How to Train for Your First Marathon

Tips for First Time Marathon Runners

Take your mind off of the long run (or the cold weather) with some mind games.
Take your mind off of the long run (or the cold weather) with some mind games.

As you adjust to a new normal of 4 to 5 runs days per week, you'll begin looking for ways to keep your running routine fresh and exciting. Here are some tips for improving performance and staying motivated:

  • Measure Your Mile. To find your "pace," Jeff Galloway suggests going to a high school track and timing yourself as you run a "magic mile" (4 laps, or 1600 meters) at a pace that feels slightly fast to you. You will feel winded, but not so winded that you need to stop. Multiply your time by 1.3 for your estimated marathon pace. Use this predictor to time your pace on training runs. (ERD's should be run at your marathon pace, LSD days will be 2 minutes slower [source: Galloway].
  • Hill Training. Running hills prepares you to run faster without subjecting your legs to the pounding they get on flat terrain. Map out a hilly route on one of your easy run days and chances you're your average times will improve [source: Galloway].
  • Join a Group. Running with friends will distract you from the task at hand and help you stay motivated to complete your training runs.
  • Mind Games. On your LSD runs, distract yourself with mind games. Count stop signs. Play word association games. Do math problems in your head. Even counting your own footsteps can help take your mind off pain, boredom and other negative thoughts; before you know it, you'll be back in that blissful, meditative head space that makes running so desirable in the first place.

One last trick: On the last mile of a 3-hour-long run or even during the final minute of a routine jog you're struggling to complete, picture yourself crossing the finish line of your first marathon. Feel the weight of that medal against your chest. Imagine the cheering crowd, the endorphins surging through your body. There's no doubt that training for your first marathon is tough. It requires stamina, commitment and heart. As you tick training runs off your schedule, you're proving something to yourself about who you are and what you can accomplish. Running the race will be the icing on the cake, the proof in the pudding. By the time you run your first marathon, you'll already be the new you: a runner. Find related articles, links and lots more information below.

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  • Dunham, J. (Director) Twist, G. (Producer) and Harris, M. (Executive Producer). (2007.) Spirit of the Marathon [Motion Picture]. United States. Image Entertainment.
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