There are many different avenues in which a runner goes through to make the decision to register for their first marathon. The marathon distance poses a challenge. It tests limits, it has the power to change someone. It demands commitment and sacrifice, but the glory that a runner claims when they cross that finish line is the ultimate prize.
The commitment and determination that helps a runner wake up before the sun to run those 8 miles before work actually has the potential to derail their training and ultimately their race. Runners are ambitious and hard to slow down. When we set out to do something, and invest time and money into it, we will not be stopped. But marathon training is a balancing act. The body’s limit will be tested, but there are moments we need to listen to our body and step on the brake to allow for recovery before we fall into the dreaded overtrained state that will eventually lead to injury.
I don’t regret my first marathon experience. Although I struggled with injuries, that was my path. I needed to have those experiences to learn and grow, both as a runner and as a person. However, for those aspiring marathoners out there, here is what I learned and would do differently the second time around (whether or not there will be one).
1. Have a Plan (But Be Flexible)
Have a training plan, but don’t be married to it. Other commitments will come up and when they do adapt. All will be well if you miss a run…seriously.
It is also important to have a training plan that fits you and your goals. Understand and know yourself as a runner. Do not compare your training to anyone else, because what works for them and their body, may not be right for you. I cannot stress this enough.
2. Progressive Increase in Mileage
Having a progressive approach for your weekly mileage is crucial! Don’t convince yourself that you need to catch up and run more because you believe that it will make you faster/stronger quicker because it wont. It will make you slower and weaker.
I foolishly tried to convince myself that the mileage I built from swimming and biking equalled running mileage, but in reality running puts a massive amount of stress on your musculoskeletal system. I did not allow my body enough time to adapt to the stresses.
3. Recover Well
Let your body recover. Thats’s where the magic happens. It is better to be slightly undertrained than injured on race day. Trust me, your body will welcome the additional down time. If you absolutely feel like you need to be doing something, foam roll, get a massage, take an epsom salt bath, or stretch. Do the little things.
And eat well. Nutrition is often overlooked, but it is extremely important. Good, real, whole foods have the ability to speed up recovery.
4. Strength Train
For the majority of time, running consists of moving in one plane of motion, the sagittal plane. Our knees, elbows, hips, and ankles are constantly extending and flexing. Moving in one plane for an extended period of time has the ability to wear down certain joints, tendons, and muscles. Muscle imbalances then occur. Strength training has the power to alleviate these symptoms and it has the power to prevent them altogether.
Balance and stabilization exercises for the core and glutes are a great place to start.
5. Restorative Yoga
This type of yoga is brilliant for recovery. Training related injuries occur more often to connective tissue (such as ligaments and tendons) than muscles because connective tissues lack blood supply. Restorative yoga increases blood flow thus aiding in the recovery of ligaments and tendons. It will truly give your body and mind the time and space it needs to heal.
Have you pushed beyond your body’s limit because of ambition and determination?
Do you have any additional advice for the newbie runner or lessons you learned from your first marathon?