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TRAINING FOR YOUR FIRST MARATHON

Training for and completing a marathon – even at relatively low exercise intensity – gave a group of untrained marathon runners (ages 21 to 69, 49 percent male) an impressive boost to their heart health, according to a recent study, “Training for a First-Time Marathon Reverses Age-Related Aortic Stiffening,” in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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Marathon run

Training for and completing a marathon – even at relatively low exercise intensity – gave a group of untrained marathon runners (ages 21 to 69, 49 percent male) an impressive boost to their heart health, according to a recent study, “Training for a First-Time Marathon Reverses Age-Related Aortic Stiffening,” in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Marathon training and running can also help you get in better shape, reduce stress, sleep better, gain confidence that you never knew you had, and improve your overall health, according to “26 Reasons to Run a Marathon” for Verywell Fit.

So, if you’ve been considering running a marathon for a long time, but you’re not quite sure how to get started, we’ll take you through all the necessary steps.

PREPARE YOURSELF

“It’s important not to underestimate the challenge of a marathon,” says running coach Jeff Gaudette in a “A foolproof guide to running your first marathon, plus training plan” for Runner’s World. “You need to have a healthy respect for the distance and be ready and willing to prepare for it accordingly.”

New York Road Runners, who organize the city’s annual 26.2 mile race, as well as host instructional seminars and clinics, recommend having some form of a running background before taking part in your first marathon.

However, running coach Martin Yelling says in the Runner’s World article that a lack of running experience shouldn’t be a reason for you to rule out a marathon.

“If you’ve got no background in running, at least four to six weeks of being regularly active before you embark on a marathon plan is better than a complete standing start,” Yelling says.

One of the bigger mistakes that you can make is not giving yourself enough time to train and picking a race that works for your schedule and level of difficulty. For instance, Boston’s course has a killer uphill stretch past the midway point, while Orlando and Chicago are flat courses.

START WITH SHORTER DISTANCES FIRST

You also don’t have to go from 0 to 26.2 miles, either. You can start by running shorter races and gradually building yourself up.

“The most important step you can take when prepping for your first marathon is to ensure your body can tackle the distance,” according to “How to Train for a Marathon If You’ve Never Run One Before” for Self. “It’s best to familiarize yourself with 5Ks, 10Ks, and then half-marathons as a way to physically and mentally prepare for longer distances.”

Jason Fitzgerald, USATF running coach and founder of Strength Running, strongly suggests in the Self article to train for and race a half-marathon first.

“You’re going to be a better runner if you do more running,” Fitzgerald says. “Use the calculus analogy. You can’t go from not knowing how to count to taking a calculus class.”

Another good test is to make sure that you can run comfortably for an hour. Even the very best marathoners are running comfortably for two to three hours.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR FIRST TRAINING PLAN

The great thing about running a marathon is that there are plenty of online resources to help you create your training plan. Good training programs for first-time marathoners will include a combination of different kinds of runs, a smart mileage progression, strength and cross-training, not to mention recovery.

Here’s a sample of a 16-Week Training Plan:

WEEK 1
Sunday: Jogging (15 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (20 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Jogging (25 mins.)
Saturday: Exercise, your choice (1 hr)
WEEK 2
Sunday: Jogging (25 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (35 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Jogging (30 mins.)
Saturday: Exercise, your choice (75 mins.)
WEEK 3
Sunday: Jogging (30 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (40 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Jogging (35 mins.)
Saturday: Jogging and/or walking (1 hr)
WEEK 4
Sunday: Jogging (35 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (45 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Jogging (35 mins.)
Saturday: Jogging (1 hr)
WEEK 5
Sunday: Run (20 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (50 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Timed 2-mile run
Saturday: Exercise, your choice (90 mins.)
WEEK 3
Sunday: Run (25 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (55 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Run (25 mins.)
Saturday: Jogging and/or walking (105 mins.)
WEEK 7
Sunday: Run (30 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Run (30 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (30 mins.)
Friday: Run (30 mins.)
Saturday: 8-mile run
WEEK 8
Sunday: Run (35 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (60 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (30 mins.)
Friday: Run (35 mins.)
Saturday: Jogging and/or walking (2 hrs), or a half-marathon race
WEEK 9
Sunday: Run (40 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3 x 1-mile session, timed with a break between each mile
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (30 mins.)
Friday: Run (40 mins.)
Saturday: 8-mile run
WEEK 10
Sunday: Run (45 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3-mile run, timed
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (30 mins.)
Friday: Run (35 mins.)
Saturday: 12-mile run
WEEK 11
Sunday: Run (40 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3 x 1-mile sessions, timed with a break between each mile
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (30 mins.)
Friday: Run (30 mins.)
Saturday: 14-mile run
WEEK 12
Sunday: Run (35 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3-mile run, timed
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (30 mins.)
Friday: Run (25 mins.)
Saturday: Half-marathon race or distance (13.1 miles)
WEEK 13
Sunday: Run (30 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3 x 1-mile sessions, timed with a break between each mile
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (30 mins.)
Friday: Run (20 mins.)
Saturday: 16-mile run
WEEK 14
Sunday: Run (25 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 3-mile run, timed
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Run (25 mins.)
Friday: Run (15 mins.)
Saturday: 10K run or race (6.1 miles)
WEEK 15
Sunday: Run (20 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Run (30 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 2 x 1-mile sessions, timed
Friday: Run (15 mins.)
Saturday: Run (90 mins.)
WEEK 16
Sunday: Jogging (20 mins.)
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Jogging (30 mins.)
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Jogging (20 mins.)
Saturday: RACE DAY

