Running a Marathon: Part 1

Since training for and completing a marathon, I have heard all of the comments that you or your friends are probably saying right now, so let’s get them out of the way:

“Why would you do that?”
“That sounds awful.”
“Couldn’t you get to your destination faster if you drive.”
“You have fun with that; I’ll be at the bar.”
“I don’t like running.”
“Doesn’t it hurt after a while?”
“I like to run, but I get bored.”
“You have to pay to run?”
“What do you get for doing it?”
“How long is a marathon? I’v done a 5k before.”
“My thighs scrape against each other when I run.”
And my favorite,

…“I don’t think that I could do the swimming portion.”

I could spend a large portion of this discussion telling you all of the reasons why you should train for a marathon, why it adds value to your life and your mind, and how it changes you in the process, blah, blah, blah… Honestly, you don’t care that much, and it would be a waste of time for me to try and convince anyone. Either you choose to do it for your own reasons, or you choose not to. What I will provide, is a step by step process of how I trained for my first marathon, my suggestions based on my research (and the research of others), and my personal experiences throughout. Whether you’re considering running a marathon, a half-marathon, or even if you know you will never want to try, I would recommend enjoying my written experience for the value of entertainment at the least!

I’ll be providing a 3 part series that includes all of this and more, so I hope that it you will benefit from my experience and enjoy the upcoming posts!

  1. Getting started
    1. What you need
    2. Setting your goals
    3. What you need to know
  1. Training
    1. Flexibility
    2. My experience
  1. Game day
    1. Prep
    2. The race
    3. The after-effects

Part 1:

So let me start in the same way that I ended the caption: There are a million reasons to not run, your reason alone is what makes you do it.

As you may know, I have a list of goals I wish to achieve in my lifetime, and running a marathon is one of them. You also see on TV that there are always older people running them, so I was fine adding that on my list as the later version of me would be completely motivated to it! I was then convinced by others to start running 5k races first, which I very much enjoyed. I wanted to get into better shape, and I love competition; running a 5k as fast as you can makes you really feel like you’ve done your best at the end of it, and absolutely deserve those 5 beers later that day! Next it was a 10k: about 6.2 miles. While I know that I ran that much in high school and college while playing soccer, setting out to just run was another spectrum. I was again convinced to do it by others, and I thought that it would be good for me. Training and completing my first 10k would help me to lose that weight that I thought I would running 5ks, and would be a new milestone to accomplish. Well, to be honest, it kept going this way until the marathon; My first running milestones were never my own idea. I never said, “I want to do this.” It was actually more like:

“Hey, we’ve done a 10k, why not train for a half-marathon?”

Me: “That sounds awful. That would take forever, and I have plans that I would have to navigate, and I want to start going to the gym, not running more. Maybe next spring?”

“Well I’m going to go ahead and start training, and plan to do one in October.”

Me: “Good. Let me know how it goes!”

Then about 3 months from the race day:
Me: “Hey can I still sign up? I don’t want you to do it by yourself.”

This was almost the exact communication every time. So my first tip: Surround yourself with people who want to make themselves better.

Getting Started:

Whether you’re starting with a 5k, or you're training for a marathon, you will need some of the essentials. Running is such a great habit to have because it is quite cheap compared to others. I can’t stress enough though, if you skimp on the gear, you’re skimping on your goal.

Gear: What you need to get started

    • Shoes: Starting with the most important part, shoes are the essentials! This is the easiest one to skimp on, because their are cheaper versions, you may want to start with some that you already have and know are comfortable. Don’t. Unless they’re made specifically for running and they're brand new, please just don’t. I’m starting with this, because it is hard to grasp at first, but here are the facts:

  1. You are supposed to go through shoes fast. They can be $200 and look as white as the day you bought them, but they will wear out.
  2. If you continue to wear shoes that are worn out, your runs will suffer. You’re likely to get an injury, but even if not, you will hurt more, run slower, and enjoy the runs less
  3. This is your maintenance costs. Compare it to your weekly trip to the bar, or to playing golf, or to anything outside of tiddly winks (yep, tiddly winks), and your expensive shoes will still be cheaper. It's not that bad; deal with it.

