Fall Guest Post Series: Tips For Marathon Training

As you read this, I am in the middle of writing an eight-page Media Ethics paper that isn’t due until December 8. I’m on a roll! I’m trying to get all of my assignments out of the way before my graduation ceremony on December 5. Good plan, right?

It’s times like these when I am very grateful for my Fall Guest Post Series. Of course, I’d be grateful to have so many awesome bloggers write posts for my blog even if I wasn’t swamped with work. This is especially true of today’s guest poster. Liz just ran the NYC Marathon. My secret dream is to someday run a marathon (I guess it’s not a secret anymore). I know I’m not the only one. I found Liz’s post on marathon training incredible helpful, and inspiring, and I hope you will, too!

Hi everyone! My name is Liz and I write a blog over at Little Bitty Bakes. Back in August when fellow upstate New York blogger Rebecca called out for guest posts, I jumped at the opportunity. Surprisingly, I didn’t offer to post a fall dessert recipe. Instead, I told Rebecca I’d be writing about my first marathon experience, as I was just beginning to train for the NYC Marathon. Little did I know what I was in for…

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I’ve been an athlete my entire life. Once a competitive swimmer, I’ve now transitioned to running, and have spent the past couple years dabbling in races. After completing the NYC Half Marathon last March, I gained entry into the 2010 ING NYC Marathon. This was a race I’ve been dreaming of running for nearly 5 years, so passing up the opportunity was not an option. Below are my key learnings from preparing for my first marathon. I hope they’ll help you as much as they’ll help me next time!

Take care of your body – more than you ever have before

I began training for this marathon with high hopes. I thought a 3:40 was certainly within reach. All I needed to do was follow my training program, something I certainly have the discipline for. However, I soon learned the hard way that you can’t plan for injury. Two months out from the marathon, when I should have been in the heart of my training, I was sidelined for two weeks with an Achilles injury. Feeling defeated, I came close to deferring my entry until 2011.

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I dug down deep and remembered how much I wanted to run this marathon. I stopped pitying myself and realized it is possible to overcome injury. I also realized that it’s possible to prevent injury on your own through proper recovery (icing, foam rolling, stretching). Sometimes, though, you have to call in for backup. Three weeks out from the marathon, just when I had regained my confidence, I started to have hip and IT band discomfort. Seriously?! I remember emailing my mom in an emotional state, telling her that I’m a good person and did not deserve another struggle. Not ready to give up yet, I started seeing a sports chiropractor for treatment of my hip and Achilles. This may have been one of the best moves I made during my training.

Adjust your diet

You may not be guilty here, but I sure was. I tend to follow the diet of a teenager — processed, high-sugar foods have been a staple in my diet for years. I’m not giving them up anytime soon (to me, it isn’t worth it) but in training for a marathon, I actually found that I craved healthy, whole foods to fuel my workouts.

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Oatmeal replaced my cinnamon toast crunch. I discovered the amazing protein pack of Greek yogurt. And I even swapped sprinkles for chia seeds on top of my ice cream. This being said, I made sure to eat plenty of high glycemic index carbs before the more grueling runs. White bread is not the enemy of a runner!

Adjust your social life

You might be able to get away with more than I could, but I found that training demanded a lot from my body, and nights out with lots of alcohol were not simply not in the cards for me. I’m not much of a drinker anyway, but I also learned that it’s more than alcohol. Your body needs all the proper rest it can get during training, especially on long run days. I found myself cutting shopping trips short, alternating water with drinks on a night out, and swapping heels with flats for three months straight.

Find others like you

Most of my immediate friends aren’t runners, and since I’m an early morning runner, it’s tough to find a running partner. My solo training could have easily led to burnout. However, I avoided this by building a network of fellow runners for emotional support. These people can empathize with just about everything you’re going through.

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I’m lucky to have two parents who ran marathons in the past — my dad ran 35 of them. My siblings are dedicated triathletes. I also turned to reading blogs and following people on Twitter to help me along. I couldn’t thank each of these groups more — their support truly helped me to get to the finish line.

Have fun and relax on race day

I kept waiting for the nerves to set in before this race. They weren’t there in the week leading up. They didn’t show up at the race expo the day before the race. I was only slightly nervous at the start line, which actually scared me a bit. Somehow, I was completely relaxed. Don’t think about the race – you’ve done all the prep work. Your legs know what to do. I was just soaking everything up like a sponge. The more relaxed you are, the less energy you’ll waste before the race. The less energy you waste, the faster you’ll run. If only it were that simple, right?

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I hope you take something away from what I learned in my journey to my first marathon. I finished my first marathon this past Sunday in 3:59:20. It was one of the best experiences of my life. You can read my full race day recap here. If you’re a runner, I strongly recommend setting your sights on the NYC Marathon. I’m already thinking about round two in 2011!

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4 comments

  1. Nice post! And Rebecca, give us a holler when you figure what full (I assume full, right?) marathon you be running!

    Agreed on the alcohol. For other reasons, I cannot drink a lot of it anyhow, long before I trained but I can understand how this is hard. I know some may struggle with the diet changes, but I try to make things fun with the new foods I’m eating, it can be fun if you take the time to make your own stuff and experiment!

  2. Hahaha! What “social life”???

    I haven’t run a marathon but the last year of my life was spent training for the Hood to Coast Relay race. As summer approached, my training increased and I no longer had time to do much of anything social. Everything was about training. Training. Training!

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