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Last month, I finally completed the promise I made to myself about a year ago, and I ran my first marathon. It was the result of a lot of early morning runs, a lot of turning down Saturday night fun so that I could do long runs on Sundays, and a lot of miles of training. But I’m no superhuman, and I’m not even particularly athletic, so I figure that if I can do it, then you can certainly do it.
If you’ve been considering training for a marathon or half marathon, here are some tips for starting your training. Make this the year you finally cross that finish line!
1. Sign Up
Something that people don’t seem to talk about much, but is true about marathons, is that they are kind of expensive. I didn’t realize it until I went to sign up for the Austin Marathon and found it would cost me over $100. Wow! Ok. So, when you sign up, you might be grumbling, but in the end the cost of the marathon is an advantage for you for a couple of reasons.
First, if I paid over $100, there’s no way I’m backing out! I’m going to finish that marathon just to get my money’s worth, if nothing else! I think most people would probably feel the same about this.
Also, the swag. The shirts, stickers, keychains, whatever. You’ll feel so cool sporting that swag after you finish your marathon. “Oh, this? Oh yeah, I got it because I ran 26.2 miles, no big deal.”
You can find a useful list of marathons all over the United States at MarathonGuide.com in order to find one you want to sign up for.
2. Get the Gear
You’re going to be running a lot of miles. So many miles! So it’s really worth it to get the good stuff. I tried to save some cash and get off-brand running pants, and they would not stay up. Not even for a 3-mile run. So I shelled out a little more for the Nike running pants, and they are a dream. Warm, comfortable, breathable, and the double waistband keeps them up without cutting in. Ladies, the Nike sports bras are also completely worth it – I’ve had some for 4 years, and they are still good as new.
Nike running shoes also get a lot of talk, but when it comes to shoes you shouldn’t just go for what’s popular. Your local running store should have experts on hand who can recommend a good running shoe for you. Some of my favorite brands are Asics and Mizuno.
When it comes to getting the gear, you can sometimes get the good quality brands for less if you’re savvy and search for deals. Outlet stores are also a good place to find discounts on “fancier” running gear.
3. Pick a Training Plan
This is a really important step, because you want to make sure to choose a running plan that’s appropriate for your level. Anyone can train to run a marathon or half marathon, but you should be realistic about where you’re starting from when you choose your plan. If you choose a plan that starts from a more advanced level than you’re at, you might get discouraged early on.
When I trained, I used a plan from Hal Higdon. He provides free and super helpful marathon and half marathon training plans organized by level. For instance, if you’ve never run any kind of race before, you would choose his Novice 1 program, which starts out slow and gradually increases the mileage you run each week. If you’ve done a good amount of running before, you could use the Intermediate program, which starts from 4-5 mile runs and gradually increases the mileage.
Along with training schedules, Hal Higdon’s site also provides tons of useful information about training, resting, how many weeks to take for your plan, and just about everything you might need to know about marathon and half marathon training.
Alright, you have your plan, your gear, and your goal in mind. Now it’s time to run! It’s really helpful to have a running buddy, because then you can hold each other accountable for your workouts. If you have any friends who are interested in training with you, you could team up.
If all your friends look at you like you’re crazy (like mine did), you can sign up with an online community like LogYourRun.com, or use an app to connect with other people who are training for marathons. I used RunKeeper on my iPhone, which tracked my runs, my pace, elevation gain, and all that good stuff. My RunKeeper friends could see my activities and comment on them, and if I didn’t run, RunKeeper bothered me about it…
There really is nothing like the feeling of crossing the finish line after your first half marathon or marathon. So what are you waiting for? Lace up your new shoes and get out there. The road awaits you.