  • Socks: Similar to shoes, you will need to replace them, but they’re a lot less expensive and a good pair will make all of the difference. Get a couple that are made specifically for running and you will be good to go. Simple enough?
  • Clothes: Get thin layers, and avoid cotton. Cotton soaks up the sweat and weighs you down. Anything that is moisture-wicking and fits the outside temp should do.
  • Headphones/Music/Tracking App - So there are 2 things that you will want to do while running: 1. Listen to music 2. Track your run. While neither of these may sound like something you find important, you will eventually. I use my phone for music and tracking, and have bluetooth wireless headphones (Plantronics BackBeat Fit Bluetooth Headphones from Amazon). You can go as cheap or as expensive as you like on any of these. There are watches, wristbands, and apps that get very detailed with your tracking, but I use a free version of Strava and have for years. What I love about Strava is that it shows all of the details of your run, so you can compare them against others, or your own previous times. It will make you feel awesome when you compare your first runs vs your later runs. As for headphones, use what you like. I can’t use earbuds because they’re always falling out, but I know many people that do. I’d just recommend not getting a pair that covers your ears because you will need the sweat to air out
  • Band-aids. Have them and not need them (you’ll need them)
  • That’s it! There is a ton of other stuff you can buy, such as headbands, GPS, tape, etc. this will get you started and then you can figure out if you really need anything else.

Setting your goals:

-So everyone has their own starting points, their own endurance levels, and their own goals. You have to match your own situation to set your goals. Example: If you can’t run 1 mile without stopping, don’t have your second week of training scheduled to do a 6 mile run. Plan your long runs for the weekends; You are not, or should not, be planning to make your runs a full level sprint, so take them slow, and speed up towards the end if you can. By the time you get close to your 13+ runs, it will take a considerable portion of your day, so plan accordingly. You should plan to increase each weekend with a taper weekend after each 2.
  • Week1: 6 miles
  • Week2: 7 miles
  • Week3: 5 miles
  • Week4: 8 miles
During the week, try to get in 2 - 4 lower distance runs (3 or 4 miles each). The reason that you taper on the long runs, and do shorter runs during the week, is that resting becomes just as important as your runs. All of the other sites you review will tell you the same thing, and this comes from my personal experience as well. If you do too much, your runs will suffer. There’s nothing worse than committing to do a 16 mile run, getting to mile 13, and realizing that you don’t think that you can make it to 16. It has happened to me, and it is disappointing. An even worse scenario is being in the same situation, and then trying to make it to mile 16 despite your body telling you that it can’t be done. There is a real risk of injury when your taking you body to the max, and there’s not often a quick recovery time on those times of pitfalls.
Another thing that you will find, is that on race days, you will be able to exert yourself more than on an average run day. So if you get to 10 miles on your long run training day, you might plan to do your first half-marathon in a couple of weeks. Training for your first marathon, you will want you longest long run to be about 20 miles. You can do more than that if you have recovery time before your first marathon, but this is the standard marker that indicates you can do a 26 miler the day of. Big tip for setting and completing your goals: Listen to your body and comply. Be flexible with your weekly runs. And never miss a long run.

What you need to know:

I could compile a very large list of items to discuss about things that I learned and things that I wish I knew before hand, etc. I won’t make this a very detailed section but will hit some of the major points:

  • Long runs build character. I know that this is a cheesy one to start off with, but you will realize how awesome you are once you complete a new long run. It hurts. You will feel pain; and a certain points, you’ll know that what you are doing is crazy. You have a lot of time to think while you’re out running, and while you’re hitting new physical goals and accomplishments, you’re also breaking down mental barriers. I won’t go into much more detail on this, but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get to it. Running a marathon is just as much mental as it is physical.
  • Long runs take time. This seems understood, but prepare yourself, you're not going to set aside 2 hours for a 2 hour run. You have to stretch, you have to get ready, you have to run, and you have to recover. The longer the run, the more recovery time you’ll likely need afterward. I’d recommend setting aside at least an extra hour for recovery for your first few long runs until you start to know your own returns.
  • Blisters and other: You will get blisters, and you will likely get nipple chaffing (I can speak for the males at least). I have found that there is one specific spot where I always get a blister, and it does not matter what shoes, socks, etc that I try, I’m going to get a new one on every long run. Now I have learned that if I go ahead and put a bandaid on it before my run, it will keep other blisters from occurring due to the original one. I have tried different tshirts to help with the nipple chaffing, and some help prevent it, however I have read that many people are not able to prevent it other than to use a balm prior to your run. It’s slightly embarrassing, but just be prepared and know that it’s happening to all of the other guys as well. Watch people on race day panicking because they forgot their balm… it happens every time and I’ve seen people very concerned. If you can, help them out; at least you came prepared.
  • A great playlist can make all of the difference. I can’t give you too many tips because you’ll just have to figure out what works for you. I like the upbeat and adrenaline fueling songs that will keep my mind on the music rather than on how many miles I have left. You may prefer something else. Regardless, you should plan ahead and create a playlist that you know will help get you through. Include as much Eye of the Tiger as you can stand!
  • Your time and commitment to completing your first marathon will be tremendous and worthwhile. Be aware that lots of people have not gone through this, and can’t begin to understand. When trying to talk to non-runners or posting on social media, moderation is key. Don’t be that guy…

Go to Part 2