So you’re thinking about running a marathon. Covering 26.2 miles with leg power and determination. Doing a marathon is a mighty achievement many people aspire to complete at some point in life.
Why is a marathon so far?
The marathon concept originates from ancient Greece, at approximately 490 B. C. Athens successfully defeated the offensive Persian army in a long, bloody battle.
A messenger named Pheidippides was then sent to run all the way to Athens to deliver the word of the success. Legend has it, the distance was 26.2 miles and that is where the term ‘marathon’ comes from.
Why do people even run marathons?
Reasons for taking on the feat are varied. Some run to raise money and awareness for a charity like Parkinson’s UK or Macmillan, some are professional athletes competing, whilst others are drawn to the sheer scale of the challenge that marathons offer.
Think carefully before signing up for a marathon
Signing up for a marathon is a huge decision to make. There’s a lot to think about, consider, and to be aware of before committing yourself to one.
Would you rush into buying a car or booking a holiday?
You wouldn’t rush into buying a brand-new car without knowing anything about it. That’d be crazy! A bit of information on its mileage, specifications, engine size, and additional features are a must for the prospective buyer.
Likewise, budding holidaymakers search through reviews on websites before booking their hotels.
Looking at the experiences and thoughts of others is a key ingredient to the decision-making process.Take your time, understand the important things.
Before you book the marathon, it’s important you know these 7 things.
What are the 7 things you need to know?
1. You need the right equipment
A marathon is a remarkable expedition for anybody to embark on. Like all great expeditions, you will need the right equipment.Do you think Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay scaled Mount Everest without ropes, mountain clothing, eyewear and climbing boots? Of course not! The right equipment is always a necessity to accomplish huge feats in life, and a marathon is no exception. So, what do you need?
Running shoes, a few shirts and vests, and some shorts and sports leggings, are necessities. In the months of training before the race, you will probably experience different weather conditions.
Rain and the cold will call for long sleeved tops and leggings, whilst the beating sun will require loose vests and shorts.
Outside the basics, you can equip yourself with nice accessories. Running sunglasses are handy to wear for UV ray and environmental eye protection. A runner’s waist belt is highly recommended, so you can carry water, snacks and gels during training runs. Additionally, investing in a decent sports watch is useful for recording progress and pacing your training runs properly.
2. You need to change your diet
People know this and think it will be easy to do, but when it comes to it they are often surprised at how difficult it is to change their diet.
You need proper fuel
Like a jumbo jet passenger carrier crossing the Atlantic Ocean, you need proper fuel for marathon training. Properly fuelling up before any long run is essential to maintain your performance. If you don’t eat properly you will suffer a few miles in and start to feel like you’re in hell. It really doesn’t have to be that way.
Low GI carbohydrates beforehand
Prior to long runs, you need to provide a stable supply of glucose for your body. Pasta, rice, whole wheat bread and oatmeal, are all low GI, dependable carbohydrate sources. Eat a serving at least 45 minutes before a long run.
Protein and fats afterwards
After training food should all be about recovery. Proteins and fats should be your go to. Eggs, meats, cheese and fish, are all ideal. Add some nutritious vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, kale and lettuce, for a healthy post-run meal.
In between training
Healthy, non-processed, natural foods, should all be the core of your diet. In a world where fast food has become easy to get your hands on, you will need a lot of willpower to say no to temptation.
If you say, “one McDonald’s won’t hurt every now and then”, remember it all adds up!
Performance is dependant on what you eat
Being mindful that performance is dependant on what you eat is key to marathon success. If you’re not willing to give up biscuits, crisps, processed meats, and your favourite fast food outlets, think again before booking a marathon!
You will find out during training you cannot maintain this diet and will be in for a nasty shock. If you sign up for a marathon, you will need to change your diet.
3. You need to be disciplined
You need to be disciplined to run a marathon. Make no mistake. If you can’t be consistent with your training and hold yourself accountable to your decisions, a marathon won’t be for you.
You need to adopt a training plan (one you’ve created or from elsewhere) and stick to it. If the plan says you will run 10 miles on Wednesday morning, you will run 10 miles on Wednesday morning. No excuses.
