Everything You Need To Know About Running A Marathon
When I agreed to run the New York City marathon, I had zero idea what I was doing. I had one pair of old, Nike free sneakers.
That’s it. That’s how prepared I was.
I had to figure out what I needed to do in order to not die in the middle of a New York City street.
First things first, how do you go from running a mile to running 26.2? A training schedule, that’s how. Here’s the training schedule I used—then promptly threw to the side because my marathon training was rudely interrupted by my health. Overall, I kept it pretty simple: Run four times a week, long run on Saturday.
I was not at a point where I could just casually run 10 miles without walking a smidge. I never actually got to that point. But when 26.2 miles is the amount, you’ve got to know what is going to work best for you. By the week of the race, I ran a very comfortable 6-7 mile loop. After that, I just listened to my body and walked when I needed to. This run/walk combo allowed me to take some pressure off and just keep moving.
I used the MapMyRun app on my phone to track pace and distance.
Along with focusing my schedule around running, I also mixed in Pilates, some sessions curtesy of miss Emi Gutgold, the most fabulous Pilates instructor in NYC. Spending one workout a week focusing on my core strength and flexibility not only reminded my muscles that they had other jobs to do, but it made me stronger in the broader sense. Making sure the rest of my body was in good condition had a positive impact on my running.
If I had learned anything amidst hamstring cramps and screaming shins, it’s that stretching was not an option—it was a priority! Even on my rest days, I would set aside a short five or ten minutes to stretch out my legs. No only did this release tension in my very tired bones, but it was relaxing!
Your body needs all the help it can get—DON’T FORGET TO STRETCH!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t just throw on some ratty old gym clothes and sneakers to pace New York’s most athletic. My running attire needed some help before race day.
First things first — get yourself a running watch. I am INCREDIBLY partial to my Fitbit. But I suppose an Apple thingy will do just as well.
The most important thing every runner needs to pay attention to are the shoes carrying them through the course. I was no exception. While Nikes have always been my preferred footwear, I needed the real deal. I really really REALLY needed new running shoes. Consulting my little sister, who doubled as my running coach, it was decided that I needed either Brooks or Asics. I felt a little out of my element when I went into a running store, jogging up and down the aisle so the salesperson could “watch my gait to diagnose my foot.”
It was weird, but I ended up purchasing a pair of Brooks Ravenna 9 running sneakers. This purchase was made in the middle of July — 3.5 months before the actual marathon took place. This meant that once the marathon was complete, my shoes were as well. On the other hand, my running buddy only wore his race day shoes about two weeks before the marathon. We were both A-OK…to each their own.
Once you’ve got the sneakers, everything else falls into place. When you’re running all the time, often in fluxuating weather, you figure out what outfit combo works best for you! Whatever you do, make sure you have given your race day outfit a “test run” — run a normal training loop in it so you KNOW it works. The last thing you want is to have your leggings be riding up or falling down because you thought they were “close enough.”
You can’t just eat a simple three meals a day if you are pushing your body to the max. You’ll be hungry all the time — there’s a reason for that! Running a bazillion miles means restoring those calories you’ve lost.
It’s important to restore your calories with the right foods. There were certain foods that I relied on heavily during marathon training: bananas, berries, Greek yogurt, apples w/ peanut butter, chocolate milk/hot chocolate, carrots w/ hummus, and grain bowls. OH! And popcorn. Because I’m munchy.
Some athletes are super dedicated to counting every macronutrient they consume. I was not quite as strict. I checked in here and there to see where I was in regards to calories burned vs. calories consumed, for the sake of knowing what I should change. My FitBit app made this a seamless process; MyFitnessPal is also a good option.
After I had checked in enough times, I noticed a pattern—I was low on calories and needed to up my intake…who knew complex carbs would take up so much room in my brain? Nevertheless, I adjusted. I had three meals a day, with two snacks throughout. My largest meal of the day was my lunch—I ran after work and lunch was the last “big meal” before my body was expected to perform. This worked for me and made me feel my best—I immediately noticed if I missed a snack or was low on fuel.
Do it. That’s all I have to say. Do it. If you think your body is asking for more of it, you’re probably right. Do it.
You didn’t think I could spend four months of my life training for a marathon without facing some obstacles, did you? There were things that came up along the way that made my training a little more ridiculous.
The first and most prominent issue I had was shin splints. Not having experienced these suckers before meant that I was in for a rude awakening when they hit. And OH MY did they hit! Realistically, what you do when you have these bad boys in stretch stretch stretch. Also, don’t beat yourself up over it. I actually had the shin splints kick in around mile 16 of the marathon…and it sucked, but it was not the end!
You should also foam roll.
The other obstacle I faced throughout training was in regards to mental health. Four months of focusing on one race…there are bound to be some days where you just aren’t your best. It took me a little bit to realize that I couldn’t beat myself up over “not going as fast” or “not going as far” as I had wanted to on certain days. Heck, 26.2 miles is not an ideal situation, why should training for it be?! Instead of beating up my body, being thankful for what it had accomplished was so much more beneficial.
Should you run a marathon?
I mean, maybe. Everyone is at different stages of their fitness journey. Maybe you’re ready to be a lunatic and sign up for a marathon without having done a half first. Maybe you’re a logical, sane human being who’s going to start with a 5k. Either way, signing up for a race is all about giving yourself a goal and the opportunity to work towards it. If you’re in NYC, hit me up—I’ll be your running buddy!
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