Just about anyone can complete a marathon! Finishing 26.2 miles is all about spending the time to prepare your body for endurance activity. If your goal is to finish – not to run a specific time – no great athletic talent is needed. But, you do need the psychological and physical strength to train for the distance and the time it will take to complete the marathon.
If you follow a sensible training program, allow yourself sufficient time to prepare your body and your mind, you will be able to complete a marathon. If you are starting from scratch – no physical activity – you should allow about 12 months to prepare. If you are young and active, you can prepare in less time – 5 to 6 months.
The first thing to do is set a goal. Select a marathon 6 to 12 months away. It helps to select a marathon that attracts your interest – either a popular marathon that is first time marathoner friendly or a marathon held in a place you’d like to visit or has a scenic course.
Get information about the race. Is the course hilly? Is there shade on the course? What kind of aid does the race offer along the course. How far in advance do you need to sign-up for the marathon? Does the race start and finish in the same place? Are hotels easy to book and affordable?
After you select a race, set your goals – to finish, to run a specific time or to race and place well in your age group? First timers should always aim just to finish their first marathon. Running a marathon for time and finishing place will come after you gain experience running the distance.
Design a training plan. It may help to find a coach. There are many books on running a marathon. You may want to pick-up a book that outlines a first timers training plan. Find people that are also training for a marathon and do your long runs with other marathoners.
Now, the most important step is getting a pair of running shoes. Go to a running shoe store and find a pair of shoes that are comfortable. Be sure to tell the sales people that you are training for a marathon. Try a number of different types of shoes – flexible, cushioned, stability shoes. Try the shoes out by running around the block before you pay for them.
Also, purchase some running clothes. New high tech fabrics will prevent chafing, keep you cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather, shed sweat and keep you dry. A good running specialty store can help you select the proper clothing to get you started.
The most important aspect of training for a marathon is consistency. Stick to your training plan. Don’t let distractions interfere with your training plans. You need to schedule your workouts so that they don’t cause stress with you, your job, your family and others in your life.
We all have many time demands in our lives. Adding a marathon training plan is a large time commitment. Get those in your life to support your decision to train for and run a marathon. Include them in the planning process.
Use caution and be flexible. Always listen to your body – injury and illness are valid reasons to take some time off. Trying to train through an injury or illness will likely lead to losing more time. When life’s demands make it difficult to get a run in, be flexible – shorten the run, or take the day off.