Running A Marathon For Beginners

Training for a marathon is no small matter. Running a marathon for beginners is no small feat.  But it is very possible.With an official distance of 26.21875 miles or 42.165 kilometers a marathon is not a race to undertake if you are unprepared.

Humans have been running marathons for more than one hundred years. The marathon has roots in Greek history, where it is said that after the Persians had been defeated at the Battle of Marathon, Pheidippides, a greek soldier ran all the way to Athens to announce the victory. He then promptly died.

These days people no longer die while running a marathon, but it is still quite an accomplishment to complete a marathon, let alone be competitive while doing so. The current world record time for completing a full marathon is 2:02:57, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya on September 28, 2014 at the Berlin Marathon. 2 hours is crazy fast! Most people are generally happy finishing in a more reasonable five hours or so. If you are a beginner interested in running a marathon you should this article is for you.

10 tips: Running A Marathon For Beginners

Train with a friend or with a group of friends. If your friend is a little slower than you, it is fine for now; it will prevent you from pushing your pace and allow you to talk more during the run.

Change where you train to add new scenery. This will infuse freshness into your workouts and prevents you from comparing your new running times with your previous ones.

Add a new type of cross training for your easy workout days. For example, you may try swimming instead of cycling. Changing your routine will help build different muscle groups and will be beneficial to your overall fitness.

Invert the time of the day dedicated to running. If you have always trained during the morning hours try some evening runs, or vice versa. Sunset is just as spiritually moving as sunrise.

Write down your short and long term goals. Display them in a place that you can view them every day.

Acknowledge your accomplishments. Put a smiley face beside the goals you have accomplished. It is great to look at, especially when the smiles continue to grow in numbers.

Wear a different color each workouts. You will be surprised at how a color can make a difference in your effort.

Have a friend or family member drop you off at a given distance and then run home. A point to point course has real purpose, you have a destination to get to and someone special knows you are on the way home.

Race in shorter distances like a 5k or 10k road race. This will give you more experience in preparing for competitions and improve your speed.

Take a hike instead of a run on your favorite trails. See them in a different light then you have been when you were running. It will make a big difference on how you view it when you get back out running the trails again.

By making a few changes in how you go about exercising, you will increase your desire to do more. Be patient with yourself and most of all enjoy what you are doing.

Mental Strategies: Running A Marathon For Beginners

Of all the distance running events, the marathon presents the greatest challenges both physically and mentally. Even after completing all the required training and making it to the race site rested and healthy, arriving at the starting line in less than the ideal state of mind can have a devastating effect on your performance. Let’s discuss a variety of mental strategies that will enable you to set realistic goals, complete the necessary training (in particular, the long runs), and be optimally prepared mentally for the challenges that await you in completing the marathon.

Please be familiar with the following terminology (described with positive outcomes), as each will be mentioned later in this section: mental rehearsal / visualization (the process of creating pictures or images in your mind), imagery (playing out/imagining in your mind the way you wish for an event to occur), self-talk (the “voice” in your head that can be trained to provide positive affirmations during adversity and tough times).

Before you begin – Running A Marathon For beginners

There are certain “prerequisites” or internal characteristic that a runner must possess in order to undertake the necessary training that the marathon requires. These include motivation, self-discipline, and effective time-management, all of which are inter-related characteristics. A coach can be enthusiastic about the training program he or she designs/presents and show interest in the runner’s development; however, motivation and self-discipline must be developed primarily from within. The best marathon training program in the world will not enable a runner to make it to the finish line of a marathon if he or she isn’t internally motivated to undergo and complete the training and then finish the race. Similarly, it requires a great deal of self-discipline to complete the long training runs while at the same time, cope with other daily distractions and manage all the personal responsibilities daily living provides. This is why it is crucial that the runner who wishes to train for the marathon be an effective manager of time.

