You cannot expect to go out and run 20, or even 10, miles in record time, especially if this is your first time training for a marathon. Start small, like really small. Try a mile or two a day, and slowly work yourself up to double digits.
The trick to starting small is starting early, like 6 months in advance. This way you give your body ample time to adjust and recover before the big race. Unless you are an avid marathoner, you cannot get ready in a month; you will just end up hurting yourself.
Know your body’s limit. This is very important to avoid injury. If you planned on doing 10 miles but you feel your body giving up at 7, don’t push it. Recover, and try again in a day or two. Knowing yourself also means knowing if a marathon is even possible. Sometime it is more practical to stick with a 10K or a half-marathon.
I know that seems counterproductive, but it is safer. If you push yourself to your limits you could end up hurting yourself and losing all the progress you made. It is better to undertrain, and feel strong and eager, than to over train and get sick or injured.
Slow, Long Runs
The newer you are to the marathon, the more important slow, long runs are to your training. It takes time to get used to running for 3 to 5 hours. It’s very important to take these runs slow. Do not think you can start off at a good marathon pace. Take walking breaks every hour.
You need time to recover, both physically and mentally. You do not have to train hard 7 days a week, just 3 to 4 days. On rest days simply stay active, even if is at a leisure pace. Go for a walk in the park or a relaxing swim in the pool.
Every veteran marathoner knows how important a diet rich in carbohydrates is. Before and during a workout eat carb-gels or drink a sports drink. After the workout, replenish your body’s energy with a good helping of whole grain toast or pasta.
Very few top marathon runners classify themselves as vegetarians. When you run you lose iron through calories and sweat. It is important to consume iron-rich foods, such as red meat, dark leafy greens, eggs, and beans. Cooking in an iron skillet helps too.
Two Week Taper
Many runners hate to taper, or decrease distance and/or pace significantly. But research has shown that after a 2 to 3 week taper your muscles adjust and improve your performance. Of course, it can be hard to get back into the routine of running after you slowed for a long period, but practice mind over matter.
This is probably the most important tip! If you are running a lot, especially for long periods of time, you need water, electrolytes, and more water. Always have a water bottle with you throughout the day. Down a sports drink an hour before you go on a long run. They even make water bottle holders that fit around your waist so you don’t have to hold it while you run.
Invest in Good Shoes
You might think the shoes you wear the gym are fine, but chances are, they aren’t. Your feet are going to carry you close to 50 miles during training; they deserve a fantastic pair of shoes. They might be a little more expensive than your average pair of shoes, but your piggies with thank you.