The marathon distance presents quite a challenge both physically and mentally. I've run five of them over the years and the metaphor I have used in my training is, it's like putting blinders on and staying keenly focused on the process and the goal out in front of me. In my Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) coaching certification program, the instructors advised that runners should have two years of consistent running, that is roughly 20+ miles per week on average, before embarking on a marathon training program, and they suggested, a runner should take six-months to properly train for the event. Good, solid, careful advice. The point with a conservative approach such as this is to run for life and not get terribly injured during your first marathon experience, like many people do. But as we say in Maine, 'there's more than one way to skin a cat.' I've seen runners successfully complete a marathon less prepared. It's just important to realize what you're getting into and to consider good advice when it's presented.
Yesterday, I picked up a copy of "New England Sports", a free magazine that comes out eleven times a year. This was "The Keeper 2009" calendar edition presented by City Sports of Boston, and an article called "Tips for the First-Time Marathoner" caught my eye. We all like tips, and this author provides understandable, non-technical information.
Mike Norman is a Boston Marathon and Ironman World Championship qualifier, with multiple marathons, triathlons, and swimming events under his belt. He is a coach and co-founder of Chicago Endurance Sports, an active and organized club in the Chicago area. Mike graciously permitted me to share these tips with you:
- Be prepared: Before you start training for a marathon, you need to make sure you're ready to take on the challenge. Ideally, you have been consistently exercising (30 minutes, three times per week) for the last year.
- Get ready for the training: Before you start your 18-20 week marathon program, a good rule of thumb is to work your way up to running a minimum of 30 minutes, 3-4 times a week, including one slightly longer run on the weekends.
- Make a Plan: You wouldn't try to bake your first cake without a recipe, and the same goes for marathon training. Do your research and find a program that is designed for someone with your fitness and health background.
- Be consistent, but flexible: As your training progresses, realize that things come up, and that it doesn't mean your whole season is ruined. If you miss a workout, don't worry - just get back on track with the next workout. If you miss a week or more, you will need to ease your way back into it, or you risk getting hurt.
- Extra motivation: Join a group, so you meet other friends that are going through the same things you are. Not only will it make the training more fun, it will motivate you to stick with it, so you don't let your training buddies down.
- Tell everyone: Tell your friends family, coworkers, and everyone else that you're training for the marathon. They will be a lot more forgiving of your strange new habits (going to bed early on Friday nights, saying "hydrating" instead of drinking, etc.) and it will keep you motivated to stick with it.
There are many options available for marathon training programs such as coached groups with personal plans, books, internet plans, etc. If you are considering running the Peak Performance Maine Marathon on October 4th, 2009, I'll be offering an 18-week program beginning May 31st. Go here for more information.
Good luck with your planning and your training, and don't lose faith, spring is coming.