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So, you’ve decided to run a marathon. Has the panic set in yet? Don’t worry; if this is your first marathon, it may seem like a big undertaking, but we promise it’s not as scary as it sounds. With a few tips and tricks, you can ensure your marathon is successful and enjoyable. And for those who are old pros, looking to cross another marathon off their list or best their last time, these tips are ones to add to your training arsenal as well.
1. Find a similar topography.
Find yourself a running route with similar topography to what you’ll find during the marathon. If you’re not seeing the same ups and downs (or even the same consistent flatness) during practice that you will on race day, you might not be properly prepared.
2. Start from your toes up.
Think you’ll buy a shiny new pair of shoes for your marathon? Think again. Blisters will come at the worst of times. Pick out your shoes and socks well in advance and then use them. Heavily. It’s recommended that you use your race-day shoes and socks regularly and at least at marathon pace for multiple long runs to break them in correctly ahead of time.
3. Don’t forget the rest of your workout.
For athletes that are relatively new to the running world, or to the fitness world in general, it can be tempting to just focus on running leading up to a marathon. But don't forget about the rest of your workout leading up to race day. Other types of training can be just as important as the running. Incorporate weight training and yoga into your week when you can.
4. Look at where you are currently.
As you start training for your marathon, and building a training plan for the next few months, take into consideration your current fitness levels and then build your plan around that. You don’t want to peak too soon or push yourself too hard.
5. Don’t freak out and overdo it.
Life happens. If you miss a training run or a workout, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t freak out and overdo your next run, just in the hopes of “catching up.” And always make sure that you’re investing enough time in rest and recovery, to avoid overtraining, which, yes, can be a real issue and detriment to your health and performance.
6. Mimic the race beyond the route.
Beyond just the topography, mimic the race beyond the route, by training during the race time (such as the morning, if your schedule allows) and also by mimicking the type of food and hydration you’ll get on the route. This will let you see how your body responds and how it will likely respond on race day, so you can plan accordingly.
7. Practice your breathing.
If you can get your breathing down pat, you won’t have to worry about getting that awful side stitch during your race. Focus on some proper breathing techniques while training and look at your alignment while running.
8. Don’t be afraid to taper.
Taper your training leading up to the big day. You won’t lose all your hard work by doing so, and you’ll actually help yourself in a multitude of ways — both physically and mentally. Tapering is a part of just about every athlete’s training regimen for good reason.
9. Don’t forget the other items you’ll need on your run.
Beyond your clothing, you’ll want to look at other items you might need on your run and assess which might hurt or help you. Music, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen — which will speed you up and which will slow you down?
10. Get in the zone.
Leading up to the race, make sure you’re just as mentally prepared as you are physically prepared. Many professional runners suggest meditation and memorizing a few mantras to use during the race itself.
11. Focus on the “carbs” in carbo-loading.
Many runners carbo-load before race day, but remember — carbo-loading should focus on carbs, not fats. Skip fatty foods and go straight for carb-rich meals only.
12. Be ready to recoup after the race.
What does recovery look like after a marathon? Well, it doesn’t look like going out for drinks in celebration, staying out most of the night and then taking a good long week off from running completely. Instead, hit the showers, alternating between hot and cold temperatures. Have a protein-filled dinner and sleep. The next day, make sure you exercise, to get the blood running through your legs. Go easy, but don’t completely write off running for the foreseeable future.