Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Jenny Hadfield
The right training plan begins with a week that’s manageable given your current fitness.
Thomas asks: I’ve decided to train for my first marathon this spring. I know that is the easy part. Can you share tips on finding a race and how to train?
Congratulations! Yes, deciding to train for a marathon is the easiest part, but the challenges of marathon training can easily be managed one step at time.
Step 1: Choose a Marathon
Every runner is unique. Some folks—like myself—prefer to run with a home-court advantage. My first 26.2 was the 1993 Chicago Marathon in my home city. When you run a marathon close to home, you don’t have to worry about new foods, flights, time-zone differences, and jet lag, and you can line the streets with your family and friends. If you’re looking for an adventure and not as worried about performance, you can select a destination marathon. If you go that route, consider the demands of the course. Choose a race that resembles where you’ll be training in terms of elevation and elements. (For example, if you live in warm, pancake-flat Florida, a marathon at elevation in the mountains or in the potentially cold/snowy northern half of the country will be tough to prepare for.)
Step 2: Choose a Marathon Training Plan
The right training plan for you needs to align with your current fitness and experience. (Browse training plans from Runner’s World here.) It’s important to start from where you are, rather than jump into a plan that calls for more mileage than you’re currently running. For instance, if you’re running four days per week for three to six miles at a time, you’ll want to find a marathon plan that offers four runs per week starting at three to five miles for the mid-week runs and six to seven miles for the first long run. Selecting a plan that resembles your current regimen will allow you to more easily adapt to the plan as it progresses. Although you may have been running for years, it’s also wise to start with a beginner’s plan, because you’ll likely be running more mileage and longer long runs than ever before. Your primary goal is to reach the start line healthy and ready to run, and to finish strong no matter the finish time. Finishing is winning when it’s your first marathon.
Step 3: Get Ready to Train
Once you’ve signed up for the race, print out your plan and post it somewhere that you’ll see it every day. If you have a few weeks before training officially begins, it’s useful to start running on the planned days of the week to get into the flow, and to build or maintain your base with easy-effort miles. This is also the perfect time to start cross-trainingworkouts. For instance, runner’s strength workouts can help maintain muscular balance and efficient form and reduce the risk of injury. You can also weave yoga, Pilates, and other strength programs into your plan on your nonrunning days. By starting these now, your body gets a jump-start in adapting to the new routine before you begin to add more stress by increasing mileage.
Step 4: Set Yourself Up for Success
It takes a village to train a marathoner. Give your friends and family a heads-up that you are about to embark on a marathon journey. Your life may shift a little along the way, and having a support system is beneficial. Look into training with a local running club or store. You’ll learn plenty along the way, and the long runs won’t seem as long when you’re alongside a group of people. While you’re at the running store, it’s a great time to get fitted for a pair of running shoes to support you for the season and to invest in a foam roller. You’ll develop a love-hate relationship with the roller, but it will be a great asset in keeping you healthy along the way.
Finally, as you lean into training for your first marathon, keep an open mind, tune into your body, and adjust as you go. No plan is perfect, and letting your body be your guide is a surefire way to toe the line healthy, strong, and ready to run this spring.
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