Congratulations! You are setting a big goal for yourself. Training for your first marathon involves a lot of dedication. You are going to overcome so many obstacles during this time. The main elements to keep in mind when training are:
• Building up your miles overtime
• Doing your long runs (THESE ARE SO IMPORTANT)
• Cross training
Do not go out and try to run 15 miles the day after you sign up for your marathon. You are going to be excited and ambitious but this will only hurt you. Build up your miles over time. I used Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Guide to determine how many miles I would run a day until marathon day. Keep in mind that it takes about 4 months to train correctly so you do not injure yourself. You should aim to run 3-5 times a week at a relaxed pace for these runs.
The long runs, in my opinion, are the most important part to marathon training. This is what gets your body ready to finish 26.2 miles. You should do a long run once a week throughout your entire training. Your long runs will increase in mileage over time. In the beginning, your long run will be around 6 miles and at the peak of your training, it should be around 20 miles. Most training plans only go up to 20 miles. You may be thinking… What about the other 6.2 miles? Your body should be capable of doing 26.2 if it can do 20. The crowd cheering, endorphins going, and adrenaline will push you to the end.
My first marathon I only trained up to 10 miles and my second marathon I trained up to 19. I saw a huge difference in performance during the race along with recovering after the race. When I only trained up to 10 miles my body was in complete shock after crossing the finish line at 26.2. I could barely walk for the next week and I was in a lot of pain. When I trained up to 19 miles my body was ready to run the next day (although I had NO desire to do so). This should motivate you to train correctly. Make yourself feel good after the race.
Cross training allows you to work other muscle groups that you might not be strengthening while running. It allows you to improve your overall performance. All of the pounding on your legs can be a lot on your body. Plus, this is a time to do something other than running around in circles. Cross training also helps you avoid getting injured by decreasing muscle imbalance. My favorite cross training activity is biking. Typically, I ride on a stationary bike inside, although riding outside can be fun too. Biking allows me to get my heart rate going fast while still being low impact. It strengthens my leg muscles to increase my running performance. Other cross-training activities include walking, swimming, rowing, weight lifting, and yoga.
Injury rates are very high when it comes to marathon runners. To prevent yourself from becoming one of those people, REST! Allow your muscles the time they need to recover. You should have a rest day once a week during your training. Not only does your body need the rest, so does your brain. The mental battle is just as tough when training for a marathon but you cannot let it get to you. It is also important to make sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep at night.