Preparing for Your First Marathon

I’ve always run for endurance and to stay in top physical shape as a high school and collegiate wrestler. Post-college I continued to run, but never really envisioned completing a marathon. That is until I met a woman who was 50 years young at the time. Not only was she living with HIV/AIDS, but she had neuropathy in her feet. When we met, she was gearing up for her second marathon, where she would be walking.

When I registered for my first marathon, I committed to raising funds for a local charity in Harlem that provided services for those living with HIV/AIDS. That was my initial “why”. I was running for those living with HIV/AIDS. My father passed when I was four-years-young due to complications with AIDS. I registered and along with other fundraisers we trained together and the organization hired a trainer who worked with us.

I share that to say it’s important to remain connected with the “why”. It will push you throughout your training and during your first/future marathons. If you haven’t asked yourself already, take the time to do so now. Why are you choosing to run a marathon?

Once you connect with your “why,” you need to figure out the “how”. You have some options, depending on where you are in your life and how much time you have during the weeks leading up to the marathon. If you work out often and are in good physical shape, you can possibly train for less than 4-months, but it is recommended to train for at least 4-months before your first scheduled marathon.

The options available:

  • Join a local running club or crew and connect with others who have already run a marathon, if not more. You might also connect with others who are in the midst of training and you can join them.
  • Hire a personal trainer who will focus on you and only you.
  • Research local charities who provide trainers for those raising funds for their organization.

If you like running with groups and connecting with people, I would highly recommend the first option, since I am a captain of a running club right in Harlem, NYC (i.e. Harlem Run). As much as I have supported others in their training, they have supported me just as much in kind.

Hiring a personal trainer is a great option, especially if you normally do not work out or run. I would highly recommend that, if that is the case for you. When you have someone who can point out the flaws in your form, and muscle groups that may be a weakness for you, they can insure that you stay injury-free. It is easy: if you listen to your body, you won’t injure yourself.

A consistent regimen is key to your training. I recommend running at least three times per week. During each week, complete at least a short, mid, and long run (i.e. 2 miles, 4 miles, 7 miles). You will get to a point along that 4-month training where you will complete somewhere around 10 miles, 15 miles, and 20 miles within a given week. It is often said that if you can complete at least 20 miles before your marathon, you can complete a marathon (26.2 miles). From the moment you start until a month out from your scheduled marathon, you want to increase your miles every week and work up to finishing at least 20 miles on your long run.

If there are any three things that you need to know it’s these three things: (1) day of the marathon remember your training, (2) nothing new on race day, and (3) finish how you want to finish.

I’m an emotional person, so my first marathon, a lot of emotions came up for me the day of the marathon. There was so much excitement and adrenaline that I ran my first 13 miles at pace faster than what I had trained. This led to me struggling within the past 8.2. miles. Even though I finished with a great time I was a little disappointed. Remember to run your marathon and not anyone else’s. Whether you run the entire time, walk and run, or walk, remember how you trained and follow it until completion. Also, race day is NOT the time to try out a new meal for breakfast, switch up your water routine, or try a new running tactic. Much like I advise you remember your training, stick with what you know! You’ve already proven that it works.

Finally, set a goal for yourself. During your training you will get a feel for your body, as well as what pace you run, run/walk, or walk. It’ll give you a rough figure for how long it will take you finish. Set a goal to reach, and don’t be surprised if you surpass the goal you set! Good luck in preparation for your first marathon, and all the best on your future marathons to come.