10 Things I Wish I Had Known While Training For My First Marathon
Deciding to run your first marathon is exciting. When I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015, I was super excited… but super nervous too. I had done my research. I had built up a solid running base. But still, like many first time marathoners, the longest I had run was 13.1 miles. And at the time, that was a killer.
26.2 miles is an entirely different beast. But, I believed I could conquer it (and I did!). And… you can too. Here are 10 things I wish I had known while I trained for my first marathon.
Your grocery bill will go up.
While it is not recommended to eat all the calories you expend during a long run, it’s inevitable that you will be eating more. Snacking became a must. Eating before and after run is also a must. And did I mention eating during your run? I felt like I was eating all the time. And though I’m totally for the occasional pint of ice cream, I highly suggest that you make sure you have easy access to lots of healthy snacks so you don’t gain weight while training.
Ice packs and foam rollers will be your best friend.
If you don’t already utilize a foam roller, get on it! You don’t need to be training for a marathon to reap the benefits of foam rolling, but for those who are, it is essential. And make sure to also utilize ice packs as well. Any little pain in the foot, knee, thigh, etc., make sure you throw an ice pack on it for 20 minutes. Working both foam rolling and ice packs/ice baths into your routine will help you not only recover faster but help prevent some annoying injuries from happening.
You’ll have to figure out your bathroom strategy.
Yes, I’m going to go there. It is important SUPER IMPORTANT you figure out how to *ahem* evacuate your system prior to your runs and especially, the marathon. Hopefully, you will practice this before your medium to long runs. It can be a source of anxiety for many. Start early and practice so that when race day comes along, you’ll have no worries. Also planning a solid pre race dinner the night before as well as a meal the morning of the marathon will help ensure there are no tummy problems.
You’ll chafe in places you didn’t know existed.
Body Glide is your best friend. There are a number of products out there that are specifically for athletes and chafing. Again, you will learn during your long runs where you are prone to chafing. Some common spots are between the thighs, under the arms, on your feet, for men the nipples, for women the shoulder straps of your sports bra as well as under the band. But there may be other unusual spots that chafe, like your stomach or your sides or even the insides of your knees. You’ll learn all about them as soon as you get into the shower. Ouch.
You’ll need to sleep more.
I kind of anticipated this one, but honestly, I didn’t expect to want to sleep as much as I did. I was going to bed at the same time as my then-preschool-aged daughter!
This one perhaps you might not have the luxury of doing, but I sincerely hope, especially in the later stages of training, that you turn off Netflix, put down your phone and stop cruising Facebook and go to sleep an hour (or more) earlier. Your body is doing a lot of work, especially as the miles creep up, and it’s so important to allow it to recover properly.
It’s a bit consuming.
Social functions will most likely take a hit, especially if your long runs are Saturday or Sunday mornings. You will probably be chewing your significant others ear off with how your run went, how nervous you are, the course preview, and other “interesting” details he/she is “dying” to know. (Be aware of eye rolls.) You’ll be Googling “Pre-Run Meals” or “Fuel for Long Runs” more times than you want to admit.
Try and keep perspective. It’s a big deal, but it’s not your whole life. Make sure recovery days are exactly that, and try to concentrate on something else that has nothing to do with running.
Finding a good pair of shoes is more essential then ever.
We all know that a pair of good running shoes is essential. Now spend 3, 4, 5 or more hours on your feet. You really need to make sure your shoes will stay comfortable for your 26.2 miles.
As my long training runs got longer, I realized the shoe I was running in wasn’t going to cut it for the race. So I went to my local running store that fit me with a solid comfortable running shoe that got me through all 26.2 miles without a blister.
And make sure not to put off getting those shoes. Your running shoes need to be tested and tried over and over before you get to the start line.
Support is everything.
My husband was as big a part of training as my training plan was. Although many of my runs were early in the morning before anyone woke up, there were plenty of days that he had to watch our daughter while I spent hours running. He also took care of dinner on the nights after my long run as well as regular household tasks.
And though not required, having a significant other, friend, family member or neighbor to help you out or just listen to you talk about training will make training a little easier as well as hold you accountable.
You’ll be trying lots of different foods to fuel your long run.
Most likely, you didn’t use much in the way of fuel in a half marathon. Perhaps some Gatorade, maybe even a chew or gel. But marathons are longer, especially if you don’t expect to finish in 5 hours, like I did. But what works for the elites or for your running buddy might not necessarily work for you. And don’t think that all there is to choose from is the standard Gatorade/chew/gel fare. There are many ways to fuel a long run.
For my second marathon I used Tailwind, which is popular with ultra runners. Being that I was out there longer, I needed something that would be easy on my stomach, but kept me fueled. I’ve also been known to throw a PB&J in my pack for those extra long runs. One time, I brought my daughter’s organic gummy fruit snacks. Another time I brought dates and Justin’s Maple Almond Butter in an individual packet.
There are so many products out there, not to mention the ones you can make yourself. Give it all a go and figure out what works best for you.
You’ll doubt yourself.
By the end of my training, especially during my “taper-tantrum”, I questioned myself. Had I trained enough? Can I actually run that far? What if I don’t finish? What if I have a heart attack?
Stop. You are ready. Even if you are a little undertrained, the saying goes: it’s better to get to the start line a little undertrained and well rested than perfectly trained and exhausted and/or injured.
You have put in the time and the effort. You have made sacrifices. In the beginning, you believed you could do it or you wouldn’t have continued to train and sign up for that race. It is a challenge, no doubt, but you can do it. Believe in yourself. You are ready.