This was a recent blog post suggestion and I thought it was such a great idea because considering registering for, training for, and running your first marathon can be a pretty daunting decision to make! There are so many things to consider and it is such a massive goal to accomplish but with time, passion, and planning it is possible and very manageable. Below, I outline and explain five reasons how I knew I was ready to run my first marathon.
My first marathon experience was very unique because it was not your typical road marathon. My first marathon was the Leadville Trail Marathon out in Leadville, CO. I think the only thing that Leadville and an average road marathon have in common is the distance – 26.2 miles. Other than that, Leadville is completely different in almost every way (starts at an elevation of 10,000 ft., peaks at an altitude of over 13,000 ft., only ~3 miles are on paved road, and has over 6,000 ft. of elevation gain because participants hike up 3 mountains. So yeah, not very normal but awesome nonetheless!) My first road marathon was the Richmond Marathon, which I ran about 5 months after Leadville.
Here is how I knew I was ready to run a marathon:
- I wanted to run a marathon and knew my “why”. Probably the most important reason! The desire to complete your first marathon must come from within yourself 100%. It cannot be a decision that is based off of what everyone else is doing or what someone wants you to do. The training (around 3 months or more) plus the base building AND the marathon itself will not be successful if the only reason a person is running it is to fit in with other runners or to please someone else. Thinking about the Leadville Trail Marathon excited me; I knew it was going to be a very challenging goal for many reasons but I knew I had the strength within me to accomplish it. I also knew my “why” or biggest motivation to run it – my brother, Robert. If you are unfamiliar with my brother and how I started running, please read this blog post.
- I had a solid training plan and a coach to work with. What’s really important for a person who is starting to train or thinking about training for a marathon is that they have a concrete training plan and schedule. This means you know well in advance how far and what effort level you’re running on any given day. You know which days are your long run days, rest days, easy days, speed workout / tempo days (if including those in your training), and recovery run days. It’s not an “I’ll see tomorrow how far I feel like running” kind of thing; a well written training plan is very deliberate and the mileage is carefully calculated to keep a person’s risk for injury as low as possible. If you want to go the extra mile, I highly suggest working with a coach who can guide you through training, give you tips, advice, and feedback, and also take the workload off your back on how to plan out your training. Some runs feel glorious and other runs (especially as your mileage builds) can feel very challenging! Not to mention, marathon training has a whole mental side of it and being able to talk out your thoughts and feelings with a coach is very beneficial. I’ve been working with my coach for almost 7 years and I love working with her. She is incredibly knowledgeable and I value having an extra set of eyes looking over my training.
- I had enough time to safely build my mileage and to run more. This is extremely important and often overlooked. Training for a marathon takes a long time. First, a runner should have a solid mileage base (at least 300 aerobic miles) before even dipping their pinky toe into formal marathon training. Building a base takes months and is incredibly important (significantly reduces the risk for injury) for someone who is going from couch or just a handful of miles to marathon! Then, when you add on the marathon training itself (at least another 3 months), that’s what – 6 months? At least?! The key here is to plan ahead. If it’s spring and you don’t have much of an aerobic base, I suggest looking into mid/late fall marathons at the earliest. I was also ready to devote more time to training. Sure, you may run the same number of days each week as you do training for a 5k, but the long runs for marathon training can get very long – my longest was 24 miles! (Actually, one year I ran an actual marathon as a tuneup just for fun – ha! It was fun though obviously something I have no intention on doing on a regular basis). Make sure that you are able and willing to devote more time to training (especially on your long run days) and taking time to consider your life schedule outside of running is encouraged so you can make an appropriate decision.
- I didn’t have high expectations set in my head – My #1 goal for both Leadville and Richmond was to cross the finish line. No expectations about time or whether I ran the whole thing (in Leadville you do a lot of hiking because it takes you up three mountains and I definitely walked a lot in the last 6 miles of Richmond). I wanted to cross the finish line feeling proud of myself, smiling, and pleased with whatever the time on the clock read.
- I felt excited and also a little scared! It’s okay to feel nervous and/or scared!! My thinking in life is that if you feel excited AND scared, then whatever decision you are thinking about making is probably the right decision for you. Because really, when have you ever grown from staying in your comfort zone? Whenever I am thinking about taking a leap of faith, I really try to identify my feelings and emotions. If there is excitement, passion, and eagerness as well as some nerves then I suggest going for it!
Please let me know if you have any further questions about possibly training for your first marathon! If you have run a marathon, how did you know you were ready for one or what helped you make the decision to train and run one? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