Short and long term goal setting – Running A Marathon For Beginners

Let’s start with general goal setting considerations. For most first time marathoners, goal setting is simple: to finish the race! Nevertheless, regardless of your experience level and race aspirations, it is best to be as specific as possible when setting goals. Be sure to write the goals down, perhaps tell others about your goals, and set a time frame for achieving the goals. These strategies will enhance the possibility of achieving both your short-term objectives as well as your big goal. There are two basic types of goals: process goals and outcome goals. It is important to set short-term objectives (process goals) on your way to achieving the big goal (outcome goal). These are definitions and examples of process and outcome goals:

Process goals – Running A Marathon For Beginners

These types of goals involve activities that focus on mastering the task and increasing one’s skill level (e.g., the knowledge and training needed to complete a marathon). Examples of process goals include: following the training schedule as closely as possible; improving your nutrition; reading as much as you can about the marathon; consulting with your coach on a regular basis; getting more sleep to be as rested as possible, etc.

Outcome goals – Running A Marathon For Beginners

These goals relate to the finished product or stated differently, goals you hope to accomplish in the marathon. Examples include: breaking 4 hours in the marathon; running the second half of the marathon faster than the first 13.1 miles; defeating a rival; running a personal best in the marathon.

Let’s talk now about marathon goal setting considerations. In the couple of weeks prior to the marathon, think about three (outcome) goals you would be interested in accomplishing for your marathon: (1) an easily obtainable goal, (2) a realistic yet moderately challenging goal, and (3) an ultimate goal. Determine a strategy to achieve the ultimate goal, but build into your plan flexibility to aim for less ambitious goals if things don’t pan out the way you had planned. Above all, be realistic. For example, if you don’t possess the genetic predisposition (natural ability) to run a sub-38 minute 10k, there is very little chance you can break three hours in the marathon, no matter how positive an attitude you possess!

Strategies for completing the training – Running A Marathon For Beginners

Find a coach with the reputation for being both enthusiastic and positive. These traits can help inspire and motivate you.
Join a group or team whose members share your same goals. These individuals can provide you with the needed emotional support to succeed. Groups or a training partner can help make completing the long runs easier than doing these alone. It is essential to find training partners who run your approximate pace so that your workouts do not turn into races.

When doing your long runs, break the course into sections mentally. That is, mentally run from one landmark to the next instead of thinking of completing the entire 20-mile training course. When you reach the first landmark, then mentally think of running to the next and so forth.
Realize that the training will not always be easy. If running a marathon were simple, there would be no challenge as everyone would be able to do it. To enable you to cope with the physical and mental demands of completing the long training runs and the actual marathon when the going gets tough, there are several mental strategies you can utilize.

Examples of mental strategies during your training

Self-talk thoughts Think and say to yourself…
“If this was easy, then everybody could complete a marathon”
“Keep running… Maybe I will feel better when I have some drink”
“If I quit now, I will be very disappointed in myself later this afternoon”
“I am not really physically tired; I am more fatigued mentally”
“Completing this important training run will give me confidence and enable me to finish the marathon comfortably”
“In just one more hour this run will be finished and I will be in at home… showering, relaxing, eating, etc.”

Examples of Imagery

Imagine that you are a world-class runner and are in the lead of the Boston or Olympic marathon.
See yourself running in a form that is smooth and graceful.
Imagine that your a running effortlessly and very relaxed.
Visualization / Mental rehearsal strategies Visualize…
Picture yourself running every mile of the marathon for which you are training.
Visualize what the finish line area will look like (e.g., with the clock displaying the time you are shooting for).
See in your “mind’s eye” the spectators who will be cheering for you.
Think of all your friends back at home who will be thinking about you and pulling for you while you will be running.

Final Thoughts on Running Your First Marathon

Running a marathon for beginners and even professional runners is one of the hardest things a person can do physically.  Have a loose goal for your first marathon.  I’d recommend even just setting the goal of finishing.  Once you get the first one out of the way you’ll be able to do much more.

And don’t forget to have fun!  Running improves all aspects of your life.  Feel grateful that your body works well enough to even attempt it.


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