Nov 11, 2008 9:57 AM
By Kevin Urban, Editor
Whatever your goals for starting a marathon training program, be it weight loss or the thrill of competition, you may harbor a secret dread. You may be afraid that your initial efforts will fail. Motivation is key in marathon running and we have listed 5 steps to help you stay focused and pattern your training regime after. This should ensure you make it to the starting line for your first race.
Five Steps to Getting Started
1. Begin at the Beginning
If you aren't a casual runner yet, you must at the very least be a comfortable walker. Begin by walking 30 to 60 minutes every day for a few weeks until the habit of exercise becomes second nature. When you are comfortable walking at a brisk pace of about 4 mph, start to insert a few jogs of 100 yards or so several times during your walk. You should feel invigorated by this new aggressive addition to your marathon training fitness plan.
This would be a good time to mention that you should try to avoid a few mistakes that cause burnout. For example, don't start out too fast by trying to run a certain distance. Don't run too hard but you should try to jog for about two minutes, and then walk for two minutes to catch your breath. Another mistake is to run on days when your enthusiasm isn't there, and you must never tell yourself that a run is going to be hard or a burden. Running is best done with a positive mental approach
2. Begin Exercising For Distance, Not Time
This is a crucial step to get you over the hump of a new marathon training regime. You've done some light jogging and are ready to see if you can get into the runner's mode. So here's the deal: Now you should stop exercising in terms of time, or "60 minutes" a day, and start exercising for distance.
Start by jogging as far as you can on the first day. Stop when you can't do any more. The next day, go at it again and try to beat the previous day's distance. Day by day, you will be trying to get a little bit further. After a few weeks, you'll find that while you may have been only able to jog half a mile the first day, you'll be up to 2 or 3 miles (or more) if you are running 5 to 6 days a week.
3. Establish Goals and Enter Your First Road Race
By this time, your health has been improving and you've likely dropped few pounds. Next you will work to establish weekly mileage goals. You don't have to run the same distances every day but at least one day should be an extended run, the longest distance of the week.
By now, you're starting to build some of the endurance you need for marathon running. Your daily workouts have become a habit and are something you look forward to. You should be including some training days of strenuous workouts in which you work on speed as well as distance. You'll also be scheduling rest days to help your body effectively recover.
If the idea of a 26.2-mile marathon seems daunting, pick a short race to start your competition phase. A 5K race is about 3 miles and should be an easy accomplishment for your first race. Once you finish your first 5K and enter the next race, perhaps a 10K distance, the experience of the crowds, the excitement, and your fellow competitors will be something you've come to enjoy and look forward to. As long as you feel comfortable running these distances, you should begin a proper marathon training plan.
4. Preparing For Your First Marathon
It's recommended by marathon training experts that you run and train regularly for your first race for at least one year. You'll be running every other day, which means four to five days a week, and recording (on a training schedule) a weekly average of 25 miles per week. At 3 to 6 months out, you should be doing some long runs once a week of about 9 to 10 miles.
Gradually, you'll build up to an average of 35 miles per week. It's not recommended that you push yourself too hard during this phase since you want to avoid injury. For each month, your marathon running schedule will include one easy week of 25 miles while the other three weeks should see an average of +40 miles per week.
It's not a good idea (and completely unnecessary) to run a full practice marathon before the real deal. At least a month prior to your first race, put your endurance to the test and have one session in which you attempt 20 to 23 miles.
5. The Marathon
Your primary goal is to finish the race, so you want to be sure you take the steps to avoid injuries or blowing out at the half way point. You're a beginner so don't expect to keep up with the veteran runners; run at your own pace in order to make it to the end. In fact, start out a bit slower than what you normally average, then pick up the pace during the middle miles.
If you've done your year-long preparation and marathon training, you should be able to overcome the "wall" - that moment when your body alerts you that its glycogen is zapped and you're now running on will power. You'll be tempted to walk but try to keep your pace. You've got 23 miles behind you and can see the next mile marker ahead. Tell yourself your goal is within reach and it's only a couple miles remaining before you finish your first marathon. And when it's over, it's an accomplishment and a high you'll never forget.