Seven Takeaways for Better Marathon Results
It’s always easy to point to what you should have done differently after the fact. The typical Monday morning quarterback. That’s what this piece aims to accomplish in regards to my marathon training.
While I’m glad I accomplished my goal of completing a marathon, there are a few things that I could have done differently for better results. I’ve sworn off running a marathon in the future but again, who knows? I swore off running half marathons after finishing my first. Now I have two half marathons and a marathon under my belt.
In any case, these tips can certainly help you no matter the distance you plan to run. It just so happens I made a few noticeable mistakes during the longest run of my life. This is an effort to keep you from making the same mistakes I did. Here are a few of my takeaways for better marathon results.
1. Find a Mentor: A mentor doesn’t have to be a running champion, just someone that has trained and competed in the race you want to run. It’s important to have a mentor because he or she will be able to point you in the right direction and let you know things you be doing or better yet, should avoid.
If someone would have told me before my marathon that I needed a running mentor, I would have rolled my eyes. However, after the fact I discovered that it’s always a good idea to ask questions and gain knowledge from someone that’s been there before. Don’t let pride get in the way or worry that someone will turn you down. Sure, someone may tell you no but you may be surprised at who says yes. People really do like to help others, just ask.
2. Find a Training Program: This is another aspect where I told myself, ‘I don’t need a specific training program, I’m just going to run.’ This kind of falls in line with getting a mentor. A majority of training programs are put together by elite athletes. They know what they’re doing. They’ve put in the time and effort and understands what works and what doesn’t.
For example, in marathon training there’s a lot more than just running long distances. One major aspect is incorporating speed training into your sessions. These training programs will give you a daily breakdown on what you should be focusing on and how far you should be running each day. This is important because you don’t want to over train which can lead to your body breaking down. At the same time, you definitely don’t want to under train. There are a lot of websites that give this information for free. Running stores are typically excellent sources.
3. Run with a Group: If there is a running club in your area or if you have friends training, it may be a good idea to set up a running group. Unfortunately for me, none of my friends who run live near me. The nearest running club is over 30 miles away. A running group is a great way to work on pace and distance with others that are vested in accomplishing the same goal as you. In most running groups, there are runners of all skill levels, so there isn’t a need to feel intimidated if you are a new to running. A group is also an excellent way to stay accountable and motivated even on days where the last thing you want to do is run.
4. Strengthen Your Lower Body: When I think of elite runners, I don’t typically think of lower body strength. To be honest, many have the frame of a toothpick. Don’t be fooled, these runners have a lot of lower body strength. I did a few lower body exercises while training but I discovered after the marathon that there are so many more that I could have done. Many of the exercises focus on strengthening the hips and legs. I did a few core exercises like the 30 Day Plank Challenge and I thought a few squats and lunges would be enough. It wasn’t. There are plenty of programs that are aimed at making you a stronger runner, take advantage of them.
5. Be Prepared for all Weather Conditions: While you may strictly want to run in warm and sunny weather, race days are hardly ever ideal. Rain, wind, and cooler temperatures can be commonplace depending on where you plan to run. Instead of sitting inside waiting for the weather to get nice, go outside and run in less than ideal conditions. A few of my training runs included weather in downpours and high winds. Even then, I wasn’t quite prepared for the cold temperatures on race day.
6. Never, Ever Wear New Running Shoes: My old, comfortable running shoes were falling apart. I had three weeks before the race and was foolish to believe I could break in a new pair before race day. While the shoes were comfortable when I walked in them and did short runs, they were brutal to my feet during long runs. That’s not what you want when you plan to run 26.2 miles.
To make matters worse, on race day I tied my shoes way too tightly. I didn’t realize it was a problem until mile 10. By then, my feet and toes were throbbing. Instead of stopping, I kept running, thinking the pain would eventually subside. It didn’t. If you need new running shoes, make sure you purchase them months in advance. They need to be broken in well before race day. Otherwise, you’re going to be in for a lot of pain.
7. Be prepared for Mental Hurdles: Last but certainly not least, you must be prepared mentally. Being prepared for the mental aspect of a run can be easily forgotten. Many of us are so focused on being physically prepared. There are going to be mental hurdles and self doubt throughout the race.
Focus on staying positive and believing that the marathon is temporary. You may be tired and want to quit but there is plenty of time after the race to recover. Give yourself a pep talk through some of your low points and visualize yourself running across the finish line.
I’m certain there are a few more things that I should have done differently but this list should help most beginners. One big takeaway is to not be afraid to ask for help. There are plenty of people and programs out there that can help you achieve your goal. Relax, have fun and enjoy your time working to accomplish your goal.