Start Small, Dream Big: Planning for Your First Marathon

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JLP Staff

Health /

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Did summer arrive sooner than you expected? Maybe you’re thinking that marathon you planned on running will have to wait until next year.

Although this may feel disheartening, taking your time to prep for a marathon can be a blessing in disguise.

In fact, taking your time training can help you perform better and lower your risk of injury.

Get back on your running game with the insider scoop on why starting slow is the way to go, and how to train for next year’s marathon like a pro.

The Benefits of Running

There are 3 main types of running: jogging, distance running and sprinting.

No matter what speed or distance you choose to run, you’re guaranteed to reap rewards with any of these activities.

Running regularly has been proven to:

  • Improve heart health. Runners have a 30% lower risk of death from heart disease than non-runners.
  • Help you lose weight. There’s no better way to burn calories than a consistent running routine.
  • Strengthen joints. Running regularly can strengthen cartilage over time.
  • Help with depression. Running causes an increase in endorphins and dopamine.
  • Give you stronger bones. Running is a weight-bearing exercise that helps strengthen your bones.
  • Stabilize your core. The movement of running engages your entire core and can help stabilize your hips.

The Benefits of Taking Your Time

There are many health benefits to preparing yourself for a marathon – even if you don’t actually get there this summer.

In fact, some would claim that running a 5k can be even better than a marathon.

As exercise physiologist Jason Karp said, “Everyone thinks the marathon is the holy grail, when a lot of people should really be doing the 5k.”

Training for a marathon is a true case of the tortoise and the hare. Shortening the distance you run is both a great way to learn which skills you need to sharpen up on before a marathon, but also reduces risk of injury.

Studies have shown that the health benefits of running begin to decline for those that exceed 30 miles a week.

So spreading your marathon training over a longer period of time can help you reap the ultimate health benefits.

Preparing for a Marathon

Before you tackle a marathon, it’s a good idea to partake in at least a year of training.

This gives you time to improve your skills and stamina while avoiding injuries from pushing too hard too fast.

Start preparing now, and you may run a better marathon than you anticipated. Here are 4 important areas of prep before your first marathon:

  1. Create a training schedule

Try to incorporate running into your routine 3-4 days a week. Include the following:

  • One fast-paced short run or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
  • One average-paced short run
  • One easy jog
  • One long run
  1. Cross-train

Supplement your running with other important training that will help you align your body to create the perfect running position and increased durability, such as resistance training and aerobics.

  1. Find a Race Near You

Check out national or local directories like Running in the USA to find 5k and 10k races near you.

Just choose your location and the type of race you plan to compete in (anything from track-meet style to relays or stair climbs).

Once you pick a race that sounds appealing, register on the race website and plan your training schedule accordingly.

If the race route is near you, try practicing your running on it a few times before the race.

  1. Maintain a Balanced Diet

To maintain your energy levels and reduce your risk of injury, it’s important to monitor what you eat and drink.

Make sure you’re staying hydrated, and eat a balanced daily diet. According to dietician and long-time runner Kathleen Porter, you should be eating 60%-70% calories from carbohydrates, 20%-30% from fat sources and 10% to 15% from protein.

The Day of the Marathon

The days leading up to the big race day are crucial to making sure all your training pays off.

Be sure to stick to your nutritional routine, get plenty of rest, and prepare all your supplies (including a rain poncho just in case!)

Running a marathon or half marathon is a huge victory. It takes a lot of strength, consistency and mental stamina. And for some, it can be a journey that teaches us more about ourselves than we could have imagined.


Read on to discover how running a half-marathon taught this woman 4 important life lessons >

Categories: Fitness
About The Author
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Joan Lunden’s in-house research and writing team works with Joan to create content that complements her focuses and the interests of her fans. The team is dedicated to creating a thriving community through content and conversations, and hopes their work, like Joan’s, can make a difference in the lives of her readers everywhere.

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