I tell people that I am training for a marathon and the response is “I could never do that”. For the record, I have also uttered those words and here I am getting ready for my 6th marathon and my 3rd Boston. Never say never.
I am about 10 weeks out from race day and would like to share the wisdom I have gathered over the last few years.
How to Train for a Marathon (11 easy steps!):
1. Let yourself go a little bit insane.
Seriously, it’s easier if you don’t care about your sanity. 3 hours of running on a Sunday? Totally normal. Start saying “just” in front of every distance you run. “Just 20 this weekend”. “Just an easy 8 miles this morning”. “Just a half marathon”.
2. Obsessively check the weather.
Mostly so you can dress yourself. Also, in case you need a backup career.
If it is a rest day, it will probably be perfect running weather.
On a long run day, the wind will be blowing in your face whichever way you are facing, so checking the weather is pointless. Running in the wind is good for your character.
all most of the food.
There is an overwhelming amount of information on what you should and shouldn’t eat, when to eat it, and so on. I’m not going to give you more.
Eat food that makes you feel good. Eat enough of it. Marathon training is a convenient excuse to indulge every now and then. Word to the wise – you can actually gain weight marathon training, so perhaps not every pizza needs to be a personal pizza.
4. Buy “fat shoes”.
Ideally in black, so they match everything. Your feet will thank me. Trust me, there will come a day when your feet don’t fit in normal shoes. You will have a new sense of sympathy for pregnant women. I like Sanuk shoes… they are made out of recycled yoga mats and stretch to fit nicely.
5. Move into a house with no stairs.
Those things are awful.
Or find yourself a chair lift.
6. Invest in body glide/aquaphor/your anti-chafing drug of choice.
Apply liberally and often. It’s like sunscreen… you think you have everything covered, and then you find out that your back muscles can get chafed by your sports bra. Surprise!
7. Be prepared to cry a lot.
Because breaking out of your comfort zone and doing something big does not only challenge you physically.Because you are hungry and tired and overwhelmed. Because your feet hurt and you need a nap. You will probably revert to a 3-year-old version of yourself. Your significant other will be thrilled.
9. Buy good shoes and socks.
This is not negotiable. Unless you like your joints to hurt and you want a bunch of blisters. Go to a running store and get some quality gear. Trust me.
8. Wake up earlier than you want to most days of the week, work harder than you want to, and repeat for 12-20 weeks.
I’m not going to pretend to be the most motivated person you know. I’m just dedicated. I’ve committed myself to doing this slightly ridiculous thing and I know how bad it hurts if you don’t train. I built a habit. I get up, I run, and that’s just what I do. It’s so much easier if you don’t have to think about it. You just accept it and go. Some days feel great, some days suck a lot, and some days are a little bit of both.
9. Break things into manageable chunks.
It’s not a 12 miler, it’s just two 10Ks. Or a warmup 5k, a 10k, and a cooldown 5k. My last 18 mile run was just three sets of 6 miles. An hour of running is really just 4 sets of 15 minutes. I’ve gotten myself through a lot of awful things this way. Runs, nasty Crossfit workouts, lectures that never seemed to end, long car trips, you name it. Break it down into smaller pieces and tackle the “mini-goal” at hand.
10. Find at least one person who doesn’t think you are insane.
Talk to them often. Let them remind you that you are actually doing a cool thing. Remind yourself that you are actually doing a cool thing.
11. Don’t quit.
Even if you really, really, really, really want to. The finish line is worth it. I have felt completely exhausted and completely invincible at the same time – it’s an amazing experience. And you can ride that glory train for the rest of your life.