If you’ve followed me on social media for a while, then you probably are well aware that I’m in the process of training for a marathon! This will be my second time lacing up for 26.2 and just like the first time, the training has been the toughest part. While the race itself is longer than any training run, there’s so much adrenaline pumping through you along the course that the full length of the marathon doesn’t seem as difficult on race day… but 19 miles with no crowds, no medal, and no finish line IS tough! I thought I’d put together a list of tips and tricks that have helped me get through four months of training for a marathon… twice! Enjoy!
Find a partner or group: I can’t stress this enough… don’t go it alone! Running is hard, and running fifteen miles is even harder. But what’s really hard? Running all those miles all by your lonesome. Trust me, find a friend. Better yet, find a whole group of friends! I live in Richmond, VA and am lucky enough to have an amazing running partner less than a mile away from me. There’s also an incredible marathon training team run through Sports Backers (you can check them out here). Whether you choose to train with a friend, or with a group, just make sure you have someone. Not only will having a partner or group help motivate you for those early morning wake up calls, and keep you moving at mile seventeen of a twenty-miler… but especially for females, it’s a big safety thing, strength in numbers!
Buy good shoes and track your mileage: This one is a non-negotiable. You simply CANNOT train for a distance race in crappy shoes. However, that’s a very relative term. A shoe that feels amazing on your foot, may feel completely terrible on your friends. Just like people, all feet are different! Make sure you go to a quality running store and get fitted for a shoe that fits YOUR needs… I love Fleet Feet on Patterson Ave in Richmond! My go-to shoe for this training cycle has been the Adidas Pureboost Xpose. They’re comfortable, well-structured, and feel amazing on mile two, ten, or twenty! I also HIGHLY recommend tracking your shoe mileage throughout your training cycle. You will most likely go through two pairs of shoes (and really you should be training with two pairs so you’re not running one pair into the ground and risking injury). I really like the app “ShoeCycle” which lets you input all of your shoes and add your mileage after each run. I currently have six different pairs on the app and can easily look to see which pairs are nearing the end of their life. Biggest tip? Do NOT wait until your shoes are worn out to switch to a new pair!!
Experiment with fuel… early on: When you’re running for more than an hour, you need fuel to keep you going. And if you’re running for four hours in a marathon… you’re DEFINITELY going to need energy and nutrition along the way! Practice throughout your entire training cycle with what kind of fuel works for your body, how often, and how much. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT wait until race day to try something new. If it doesn’t work, you’re going to have a terrible time. It’s much better to try out a new fuel early in your training to make sure it agrees with your stomach. And I even try and plan runs where I’m trying out new fuel around stops I know have public bathrooms! It sounds like overkill, and I’ve never needed it, but on the off chance that you do, you’ll be thankful you decided to run past that Kroger! My go-to’s are Honey Stinger Chews (Cherry Blossom flavor) and Plum Organics baby food pouches (Sweet Potato, Apricot, Papaya & Cardamom). Both offer easy, quick energy without chemicals and preservative junk!
Have the right gear: I laugh when I hear people tell me that running is an “inexpensive” sport. Sure, you could throw on an old pair of tennis shoes and head outside for a jog… but when you’re training for a marathon, you need really good gear that’s meant for distance. Two of my favorite items and major go-to’s are my socks and my hydration pack. For socks, I’ve been wearing the Feetures! Elite Max Cushion for years. They’re thick, extremely padded, and wear insanely well! They also make a thinner version but I’ve found that I prefer the maximum cushion, they just feel better on my feet! And yes, they’re $15 a pair… but I’m telling you, NO blisters, NO rubbing, they’re so worth the money! For my hydration pack, I use the Camelbak Circuit Vest. I’ve had the same one for, no joke, over three years and have never had to replace a single thing on it! It’s lightweight, can hold up to 1.5 liters of water, and also has TONS of little pockets all over for storage! I can easily bring my phone, fuel, tissues, credit card, ID and a key with zero problems. Not having to hide water along a 20-mile training run is amazing, and I also use this bad boy at all my races to avoid the chaos of the water stops!
Listen to your body, but don’t fall prey to marathon month induced hypochondria: This is one that I always struggle with leading up to the big day. You’ve been training for months, spending countless hours on the road and waking up earlier than the sun too many times to count. And then, three weeks before race day, you start to feel a twinge in your knee… oh God… there goes your meniscus. Or maybe, it’s just sore from running 19 miles the day before? Don’t ever ignore a pain signal from your body, but also don’t freak out over every little twitch. Take time to rest, but don’t psych yourself out thinking that you’ve suffered a major injury until you know for sure. As the start line approaches, you’ll be so insanely in-tune with your body that you’ll notice if ANYTHING feels weird. Take it in stride and really tune in to what you’re feeling. Is it just soreness from running and increasing your pace and mileage? Or is it something more? Never be afraid to go get something checked out if it feels funny, and don’t ever underestimate the power of a rest day and a warm epsom salt bath for those aches and pains… they’re all part of the process!
Be flexible with your schedule: You will run… A LOT… when you’re training for a marathon. I follow the Hal Higdon Novice 2 plan (which I highly recommend) and it has me running four days a week. But here’s the deal, when you’re training for four months, you’re bound to have something come up at least once that keeps you from completing a run. Guess what… IT’S OK! My advice is to stick to your schedule as best you can, but don’t be afraid to take an extra rest day if you need it, or to drop down from 5 to 3 miles, or move a long run from Sunday to Friday if it works with your schedule. Being flexible is one of the best things you can do for your body, as well as for your mental state during marathon training. This is something that I didn’t do my first time around. I didn’t allow myself a little wiggle room to miss a training run here or there, and it took it’s toll on me. I’m not recommending you make a habit out of skipping runs, and certainly make sure to get in all of your long runs, but it’s alright to rest now and then… or maybe choose happy hour with friends over that four miler you had planned!
Cross-train: My final piece of advice is to not limit yourself to ONLY running for your training cycle. The first marathon I ran, I literally only ran for four months straight. On the days I wasn’t running, I wasn’t doing anything except for sleeping and sitting on the sofa “resting” my body. I highly recommend NOT doing this. Find another activity that you enjoy and make sure to stick with it along with your running. For me, it’s hot yoga. I enjoy the heat and the way it makes my muscles feel. This entire training cycle I’ve continued to keep up with my hot practice (if you’re in Richmond, check out The Hot Yoga Barre, because they’re amazing) as well as at-home workouts every so often. I don’t recommend going all out and completing a major strength training or cardio program during training, but make sure to engage muscles other than your legs throughout these four months… your body and brain will thank you!
Thanks for reading, I hope these tips/tricks will help you to crush your first, fourth, or hundredth marathon!! Are you signed up for a race coming up? Comment below and let me know, I’ll be cheering for you!!