Back in 2015, when I was training for my very first marathon, I wrote a post filled with 17 things I learned through marathon training. As training for my third marathon comes to a close, I’d love to share 17 more things I’ve learned over the last two years — and this includes a few things that have been reaffirmed again and again. Check out these 17 Things Marathon Training Taught Me for marathon #3.
17 Things Marathon Training Taught Me
1. You will run a lot of miles.
There’s no way around this one. If you’re training for a marathon, you’re gonna run a lot of miles. Embrace it. Do it. Love it.
2. Your legs won’t ache.
The opposite will be true if you’re training for your first marathon. In that case, your legs absolutely will ache. But after you’ve got some decent mileage under your belt, your body will bounce back much quicker than it had before. My legs don’t ache much anymore, unless I do something like take extended time off of strength training or run barefoot too far.
3. Running alone is good for the soul.
Throughout training for my first marathon, having buddies to train with was really important to me. I love running with friends, don’t get me wrong. But through my last two marathon training cycles, I’ve done quite a few long runs solo. And it’s been all good. I listen to music, podcasts, or make phone calls to pass the time. I like a mix of running with friends and running solo. Pro tip: running with friends really helps in the colder months. Because who wants to run alone then?!
4. You need a solid support system.
This one will always, always, always be on my marathon training list. Make sure you have a non-running support system. If you’re a parent, you’d better be sure to check in with your spouse before committing to a marathon training plan. There are a lot of miles to run, you’ll be gone for hours for long runs, and you most definitely need someone on your team. Plus, it’s nice to know someone besides your running crew is rooting for you.
5. Eat good food and hydrate well.
Yes, you’re running a shit ton of miles these days. No, that does not give you free reign at the all-you-can-eat-buffet dessert table. When you’re putting that kind of mileage and rigorous training on your bod, you need to refuel it with good things like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean protein. Drink lots of water, all the time. Treat your body well so it can carry you far.
6. Have more than one pair of shoes in rotation.
This is another point that will always make my list. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have several pairs of shoes in rotation for any amount of running, but particularly marathon training. First, if you have several pairs in rotation, it will alleviate the need for a panicked trip to the running store for a new pair if the original pair starts showing signs of wear. Second, if you rotate shoes you’ll diminish the opportunity for injuries to arise.
7. Invest in lube, a foam roller, and kinesiology tape.
I’ve gone through several different types of lube and finally found the one I love. I use Skin Glide by Bodyglide and use it diligently. Lube even when you think you don’t have to! You’ll thank me later. As for foam rollers and tape? I was one of those runners who didn’t own a foam roller until my friend sent me one as a gift. It’s been life-changing. And kinesiology tape is always good to have on hand. Just in case…
8. Try new hydration options.
Not in love with your handheld water bottle? Over wearing a hydration belt around your waist? Explore the world of running hydration. There are packs, vests, belts, handhelds — all sorts of fun stuff! Whatever you do, make sure you hydrate.
9. Try new nutrition options, too.
Training is your time to experiment with new foods, gels, electrolytes (like SOS!), etc. I’m partial to Honey Stingers and ProBar Bolt for my nutrition needs, but I also opt for real food like pretzels, pb&j sandwiches, and goldfish. They sky’s the limit when it comes to marathon nutrition so try it all!
10. Long, slow distance is your new best friend.
Remember that one time that you ran a 7:30 pace in a 5K? This is not that day. To run a marathon, you will run long and slow. Don’t fret over a slower-than-you’d-prefer pace. All of your runs will be slower than that. It’s how we roll, and it’s how our bodies adapt to the added distance.
17 Things Marathon Training Taught Me
11. It’s okay to walk.
A long, long time ago, I was one of those runners that had to run every stinking mile. I felt like I would be a farce if I walked and no one would take me seriously. I raced myself every time I ran, regardless of the distance, because I had an insatiable drive to run faster, faster, and faster. Now, this topic is an entire post in itself so I’ll keep it brief here, but let me just say this: it’s okay to walk. A lot of marathoners walk. There is truly no shame in walking. Whether you’re an interval runner or just a runner who walks through aid stations, walking during a race can actually help save your legs and push you faster and further than had you not walked. So seriously. It’s okay to walk.
12. Epsom salts. Not just for the old folks, anymore!
Do yourself a favor. If and when you decide to take the plunge and register for a marathon, make sure you have a big batch of Epsom salts on hand. About an hour before bed on the same day as a long run, take a nice, warm Epsom salt bath. Relax and enjoy.
13. Two words: ice bath.
The counterpart to the Epsom salt bath is the ice bath. Nowhere near as relaxing, the ice bath is definitely warranted in some situations. Not all, but definitely some. Don’t be scared. Just do it.
14. Don’t fear the carbs!
Carbs are not your enemy, especially during marathon training. Your body needs the fuel. Just make sure you feed it good carbs like fruits and vegetables instead of bad carbs like candy and chocolate. (Mmmmm, did someone say chocolate?)
15. Pick your season appropriately.
I warn you about this for a few reasons. First, not everyone likes to run in the heat. Secondly, not everyone likes to run in the cold. And third, whichever season you train in, you’ll likely be racing in the opposite weather. I’ve trained in feet worth of snow and 90+˚ heat. I much prefer training in the heat but I know others loathe it. There’s a good chance, though, your winter miles could end you on a very warm spring race day, or your hot miles could land you on a cool fall day. Therefore I warn you, pick your race season appropriately.
16. Listen to your body.
Whichever way you decide to train for a marathon — with a coach, using an online training tool, or using your own training — whatever you do, be true to you. If you need a rest day when training calls for a 5-miler, take a rest day. If you don’t feel like strength training on a day you’re supposed to strength train, skip it. Your body knows what to do and what you need. Listen to it. Respect it. Love it.
17. Don’t try to run a marathon if you’re not mentally prepared for the marathon.
The miles, the hours, the shoes, the blisters, the black toenails, the hills, the insatiable appetite… need I go on? If you’re not mentally ready for the marathon, there is no way in hell you will be mentally prepared for the training. The marathon is 26.2 miles in one day. The training is 18 weeks. If you’re not ready for it, you’re not gonna make it. Be prepared. And if you’re not ready to train and run a marathon, no harm, no foul. And if you are, “long, slow” steam ahead!
I’ve got some packing to do, y’all. Turns out there’s a big race coming up this weekend. But I’ll catch you back here on Friday for the Friday Five 2.0! This week’s theme: summer running tips. See you then!
TALK TO ME!
What’s one piece of advice you’d add to this list?
Do you prefer warm or cold weather running?
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