The term ‘marathon’ comes from ancient Greece, 500 BC to be precise, and the story of a herald named Pheidippides who ran from a battle at city of Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a victory over Persian invaders. This tale inspired the founders of the modern Olympic Games to invent a running race the distance of Pheidippides’ journey: the marathon. So, in a way, you have him to blame for what you’ve agreed to do.
42 kilometers. 26.2 miles. It’s a long way. So to help give you some real insights and clarity about what to expect with this whole “marathon journey” everyone talks about, here are 8 real runner tips to prepare you for your first marathon.
Tip 1: It takes over your life
Marathons are short compared to the amount of time you’ll spend preparing for them. From fueling up on the right foods for the training, to the training itself, to feeling tired from said training to having to answer “So, are you ready for the marathon?” over and over, to the training again, to finding the right gear for it all to, ah yes, the training; the countdown to race day is one like no other. Expect it to take up a lot of your non-work hours and a lot of your conversations. Spouses, friends and relatives should be warned well in advance that they won’t be seeing much of your for a few months. Oh, and did we mention there’s also a fair bit of training involved?
Tip 2: No preparation is ever enough
Training is about more than the running. It’s about finding the right mix of food, water, gear, running form, and even with a plan in place and guide to follow, you still need to figure it all out for yourself and test it in practice. You’ll find yourself googling strange terms like “what kind of lubricant is best for chafing” or “how big should my stride be for a 4:40 kilometer average” or “what gait is best for long distance”. Basically, once you sign up for a marathon you become a runner, and that comes with a whole new dictionary of fun terms to learn.
One such term you’ll hear (likely) for the first time in your life when training for a marathon is “tapering,” which is reducing the amount of training you’re doing the closer you get to race day, and a term you’ll look forward to as it means less training. Research shows for best results at the event, you should do your longest, pre-marathon run around 3-4 weeks out from the race. After that, tapering training down in terms of distance may seem counter intuitive, but it leaves you with the legs to be able to hit the ground running when it counts at the marathon itself, and follow through all the way to the end.
One last word on preparation is to make sure you do it in all kinds of weather, not just when the weather is great. You can hope and pray but on the day, the weather will be what it will be and pulling out of the marathon because of a bit (or a lot) of rain just isn’t an option. Better to have some practice in bad weather, after all, that’s part of the whole marathon “experience” as well. Just out of interest, researchers have found the ideal running temperature for a marathon for amateurs to run their best results is just 6.5 degrees Celsius (43.5 Fahrenheit), with colder weather helping keep you cool on the run.