I’ve never been the sportiest person, and my running journey began in my 30s. When I signed up for my first marathon, I didn’t even own a pair of trainers. People laughed, thinking I was insane, but six months later, I ran it.
The challenge of covering 26.2 miles both excited and sickened me. I never believed I could do it, but not only did I finish, I enjoyed it (although, at that moment, I vowed ‘never again’—a promise I reconsidered and eventually ran a second marathon a year later).
In a few months, I’ll be running my eighth marathon, and I’ll be honest—it doesn’t get any easier. Perhaps because I know what to expect.
The marathon itself is the ‘easy’ part; it’s the months of preparation and training that are tough. It demands as much mental strength, if not more, than physical strength. Friends have expressed admiration for my focus and determination, as I am too stubborn to quit—something that certainly helps in this endurance malarkey.
Here are my top tips for training for your first marathon:
Find and stick to a training plan:
- Look at the week ahead and plan your runs around work and other commitments.
- Bupa and ASICS offer excellent plans for beginners and intermediates.
- Most plans are 16 weeks long, but if you run regularly, a 12-week plan may suffice.
- Depending on your goal, run 3-5 times a week.
- Schedule your long run on a Sunday or the same day as your marathon.
Maintain a conversational pace:
- If you can’t hold a conversation during your long run, you’re going too fast.
Experiment with nutrition:
- Use training runs to try different breakfasts and energy gels.
- Identify what works best for you, as some gels may upset your stomach.
Longest training run:
- Most plans peak at 20-22 miles; don’t worry if you haven’t covered the full marathon distance in training.
- Follow your plan’s tapering instructions in the two weeks before the race.
- Wear something you’ve trained in to prevent chafing.
- Write your name prominently on your top for extra motivation from strangers.
Enjoy the experience:
- Break the course into manageable sections.
- Smile for event photographers—you paid for this!
- Cross the finish line feeling awesome because you are! ❤️