Marathon training is as simple as ABC.
A is for Advice
Never-ending blogs (ahem…) books, articles, and other runners will provide reams of advice on what to do, what not to do and how to survive training. Listen to all the advice, but also, ignore it freely.
Running impacts everyone differently. What works for one person may not work for another. But also be open-minded and try a few things that may seem silly or strange.
You never know what will work for you unless you try it.
B is for Boredom
Marathon training involves running. A lot of running. Long runs (hopefully, not surprisingly) take a long time to do. These runs can be really hard and really boring, often at the same time. This is an odd combination, but get used to it.
C is for Chafing
If you run enough miles, you will occasionally come home with your skin rubbed raw. Bad gear, not enough body glide, or for no identifiable reason, your skin will feel as if it has been rubbed with sandpaper.
Do your best to prevent it. Learn how to deal with it (because you’ll likely never prevent it entirely). And be prepared for the occasional shower from hell when you find out the areas you chafed only as water hits it.
D is for Do It Anyway
It’s easy to come up with a million reasons not to run. I don’t feel like it. My legs are tired from the weekend’s run. I didn’t sleep well. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s raining. It’s threatening rain.
Do it anyway.
You don’t feel like it? Doesn’t matter, do it anyway.
Is it raining? Doesn’t matter, put on a raincoat and do it anyway.
E is for Elimination
No one ever said training for a marathon was glamorous. Part of training and nutrition is paying attention to your food and hydration intake and elimination.
What foods agree with you? What foods always seem to force you to take mid-run porta-potty stop? How much coffee can you have in the morning before a run before it creates a bathroom issue? Notice patterns and change things up accordingly.
F is for Fuel
When training for a marathon, you need to stay healthy and keep your body and muscles supplied with the energy they need. To do this, they need to be refueled regularly. The options for on the run fueling is vast and come in all flavors and textures. Try a few options and see what works for you and your body.
G is for Gear
Get quality gear that works for you. Great shoes are a must. For larger busted ladies, a quality jog bra is worth its weight in gold. Some sort of hydration pack or way to carry fuel will see you power through those long runs.
H is for Hydration
Stay hydrated at all times. Drink water, and lots of it. Add in a sports drink if that works in your nutrition plan. Try a few and see what you like and drink it. A lot. Dehydration is serious business. Drink before you run, drink on the run, and drink as you recover.
I is for Injury
Staying healthy is the eternal struggle for distance runners. Get quality gear, follow a reputable training plan, and respect your rest days.
If you think you are injured, don’t self-diagnose via Google. Get expert advice and let your body heal properly. Don’t push yourself or your recovery. There will always be another marathon if your body won’t do what you need it to. You don’t get another body.
J is for Job (Part-time)
Training for a marathon is a part-time job. It takes a ton of time and a ton of energy (both mental and physical). You can’t cut corners during training and still stay healthy. Make sure you are at a place in your life where you can take on the equivalent of a part-time job.
If you are too busy or have other, higher-priority activities in your life, consider training for a different race at a different time. When you can dedicate the resources you need to it.
K is for Kinesiology
Kinesiology is all about the mechanics of body movement, I’ll use it as shorthand for your running form and movements. Having good form will make all the difference in staying healthy and keeping your joints and muscles happy.
Consult a running coach or kinesiologist to review your running form if you feel like something is off in your running. A little tweak in form can go a long way.
L is for Long Run (a/k/a LSD – Long Slow Distance)
A key to successful marathon training is the long run. Those Saturday mornings spent knocking out the miles, teaching your body (and your mind) endurance. Treat each long run as a dress rehearsal for the race itself. See what works and change what doesn’t.
M is for Mental Training
I tell first-time marathon trainees that the marathon is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. Your mind will want to quit long before your body needs to quit.
Teaching your mind endurance and patience is key to successful marathoning.
N is for Nutrition
Fueling your body is not only something you do on the run. What you eat before you run prepares your body. What you eat after a run helps to replenish and restore your muscles.
Pay attention to what you eat. Eat healthy foods and minimize processed food. Eat enough protein and enough of the right kinds of carbs.
O is for Overtraining
I have one word for you on overdoing it: Don’t.
Respect your rest days. Don’t increase mileage too fast. Don’t run too fast on your long runs. Don’t try to ‘make up for’ days lost due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances.
Trust your plan.
P is for Plan
You can’t fake your way through marathon training. This is not the time to wing it.
Get a training plan. Make sure your plan comes from a reputable source who knows something about running and training. Maybe talk to a certified coach and develop a plan specific to you, your goals, and your life.
Follow said plan
Q is for Quit (Wanting To)
Before you start, know there will be days when you will want to quit. Be ready for them.
It will be hard. Your legs will feel like lead. You will doubt your ability to see it through. One thing is for certain: if you quit you won’t see it through.
R is for Rest Days
Rest days are not avoiding training, they are part of training. Respect your rest days and know they are just as important to your body and your mind as the toughest track workout.
S is for Stretching
Stretching is great for your muscles, keeping them limber and happy. It is also a great time to check in with your body and what it may be trying to tell you.
While you stretch check-in with yourself. Do you feel any odd twinges? What areas are tight? Is anything sore? Does anything hurt?
T is for Taper
The last two or three weeks of your training plan should be a taper, a gradual decrease in mileage. This time allows your body to recover and restore itself for the challenge to come. It is also the time many marathoners to get grumpy, stressed and unpleasant to be around.
The combination of too much rest, too little running, the stresses of the upcoming race, and (near the end of the taper) too many carbs may wreak havoc on your psyche.
This is normal.
U is for UV Rays
Long runs = a long time outside = a long time being exposed to the sun. UV rays are no joke and skin cancer is a major bummer (and a very real risk). Apply a sport-tested sunscreen before you run. Don’t forget the tops of your ears and your neck!
If you’ll be out for a long time, carry a little tube so you can re-apply. I know it’s annoying. Do it anyway. Your skin thanks you. Your future (skin-cancer free) self thanks you.
V is for Visualization
What’s the cheesy (but true) saying? What your mind believes, your body achieves. Before you run, imagine what your run will be like. See yourself finishing strong.
On rest days, spend a few moments imagining race day. Visualize your goal and see yourself succeeding.
Your mind is powerful. Don’t waste it.
W is for Why (Knowing Your)
Know why you want to run a marathon. Remind yourself of that why regularly. Turn it into a mantra or a vision board so your why stays real. Tell your spouse and your running partners your why so they can remind you of it regularly, especially when you are feeling down or want to quit.
X is for Xhaustion
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but training for a marathon is hard. You will finish runs utterly exhausted. A 20-mile long run will likely wipe you out (mentally and physically) for the entire day.
It is totally worth it.
You will come out of it on the other side stronger for it.
Y is for Yo-yoing Confidence
Some days you will feel amazing and like you can conquer the world. Other days, you will wonder why you thought you could do this and why did you even bother starting.
You will go back and forth between these extremes regularly (for me, often in a matter of hours). This is normal. Don’t let the down times stop you. Keep pushing through.
Z is for Zero Doubt Of Your Being Totally Amazing
Running a marathon is hard. Training for a marathon is harder.
If you want to do it, you can do it. When you do it (note I said when, not if), you will be one of the very small percentage of people in the world that have accomplished this feat.
It is amazing.
You are amazing.
You are totally and completely amazing.