When you start to get serious about training for a marathon, it may seem like a really big commitment (it should seem like a really big commitment). But if you are dedicated to finishing, and you put in the effort, I have no doubt you can do it.
I’m convinced pretty much anyone can finish a marathon with the right mindset and the right dedication. But there are some things you should know…
What You Should Know About Marathon Training Before You Start
Setting proper expectations is key to successfully accomplishing a goal.
If you expect something to be easy, the slightest challenge can seem insurmountable. I did a half marathon once that went out of its way to call itself a ‘super-flat’ course. There was one hill mid-course that was maybe 50 feet. While it was a measly anthill of a climb, it sure seemed difficult. Not because it actually was, but because I was expecting flat and easy.
But the opposite is also true: some hard things in life don’t seem as bad when you are expecting it.
It’s A Part-Time Job
Marathon training requires a ton of time for the 18+ weeks you are in training. Not only in the time put in on the run (with long runs of 20+, that is nothing to sneeze at), but post-run stretching, strength workouts, track work…
Not to mention all of the extra loads of laundry you have to do to clean all of your running clothes.
Consider marathon training a part-time job.
Make sure you are in place in your life where you can put in the time.
If you look at your calendar and see it’s already booked with travel, work, and family obligations, know that something will have to be rearranged based on where your priorities are.
There Are No Short Cuts
To train for a marathon, you need to run.
There is no magic formula that can bring you to the start line healthy and ready to run without putting in the work.
You can show up on race day of a 5k with no preparation and still have a good race. Same thing with a 10k. You can maybe undertrain for a half marathon and still finish (although I’d seriously I recommend against it).
But the same is NOT true of a marathon. You can’t just show up on race day.
You need to put in the work, week after week.
You Will Doubt Your Abilities and Your Sanity
It is very rare that I come across a marathoner who doesn’t occasionally doubt that they can complete a run or finish a marathon. Nearly all of us at some point question our decision to try.
I promise you, you are not alone in having doubts.
What will make you a marathoner is pushing through these doubts.
You can do more than you think you can.
You can finish the run.
If you do the work, you can run a marathon.
Don’t give in to your doubts. Giving in to your doubts is the only way you are guaranteed to fail.
Don’t Look Too Far Ahead
There is only one time that you should look at and seriously consider your entire training program: when you are creating it.
Once the plan is in place, trust the plan and don’t peek at the workouts you are scheduled to do months from now. On day one of training, the possibility of running 10, 20, or 26 miles seems crazy and impossible.
I’ve finished 27 marathons, and on day one of the next training cycle, it seems crazy when I look at the peak training week and see that 20-miler staring back at me. I know I can do it and it seems crazy.
The best way to think about it is to not think about it.
On week one, your long run will be 8 miles. On week two, it’s 9 miles. Only one measly mile more! You can do that.
The next week you go a mile longer. Rinse, repeat and before you know it, you are knocking out your 20-miler.
Consider what you need to do today, maybe consider what you’ll do tomorrow (for strictly for planning purposes), but no more. Don’t waste your mental energy thinking about the 20-mile long run you will be doing 15 weeks from now.
Selective Amnesia Is Your Friend
You will have good runs. You will have bad runs.
If you know what made a bad run bad, fix it so it doesn’t happen again, learn what you can from it, and forget the rest.
Sometimes there is no reason for a bad run. You can do everything right and still it’s terrible. It happens.
Selective amnesia is a powerful tool while marathon training.
Just forget the bad run ever happened.
Keep It In Perspective
Running a marathon is a major life goal for many people, and it takes over your mental and physical energy when you are training, but keep it in perspective.
Don’t let a bad run ruin your day or your week.
Don’t let a bad run (you will have them) or your doubts (you will have them) spiral into you doubting your worth as a friend, an employee, or a person.
I’ve been there. One bad run and within a few hours I’ve convinced myself I’m worthless, I’ll never accomplish anything in my life and I was stupid to think I should push myself.
In those moments, stop yourself and remember – it was only one bad run.
While not enjoyable, you started. You ran. You stuck it out when it was bad, and you will live to run another day.
Dealing with adversity and bad runs is a big part of being a runner too.
Remember Your Why
I don’t have an accurate number based on science, but I’m willing to bet you will consider quitting at least 3 times during training.
In the moments when you want to quit, remember why you started.
Why do you want to do this? What does the marathon mean to you?
Keep that idea close to your heart and call on it when you need a boost.
Good luck and happy running!