PROPER NUTRITION

Most fitness experts advise that if you’re running for longer than 45 minutes, you’ll need to eat during your run.

Many runners eat gels and chews, which typically come in 100-calorie servings and are packed with a mix of slow-burning and fast-burning carbs. Along the course of many popular races, you’ll find spectators or even event staffers handing out sports drinks and orange slices.

“It’s important to replenish your carbohydrate stores during runs of 90 minutes or more,” says BBC fitness writer Katie Hiscock. “The body can only store around 2,000 kcals of glycogen and after a few hours of running, your fuel tank warning light will flicker on unless you frequently top up your carb stores. High GI carbohydrate foods are best during a run as they release energy quickly. Choose specially designed sport gels and isotonic drinks, or try bananas, oranges, honey, dried fruit or gummy sweets such as jelly beans. Fuel every 45-60 minutes during a long run, with around 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (120-140 calories) per hour (e.g. a large banana, white bread honey sandwich or energy gels), and don’t forget to stay hydrated with plenty of fluids and electrolytes.”

Ruth McKean, a sports nutritionist at the Scottish Institute of Sport, says in the Runner’s World article that getting your “calorie budget” right is key, as is how you spend it.

“It’s not uncommon for recreational runners to go seven or eight hours between lunch and dinner, with a run in-between,” McKean says. “Spreading the calories out over the course of the day – ensuring you eat three meals and a morning and afternoon snack – is likely to help you feel better during your runs and prevent overeating after them.”

It’s also important for you to stay hydrated, both while running and resting. Since most of us would prefer not to run with a water bottle in hand, we’ve included this list of handy hydration belts that can be worn around the waist.

GOAL SETTING

Since this is your first marathon, you may not have a specific goal other than crossing the finish line. However, many coaches believe that all runners should have a time goal.

“New marathoners often struggle with pace judgment because they haven’t trained with any focus on pace,” says Russell Holman, a running coach, in the Runner’s World article. “Using race-pace calculators, along with training performances, helps you predict a realistic, achievable finish time which helps you get the pace right on your training runs, especially long runs.”

THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO DURING TRAINING

DON’T SKIP THE TAPER

New York Road Runners says that you should not skip your taper period, which is generally around two weeks long, even if you’re tempted to.

“Unfortunately, some runners will use this time to make up long runs that they may have skipped during their training,” according to New York Road Runners. “Squeezing in an extra long run in the two weeks leading up to the race will not result in training adaptations. Your body needs that time to rest and recover before the big day.”

DON’T BE TOO RIGID

Holman says in the Runner’s World article that during training, you need to remain flexible and responsive along the way.

“Many newbie marathoners fall down by being married to their plan,” Holman says. “They feel they must complete every single session, even when work, illness, injury, or family commitments get in the way and end up squeezing them in on rest days or by making shorter runs longer or harder. That risks burnout or injury, which could scupper your chances of even making the start line.”

THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT DO ON RACE DAY

DON’T TRY NEW THINGS ON RACE DAY

When race day finally rolls around, the most important thing that you can do is copy how you’ve prepared for training runs.

“Focus on your own race and not what is going on around you,” according to Fleet Feet Columbus . “(A) Mental checklist of systems: Periodically assess for any niggles, tightness, fatigue, thirst, and make minor corrections as needed.  Smooth light turnover and normal cadence.

Break your race into smaller chunks:  If you are just ticking off splits one after another this can be mentally exhausting.”

DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST ON RACE DAY

“Start at the pace you believe you can maintain to the finish,” Yelling says in the Runner’s World article. “The trouble with marathons is that they feel really easy at the start and really hard towards the end. Avoiding the temptation to go too hard in the early stages when you’re feeling comfortable is key.”

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