“Most people want to avoid pain, and discipline is usually painful.” John C. Maxell
Whatever it takes
Training and running for a successful marathon mean you will do whatever it takes.
Whether it’s snowing a blizzard, painfully cold, or as hot as a tropical island, you will run when your schedule tells you too.
Even if you’re tired, groggy, or just “don’t feel like it today”, you will do it anyway. Skipping a training session here and there may seem a minor hiccup, but it will all add up.
If you run a marathon you need serious discipline to train consistently. Whatever it takes.
4. You need to be organised
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.“ Benjamin Franklin
The importance of being organised is often neglected. Being organised means, everything has its place, and a system is used to keep things in order.
If you run a marathon you need to organise your running clothing so it’s easy to find and put on. Spending 10 minutes tearing your room apart to find your left Asics trainer, then delving into your wardrobe for a compression vest is wasted time.
If you don’t have a training plan to follow, your training won’t be as effective because it will lack structure and routine. Your routine will probably be messy. One day you may run 5 miles, the next 12 miles, the next day you might run 2 miles. Though you’re running and feel like progress is being made, your body is likely not getting into the shape it needs to be for marathon running.
Your time is valuable, get organised and don’t waste it
Don’t waste your time! Organise your running clothes into a neat pile the night before a run. Create – or get – a training plan and stick to it. You will save yourself bundles of time, and your training will be more enjoyable.
If you run a marathon you need to be organised.
5. You need to run loads of miles
Okay, so this one sounds a little obvious. Fair enough. However, most people don’t understand just how difficult upping their weekly mileage can be. If you’re a 20 mile a week runner that’s brilliant, but it will need to be increased substantially for marathon training.
If you don’t run enough miles, you will experience pain and poor performance on marathon day
It doesn’t matter how mentally determined, driven and motivated you are. If you’re not in shape on race day, you will suffer immensely. Not only that, your time will probably be poor and not what you want.
How many miles will I have to run?
According to Runners World, those who ran 38 to 44 miles per week ran an average of 3:40:56 which was well below the nation’s marathon average of 4:27:27. Runners who ran the least miles (6 or lower) ran approximately 5:12:12 or slower. Your average weekly miles directly correlate to performance come marathon day.
What number should I aspire to run every week?
If you want a decent marathon day, with reasonable comfort and a respectable time, I would recommend trying to run 40 miles a week as a minimum.
Having a tangible, measurable goal for weekly mileage is important for tracking progress. Whatever your weekly mileage goal, pick it and stick to it.
6. You need to invest serious time
Running 26.2 miles takes a long time, and so does all the weekly training before the marathon.
If you’re someone who is unable to commit some serious time to marathon training, you may want to reconsider signing up to one.
You will probably be spending at least an hour a day training, come to the end of your training routine (bar rest days). That adds up to a lot of time.
If you haven’t got enough time, wake up earlier
Time might be difficult to give up for a would-be marathoner. If you seriously want to run a marathon but haven’t got the time, wake up an hour earlier. It may sound brutal and difficult, particularly if you’re someone who loves their shut-eye. On the other hand, you will find a way to put training time in if you are serious about running a marathon.
There’s always a way to find the time needed.
If you want to run a marathon, you will need to invest some serious time into training.
7. You need to be willing to experience pain
There’s going to be some pain along the way, there’s no escaping the fact. There will be some training sessions where you will feel uncomfortable. You’ll have a stitch in your side, desperately grasping at the air for oxygen, your legs will be like wobbly jelly.
These things don’t sound attractive, but they accompany marathon training and are necessary if you want to condition your body (and your mind) for the race.
“Suffering is the true test of life.” David Goggins
Experiencing pain is not a bad thing, though. Growth occurs when we’re at our most uncomfortable. Pain can be one of the most powerful factors for success in life.
Nobody likes studying textbooks relentlessly for an exam, practising scales and arpeggios like there’s no tomorrow for a piano exam or being told their cooking is not up to scratch. However, these sacrifices are necessary for great achievement. It’s just the way it is.
Remember, if you want to run a successful marathon you will need to be willing to experience some pain.