Ok, you’ve been hitting the trails, paths, parkways, maybe even the beaches during the winter months, when you could get outdoors depending on where you live that is. You’ve been doing your best at tracking your miles, cadence and time. At least I hope so, I’ve been using a few for a while now and  I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to try some from a brand that I have a lot of respect for from Garmin that one of our sponsors, HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com provided as an incentive. And one that I’m looking at now, is the Garmin Forerunner 935 Multi Sports GPS Watch. This watch can do it all and its functions keep me on track to be able to monitor my performance. It can monitor my VO2 Max levels and it has a wrist-based heart rate monitor and can even provide me with an estimated recovery time I would need in order to make sure my body performs properly under the stress I’m putting it through while training for my runs.
And speaking about training, this Forerunner has a race predictor function built in that I can use to see just how well I would fare when running an actual race. So, armed with this tool, I’m concentrating on training to make sure I come in at a decent time at the end of the marathon.

While it’s true that crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles delivers a feeling of gratification and accomplishment like no other, but a similar sense of accomplishment accompanies the finish of a well-run 10K or even a fast mile. But in order to feel good about yourself, you need to know that you’ve put everything you’ve got into finishing with a time that you, YOURSELF are proud of!

But before you take those training wheels off, to lace up for your half or full marathon. You need to get your body conditioned, so let’s start at the beginning.

Build UP to the Marathon
New runners, in particular, should not feel pressed to rush to sign up for “The Marathon”. Give yourself time and experience racing the shorter distances, 5K. 10K, to get the feeling of competing against other runners. Running solo during your training just does not put you in the right mindset to run in something as grueling as competitive marathon running. Running a marathon is not something to be done lightly or without adequate preparation and training. It requires seriousness and dedication.

There are as many reasons to run a marathon as there are marathoners, but running to finish, and to survive in reasonable shape, is at the core of every marathon runner’s experience. In the words of the late running guru Dr. George Sheehan, “The truth is that every runner in a marathon is a survivor or nothing, including the winner.”

While virtually any runner can complete a marathon with enough training and determination, large reservoirs of both are required. You should not run a marathon unless you have at least a year of running experience behind you, in order to prepare both your mind and muscles for the miles of training ahead. This is important, unless you wish to possibly encounter multiple preventable injuries along the way!

Preparing for a marathon, after all, is no easy thing. It is a big, big time commitment, and for most, it demands vast amounts of energy — physical, mental and emotional. The payoff, of course, is equally enormous. Enhanced strength, confidence, and a can-do attitude are the treasures reaped by all marathon athletes, whatever their ability. After all, you will become a member of an elite club when you finish. Not too many runners take that next step to commit to something as personal and body sapping as running 13 – 26.2 miles!

Time is a commitment as we said above. To get in shape to attempt a full marathon, you should have been training for at least 5-6 months, a full year is much better, but it can be done, again, if you commit. 20 weeks should be the bare minimum amount of time if you’re going to have your body conditioned enough to keep to a good pace while you’re stepping off those 26.2 miles.

There is a widespread notion that running the full 26 miles during training is a bad idea, that you are somehow weakening yourself. On the contrary, I tend to think that tackling the full distance for the first time while pushing a race pace is much riskier.

Practice makes perfect, and you have to train the distance to race the distance. These marathon training programs out there are intended for runners who are seeking to run for time, which is different than running to finish, a goal of many first-timers. But keep in mind, if this is your first race, and that is how I am writing this post, finishing a 26.2 marathon in and of itself is a tremendous feat, and you should be proud of your accomplishment!

The more marathons you take part in the more your going to be gearing up to finish in a much better time than when you ran your first marathon. That is all I meant to say by the statement above.

Below is a breakout guideline for gearing up your training so that your body can adapt to the miles of running that you’re going to be asking of it while training in preparation for the upcoming race.

A “Beginner” is classified as Runners, who currently run 15 to 25 miles per week and expect to run the marathon in about 4 hours for men, or 4:20 for women. You should have at least one year of running experience. For runners (particularly first-time marathoners) who are more interested in simply finishing the marathon than in racing or running for time.

If you are a beginning runner, you may want to hold off on introducing speedwork into your routine. You should have an established base of at least 20 miles per week before incorporating these “quality runs” into your schedule. It’s also best to have at least a year of running experience under your belt. Getting tired of hearing this statement. We only repeat it because we fully believe that a steady training routine will serve you the best in being able to run that 26.2 miles and be able to enjoy the finish instead of being carried over to a medical tent.

The reason for both is that speedwork adds considerable strain to your muscles and connective tissues. Without the necessary mileage foundation, you may wind up injured rather than fast. Notice that the scheme-training below starts out with week #5. This is because we take it for granted that for the first month, you are doing the basics of increasing your runs each day, adding an additional mile to the start of your next week’s goal. By week #5 you should be able to finish a 10-mile run without any serious discomfort.

• Week 5, Sunday: 10 miles
• Week 7, Sunday: 12 miles
• Week 9, Sunday: 14 miles
• Week 11, Sunday: 16 miles
• Week 13, Sunday: 18 miles
• Week 15, Sunday: 20 miles
• Week 17, Sunday: 20 miles

By weeks 18-19-20, you want to be able to consistently work to improve your times based on the schedule shown above.
In order to run this way, you need to the proper amount of nutrition in order to provide the necessary fuel to keep that engine, you call your body performing the way it was designed to.

We’re going to cover the proper “Nutrition” guidelines for a marathon runner in a future blog post so watch for that one!

We started this post stating that you have already been putting some mileage behind you in gearing up for your first marathon. Good for you, and this probably took you a good amount of time to feel confident about taking that important step of choosing a marathon that would be a good match to make it your first one.

I wanted to provide my thoughts and reasons for those who may think that getting ready to run their first marathon could be accomplished with only a few weeks of training if they feel they were already in pretty good shape. This is why I put down recommendations on what it would take for a minimum of training time in order for a person new to running to be able to get their body’s ready to tackle such a demanding undertaking.

For now, the above is a starting point for a beginner to work at incorporating into their own training regimen. Keep in mind that “No two runners perform the exact same way”. So, it’s a given that no two running-training programs are identical either.

You have to be able to adapt your training so that it works best with the way your body and your mind operates.

Once you have both working in sync together, you’ll be able to set your sights on that Finish Line at the end of your race!