Behind the Scenes Running 26.2 – Part 2: How to Train

“Tough runs don’t last but tough runners do”

It’s time for Part 2 in my mini-series designed for all you out there training for a marathon – especially your first marathon.

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When you’ve trained hard for a marathon, it’s that much more enjoyable.

In this mini-series, I’m taking you through all 26.6 miles of a marathon – plus the before and after. Part 1 told you what to expect, now I’m going to offer tips on how to train for it, then finally, how to embrace, enjoy, or just get through it on race day.

Now, the second in the three-part series: How to train for running a marathon.

The Start Line

What to expect
People. Everywhere. From fellow athletes and pace leaders to race officials and spectators, the area will be full of people.

How to train for it
On days that are tough, visualize this moment. Remind yourself of the pride and excitement you’ll feel stepping up to the start line with your fellow athletes.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!


Mile Markers 1-4

What to expect
The crowd will be thick and adrenaline high. You’ll be excited and may feel tempted to push your pace to get around people or, simply because you feel great.

How to train for it
Do plenty of easy practice runs to hone in on your comfort pace. This pace is what you strive to stick to throughout the miles – not so easy that it throws off your stride, yet not too fast you risk emptying your tank too early.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 5-8

What to expect
You should feel good and strong, likely having settled into a comfort pace. The crowd, while thinner now, will still be fairly close together.

And if you’re running a race that has a four-person relay, you’ll hit the first relay exchange point in this mileage block. Expect a ton of spectators (feed off their energy), possibly some minor congestion (runners will be switching in and out), and a sudden burst of faster runners around you (the newbs that just hit the course).

How to train for it
Practice your early hydration strategy during long runs. These miles are when you’re going to need your first pit stop or two for water or sports drink. Get used to, both the concept of running slowly while drinking (expect spills and liquid up your nose) and the feeling of having a little liquid in your belly while running.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 9-13

What to expect
It’s unlikely fatigue will have set in yet. Those of you who have run a half marathon will likely notice how much better you feel now, compared to how you feel at this point in a half marathon. You should feel mentally good that you trained hard and are poised to hit the second half of your race, and physically up to the task.

How to train for it
Try to incorporate a few 9, 10, and 11-mile runs into your training plan, outside of your long runs. I can’t tell you how big a confidence booster it is when you can hammer out 10 miles on a Monday night – especially considering that was a “long” run for you only a few weeks ago.

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My barbell earrings – because I really really like lifting.

Another thing you should incorporate into your training is weight lifting. Specifically, upper-body focused lifting. Think about your ideal form when you run. Shoulders back and strong, core tight, arms pumping – your upper body plays a big role in sustaining long distances. Conversely, a weak upper body might be shoulders hunched, core sagging, and arms loosely stabilized – not ideal for continuing another 13 miles.

Those of you shaking your heads and saying, “I don’t have time or energy for that, I’m training for a marathon!” believe me, I feel you. The more you run, the harder and more frustrating lifting can be. But I’m only talking 20-30 minutes one or two times a week. That’s enough to give you the benefits and doable to incorporate into your busy schedule.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 14-16

What to expect
Mentally, this is a good place as you’ll know you’re more than halfway there. That said, slight fatigue may start to set in your legs, glutes, even upper body, especially if the weather is significantly different than what you’ve trained in. Upside, you’ve likely seen some really great running signs by this point – and there are more to come!

How to train for it
Practice eating an energy gel, blocks, or something of that nature on your long runs as this will likely be the point you’ll want your first boost. Be sure you have water along, as all energy products go down and sit in your stomach much better with water. Plus, it’s just a good reason to make sure you’re replenishing fluid and staying hydrated.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 17-19

What to expect
I’m gonna give you the bad news first – these three miles are often the most mentally-tough ones of the race. You’re far enough in now that you’ll be feeling some fatigue, yet you feel so far from the finish line.
The good news, though, is if you haven’t yet had any issues with stomach trouble, you’re likely not going to as long as you stay properly hydrated. High-fives for successfully avoiding the port-a-potties!

How to train for it
Schedule at least one long run that exceeds 19 miles. If you’re run a marathon or two, you may even consider two that hit the 20-mile mark.

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Strong legs means a smile on your face at the finish line.

And, I’m going to hit you with one more lifting task – this time, for your legs. Olympic hockey coach, Herb Brooks famously said, “The legs feed the wolf,” when imposing intense conditioning exercises on his players (I’m not sure of the factual nature of these words; the quote may have been written into the movie for entertainment value but I still love it). Basically, stronger legs are going to be your friend as you head into your final miles, and running alone won’t get your legs to their full potential.

Be the best-conditioned you can be by incorporating one dedicated leg workout into your week – again, I’m talking just 20-30 minutes, focused on quality moves like squats, single-leg deadlifts, and glute work.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

 
Mile Markers 20-26

What to expect
You’ll feel tired. You may find yourself wondering why you signed up to do this. You may be tempted to walk or stop altogether.

How to train for it
Towards the end of training and during your biggest long runs, start pushing your pace in the final four miles. Practicing a strategy of digging deep and pushing those last miles vs. slogging through and mentally cursing them will pay off.

What to do on race day
Coming soon – this section will be big so get ready!

 
The Finish Line

What to expect
Emotions and extremes. You may cry, you may laugh; you may feel a burst of energy or like you’re going to pass out. Either way, you can’t help but feel pride. I don’t care if it’s your first marathon or tenth. It’s an incredible accomplishment that comes with an incredible feeling.

How to train for it
After long runs, practice your immediate recovery strategy so you can implement it on race day. Whether it’s a pared-down version of stretches, putting your legs up against a wall, eating – it will all help you navigate the post-race area and ensure your recovery gets off to a good start. Also, always go for a short walk a couple hours after a long run; it will help your legs recover.

What to do on race day
Coming soon!

Now you have an idea of what to expect throughout the 26.2 miles of a marathon and how to train for each moment. Are you still in? If so, comment below or tweet me with what race you’re training for and when it is.

Next month, watch for the final piece of this series, Part 3, that will provide advice for how execute your marathon from the start line, through the miles, and to the finish.

As always, if you have specific training questions, feel free to leave a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter with your questions or other comments.

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One Response to Behind the Scenes Running 26.2 – Part 2: How to Train

  1. Best experience ever. I love the marathon distance – is shows us how to work through the peaks and valleys. Looking forward to my second marathon soon. Cheers! 🙂

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