The weeks of the Boston and London Marathons are inspiring for many runners. Thousands cross the finish line after having conquered 26.2 miles and you think, I want to do that to! If you’ve never run a marathon (or even if you have), registering and committing to the training can be intimidating. How do you know if you are ready to run your first marathon?
You are Ready to Run Your First Marathon if:
You Have Run a Half Marathon
A marathon is huge increase in physical and mental difficulty from the half marathon. A marathon is not simply two half marathons, as you encounter issues such as glycogen depletion, hours of pounding on your feet, and miles more of jostling to your GI system. However, I firmly believe if you have run a half marathon, then you are more than able to train for a marathon, stay injury-free in training, run the race, and finish with a time you can be proud of.
If you have complete a half marathon, you know what the demands of long runs will feel like on your body. You know what the commitment that training will require over several months. You know the importance of injury prevention, healthy eating, and following a training plan. While the half marathon is most certainly a challenging race itself, how you respond mentally and physically to half marathon training and racing provides a clear indicator of how you will respond to the marathon.
You are Okay with Not Losing Weight
If running burns calories and aids weight loss, then running more surely leads to more weight loss, right? Not in the case of the marathon. Weight loss and athletic performance are often two exclusive goals, since restricting calories during marathon training will only increase your risk of injury or overtraining.
You may reach a racing weight by race day, but racing weight differs significantly from vanity weight. Racing weight comes as a natural result of eating nutritious foods, training hard, and eating enough to support your training (since undereating can actually cause weight gain for endurance athletes). Racing weight is a healthy weight for optimal athletic performance – meaning that you body has the strength and energy to support long distance running.
Vanity weight and marathoning do not go hand-in-hand. You may not weigh your lightest because you need to eat to support performance and you will likely change your body composition to have more muscle mass. Marathon training is not the time to restrict calories and diet; if you track your food at all, it’s to make sure you are eating enough.
You are Injury-Free
Marathon training can pose several injury risks, especially if you do not follow a smart and progressive plan and instead fall into the trap of doing too much, too soon, too fast. While it’s not impossible to run a marathon if you are coming off of injury, new marathoners will certainly want to be injury-free when they begin training to ensure they do not injure themselves more as they increase their mileage.
If you want to run a marathon but are currently overcoming a running-related injury (or recovering from surgery, childbirth, etc.), give yourself a several months to heal, recover, and slowly build your base back up before you begin marathon training. Make it a goal to run a race in a year and create a timeline of recovery, base building, and marathon training. With a smart timeline and a slow and steady build in mileage, you will avoid injuring yourself again while still working towards a long-term goal.
You Can Commit The Time and Energy
I spent so long insistent that I was not going to run a marathon, and it makes sense once you look at what was going on in my life. In 2014 I wrote my master’s thesis, graduated, planned a wedding, married the love of my life, and spent months applying for and interviewing at jobs. While we were still in Indiana, Ryan and I also toyed with the idea of purchasing a house. No wonder I didn’t want to train for a marathon!
Then, in 2015, the time was right for a marathon. We had moved across the country to a place with temperate weather year-round, my decision to work as a running coach created a more flexible schedule, and it was (still is) a stress-free time in our lives – no kids, no house hunting, and any major work projects were completely in my control.
When you debate whether you should run your first (or really any marathon, training never gets easier), look at what you can expect in life over the next 6 months or so. Do you have any major projects at work that will stress you out? Are you expecting a baby or just had one? Will you have a major move in that time?
Family, life, and career are priorities over running, so be sure that you can handle the exciting changes, stress, and/or expectations of those before you add the physical and mental stress of marathon training to your plate. You don’t want to burn the candle at both ends, nor do you want to place extra stress on your family during busy times by adding weekend 20 milers on top of everything.
You Can’t Shake the Idea of Running a Marathon
The best question to ask yourself when signing up for a marathon is why you want to run 26.2 miles. Because you feel like you have to verify yourself as a runner? Because your friends did? Or because you genuinely want to run a marathon and can’t shake the idea of achieving that goal?
Sometimes that inexplicable desire ignites, until there’s a fire burning in our bones that only the accomplishment of pushing our limits and running 26.2 miles will quench. Then why not do it?
Miles change you; marathons transform you. In 26.2 miles (and the months of training leading up) you find strength, resilience, and confidence that may have otherwise been left undiscovered. When the opportunity and desire present themselves, don’t deny yourself the chance to achieve a big goal and run your first marathon.
Ultimately, you should run a marathon for you. Not because you feel you should, but because you want to. Simple as that!
Are you running your first marathon this fall? Then please consider registering for my Fall 2016 Marathon Training Group, which launches on June 6, 2016 (you start when your training begins). You will receive an individualized marathon training plan, strength training and injury prevention workouts, community support from other runners training for marathons, a comprehensive fueling and hydration e-course, monthly webinars, weekly training tips, and more! Pre registration is now open!
And, of course, if you are training for your second, third, tenth, or any marathon, please consider signing up as well! The Marathon Training Group is for both beginner and experienced marathoners.
Use the form below to pre-register for the Fall 2016 Marathon Training Group. By pre-registering, you will receive exclusive pre-training emails and be able to schedule your consultation early! You do not pay until you begin your actually training plan, so there’s no harm in pre-registering if you are considering a late summer or fall marathon!
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How did you know you were ready for your first marathon or half marathon?
If you haven’t run one but want to, what reservations do you have?