One of the most amazing things about running a marathon is that you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time. Finishing a marathon is a life changing opportunity. When you cross the finish line you realize that anything is possible. With every mile I run I am reminded of how capable my body is. When I run I'm reminded of how much I love my body not because it's perfect, but because it's capable of doing so much more than I ever thought was possible.
When I took my first steps on a treadmill I couldn't run for 1 whole minute straight. I was determined to change that. I started out with slow interval training on the treadmill until I was able to withstand running for small periods of time without stopping. I then signed up for my first 5k with a good friend who has now become an ULTRA MARATHON runner. Lou always reminded me of my strength and that I could always walk if I needed to. We ran the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in honor of his mother. From that moment on I guess I got HOOKED. I finished the race and felt like I could conquer the world.
Fast forward several years later and now I'm running half (13.1 miles) and full marathons (26.2 miles). The sense of accomplishment of running 26.2 miles is so indescribable and is a feeling I'll never forget. Crossing the finish line and knowing it was my dedication, persistence, and commitment to my training that allowed me to cross sends chills through my bones. So you want to do a marathon? Do you want to take yourself to the next level? There are a few things you should know about running from a NON-runners stand point.
Let's start by saying, running is NOT glamorous. You'll get blisters at one point or another, your toenails could fall off (mine still do), you'll be so sore it'll take you forever to go up and down stairs or sit on the toilet. You'll be a sweaty salty hot mess after a race. You will chafe in places you never thought was possible, you'll love getting sports massages and will eventually own multiple foam rollers and massage sticks, and ice will be your best friend. I also became a chocolate milk addict who needed to cut it out of my life before it became my number one go to drink all day everyday.
The number one tip I can give you is to get fitted by a professional for the proper running sneakers. For my first half marathon I ran in what I thought was running sneakers that I got at DSW for 60% off. They were dirt cheap and I had ran anywhere from 3-10 miles in them and had no issues. Come race day it was a whole other story. I ended up getting blisters under my toe nails, blisters on the bottom of my feet, and my knees hurt like hell. I couldn't walk for almost a week (which was also partly a lack of training). I personally now run in Brooks Sneakers and LOVE LOVE LOVE them. No matter the distance you plan on running, pop into your local running store and get fitted. You won't regret it. Not to mention most running stores have training programs, FREE pub runs, and discounts for local runs. Plan on spending anywhere from $100-$150+ for a good pair of sneakers. Don't get sticker shocked remember your feet are one of the MOST important body parts in running!
Second most important tip is buy proper running socks too! I waited for a little while to get the expensive socks because I just didn't understand what the big deal was. Until I got a pair for free and realized how big of a game changer proper socks are. I use Wright Socks because of the double layer to prevent blisters. I started using these after I went out on my own and purchased a pair of not so great fitting sneakers and decided to run 10 miles in them. I got a HUGE blister on my foot and it reminded me my running sneakers are for running and my cross trainers are for functional training. Wright Socks are double layer to prevent blisters and help wick moister. Not to mention these are an affordable option too.
Once you start to increase your miles you'll start to figure out what works for you and what doesn't. It won't be pretty but you'll learn quick don't worry. I was wearing a ribbed tank top by under armor everyday to the gym and on short runs. This tank top was THE BEST top I've gotten. I loved the material, all the colors it came in, and the fit. Once I went for 5 mile run everything changed. The texture of the ribbed material chafed under my arms and hurt and burned so bad when sweat hit it. It wasn't cute but I learned quickly to NEVER wear those tops running again. One day it was freezing cold (to Los Angeles standards) and pouring rain. I had to run my 14 miles and had no other choice but to run in the rain. I wore a pull-over running hoodie with a 3/4 zip to keep warm and semi dry. Half way through my run I realized the zipper had been chafing my chest and I was stuck running in the rain with chafed burning skin. Going into work Monday morning with a big red raw chaffed scar on my chest was a great look. HAHA!
Test out what works for you. Everything from what you eat before, during, and after your run to where you get blisters to what supplements you'll need to consume you'll need to test out during your practice runs. I tried a lot of different brands of supports drinks, energy beans, waffles, etc... I found the best things that work for me were regular everyday products like chocolate milk for after my race, squeezable apple sauce during my race, and some peanut butter and jelly toast at ANY TIME during marathon training. Did I mention I love LOVE LOVE peanut butter? Many specialized supplements can start to add up if you buy them a few times a week or consume for your long run weekly. When I realized there are everyday grocery store products that work just as good if not better it got me thinking outside the box. I didn't learn this however until after my first marathon with people were handing out apple sauces and coke and gummy bears.
If you are having a hard time getting started or don't know where to begin phone a friend like Lou. Join a local running club, do some research online, or stay tuned for my next running blog on training for a marathon. Make sure you put in the work. Proper training on the pavement will help reduce injury and speed up your recovery time. I always say in spin class and in life it's not about how hard you go or how fast and long you run, it's about how quick you can recover. You will know if you trained properly AFTER you finish the race. You'll have so much adrenaline you might not realize how you are truly feeling while you are running. My first half marathon I couldn't walk for a week. I was so unbelievably sore and I knew I needed to change up my training routine. Luckily I made great time and ran the entire 13.1 miles without even feeling my blisters. The aftermath was a whole other story.
Purchase the right equipment you need to succeed in training. GPS watches are wonderful and a big investment and totally worth it if you can afford one. If not, that's fine it's just nice to have and makes it easier to track your miles, pace, and elevation gain. I purchased my GPS watch used on OfferUp or you can track your routes on mapmyrun website. Runners belts are also handy if you are like me and want to make sure you aren't loosing muscle mass and have a place to store your proteins, BCAA's, and phone. Make sure your earphones are secure to your ears. There is nothing more annoying than your belt, earphones, or keys jingling and jangling for a few hours while you run.
Do practice runs in the outfit you'll wear race day and be mindful of any costumes or tutus you decide to add to your attire for race day. Consider this like a a dress rehearsal!
Don't be afraid of using the port-a-potties. They will be your BEST friend when you gotta go! Arrive to the race early to get in line for bag check and for the bathrooms. If the lines for the bathrooms are too long start the race and use port-a-potties at your first mile marker.
During the marathon soak it all in. Take out your earphones for a few miles and just feel the crowd and the energy around you. Feel the love, the support, and unconditional dedication each and every person has put into running race day. Let it take over your soul and enjoy the scenery and city you are in. Remember the feeling of your loved ones cheering you on hold on to it for your next race.
Your post race routine is just as important as your pre-race routine. Don't neglect the recovery. ICE even if you don't feel like you hurt. I ice my knees after every long run and not only does it feel so good I truly believe it aids in my recovery time. My first stop after a long distance race is the med tent to get iced! Drink lots of fluids, elevate your legs to prevent swelling, and eat a good meal. Your body will be depleted of everything and it's important to slowly get your body functioning back to normal.
Most importantly, HAVE FUN. Enjoy the race expo the weekend of the race, get free products and enjoy the beer garden after the race and celebrate the BIGGEST accomplishment of your life.
"Trust the process and trust your training" -Lou (Ultra Marathon Runner)