I am asked often for advice on running races, marathons in particular… And since my first marathon, my advice for everyone has stayed exactly the same.
“Come race day, despite your running ability – what matters, is your training. The training is what will dictate your performance, over everything else. Especially for first time racers – you don’t know what to really expect when you wake up and walk towards that start line. But, if you have the mental clarity KNOWING that you put all that time and energy into your training, then your body will take you the rest of the way. Mentally knowing that you did all the right things leading up to that day is what will power you across that finish line.”
I remember being so nervous before my first marathon. I grew up being an athlete – playing every sport in the book, but never had I competed in a running race, let alone a marathon. I had no idea if my body would make it 26.2 miles! Those nerves led to negative thoughts as the day got closer… Not really knowing how to control my emotion. I’m not sure the nerves ever truly went away… but as the race started, my body took over and my mind quieted. I finished that race – in fact, finished much better than I had anticipated. I attributed all of that to my training.
Rewind to signing up for that first marathon. No races under my belt, fresh out of college with a desire to compete to no team sports left, I turned to running. Athlete – yes, but running – never was a fan growing up. I had no idea why I was signing up for a marathon, but I knew it was a goal that I could train for and would only compete with myself. I sought out a very specific 16-week training plan and I stuck to it. During that 16-week period, I didn’t miss one single workout. I had no idea if what I was doing was making me a better runner or a faster runner, but I stuck to it. When I finished that first marathon, I knew that I had done everything I possibly could leading up to my race and that, gave me the mental sanity to power through any ache, pain, or apprehension.
Here are my 5 top pieces of advice when training for a race – of any distance!
- Find a Training Program – No matter how athletic you think you are, find a proper training program that fits with your schedule and will be something that you can stick to – even when you don’t want to!
- Find a Buddy – Having an accountability partner will always help with keeping you motivated during training. It’s always more fun with friends, anyway!
- Proper Fueling – Learning how to properly fuel your body comes while you’re training. Don’t wait until race day to fuel with foods you’re unsure of. If you’re not eating the foods while you’re training, don’t eat them while you’re racing. Find what works best for YOU!
- Cross Training – Running is a very linear motion and it is so important to develop muscles in all directions of the body. Make sure your training program has cross-training days where you’re doing something other than running. This will help aid in injury prevention and making you a stronger runner. Mixing up your workouts will also help prevent burn-out!
- Speed Workouts – A good training program will also incorporate speed workouts once a week. These are crucial during your training – working different muscles from just going on your general runs. Whether they are track workouts or hills, make sure you’re incorporating these aerobic moves. If you’re someone who has goals to become a better runner – these workouts will CHANGE your race times. Grab a buddy and hit the track once in awhile!
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