pick your first race, it is a good reason to start as early as possible. It helps to reduce your stress when you are behind schedule for causes inevitable during the training period.
Go Train For Your First Marathon
Running your first marathon is an endeavor that can only be accomplished by proper training, no matter you are a beginner or experienced runner. The only way is to increase your endurance one step at a time during the training, there is no fast track.
Have a clear goal before starting your training. Find a training plan that fits you and track your progress, so you can adjust to a more realistic goal in the midst of the training. Learn to love running to make it easier to go through you tough time during the training. Start your training as earlier as possible to make room for the unexpected.