Hey everybody! The Eugene Marathon is just under 12 weeks away on April 28th and I’m registered to run it! Over the next 12 weeks I’m going to blog about the training process and all of you get to kind of run along with me to the finish line. Sound good? Let’s get to it!
First blog is for all the prep prior to the first week. I’ll post a blog for the first week later this week.
Week 0 (and before)
There are a lot of things I did and that I recommend before beginning a marathon training schedule. Here’s a bullet pointed list!
- Run a lot! Personally, I don’t think it’s a great idea to start running with marathon. I did Couch25k a year and a bit ago and then, finding that I really liked running, trained up for a half-marathon and did that last fall. I have been running for fitness and leisure for about 15 months now. I feel comfortable with it and I like it. One of the challenges of running a marathon is finding physical and mental peace in running for literal hours. I’ve done more than a half-dozen 2+ hour runs and feel prepared for the 4+ hours it could take me to complete a marathon.
- Pick a marathon to run! This might seem like a no-brainer but not all marathons are the same. Consider the time of year, the elevation gain, the size of the event, and things like convenience to get there when making this decision. Last October I did my first half-marathon in the Columbia Gorge and it was awesome! But that course has a lot of elevation gain and it was awfully challenging. When I decided to commit to my first marathon I opted to do one on flatter ground. I also wanted to do one in the springtime rather than fall and in a place where I knew some folks that could cheer me on. I picked Eugene but I also considered the Newport marathon and other events in Portland itself. You can’t properly train until you know what you’re training for and when it’s happening.
- Talk to your healthcare team! I have asthma, type II diabetes, and a mostly benign heart condition. Before I committed to the grueling training schedule and put my money down for a marathon registration I consulted with my docs and got their advice. Based on those conversations, I’ve tweaked my asthma meds, and settled on strategies to manage my diet and blood sugar. I also got some clinical high fives for setting health goals that really boosted my confidence.
- Pick a training plan and schedule! There are a whole lot of training schedules for marathons. I spent several hours pouring over them and considering the pros and cons. I ultimately picked this one because it’s pretty simple, mirrors the training I did for my half-marathon, and it’s a 12 week program– something especially helpful when considering a marathon so early in the year.
- Get all that gear (to put on your body)! Running can be a remarkably frugal exercise. All you really need is your body and a place to run, right? Well, yes and no. You don’t need a whole lot of gear but gear can definitely be helpful. The most important thing in my opinion is a good pair of shoes. I’m on my third pair of running shoes since I started running seriously and got this newest pair about a month ago. They’re nicely broken in and ready to go now! I’ve tried different brands and I’m still learning and testing out my preferences with running shoes so I’m not going to recommend any one killer shoe but what I do suggest is buying them from a place that specializes in running shoes. I use Foot Traffic here in Portland. They know their stuff, have a great inventory, and can help analyze your gait and answer any of your questions. There are a lot of similar stores out there (I got some trailrunners I quite like from REI) and I’m of the opinion that they are well worth it for the customer service and expertise. The next most important type of gear is running apparel. You don’t want to run in cutoff jeans and cotton shirts. There are all kinds of moisture wicking synthetic fabrics that will keep your temperature and sweat and friction under control on long runs. I have several shirts, shorts, and some running pants. I don’t think any one brand is substantially better than any others for the basics but your mileage may vary. I do have a pair of Adidas running pants that have zippers on the pockets – that’s surprisingly useful. Another thing to remember; socks. Good running socks prevent blisters and blisters are the worst. For Christmas my wife got me a several pairs of Saucony runners socks and they are true MVPs. In addition to the basics, you want to think about the weather. I have several pairs of very light weight synthetic base layers for when it’s especially cold and I got a good rain running coat from Foot Traffic. I also very much recommend running gloves. You might not think about it but trust me- running in the winter or early spring without gloves is brutal. A final plug here- think about chafing and sensitive parts of your body. If you have nice lightweight synthetics, you’ll probably be fine but I absolutely must have NipStrips and I have learned this the very bloody, very unpleasant, way. Parts of your body (feet, nipples, thighs) are likely going to get rubbed raw. Do whatever you can to avoid this. Final final plug for moleskin for blisters on feet. Good stuff. Anyway.
- Get even more gear! You should also think about what you need/want to carry with you on your runs. I have an AppleWatch. I love it and recommend some kind of tracker to monitor your running lengths and give you analysis on splits and heart rate recovery – stuff like that. I also take headphones and my iPhone so I can listen to music. I need a place for my phone and keys so I got a runner’s belt. I’ve also found that I like to carry water with me rather than having to be reliant on water fountains on long runs so I have a super light hydration pack (1.5 liters) and a bigger hydration pack I have for hiking (with modular bladder, 2 or 3 liters) that I can use for extra long distances. I also always carry a handkerchief, sometimes tied around my wrist. It’s might look weird but having it there and accessible to wipe sweat from my eyes or deal with a runny nose is worth a few odd glances.
- Get food gear! You also want to think about what you eat during and after a run. This is especially important when you’re running for more than 6 miles. On any run that I go for more than an hour I try to take Gu runner’s gels (packets of 100 calorie energy boost) so I ordered a box of my preferred flavor varieties from Amazon. Gels are a weird thing and some people tolerate them differently. Also, some flavors are great and some are awful. I prefer citrus flavors. They make my mouth feel fresher than the chocolate or caramel ones. I take 1 before my run and keep 1 gel for every 5 miles or so of my run in my runner’s belt. I also have a few tubes of Nuun hydration tablets for post-run rehydration, a stupid amount of protein bars, Muscle Milk, Vitamin Water, and other snacks to pick me up from the post-run crash. When you’re running for hours your body is consuming massive amounts of nutrients and calories and you want to try to be prepared for that. On my longest run to date (18 miles!) my AppleWatch estimated that I burned over 2300 calories- or more than I normally eat in an entire day. You’ll want to prepare for the munchies that follow that kind of output.
- Plan your training routes! It’s a good idea to know where you’re going to run. I do three runs a week with one of them usually on a treadmill. I always do my long runs outside and I have a preferred path. I’m pretty committed to it as it’s close to home and I know it’s literal ups and downs but there are downsides to it- specifically a lack of reliable public bathrooms and water fountains (hence why I carry a hydration pack). When you run for hours and hours and you drink water along the way to keep from getting dehydrated there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to need to pee. Your running route should have some options (or you might learn to run with your legs crossed).
- Set a goal (that isn’t insane)! My actual goal is just to complete my first marathon. I think 4 hours and 30 minutes or under would be a respectable time and that’s officially what I tell myself and others I’m shooting for. But I really want to do a sub four hour marathon. That’s kind of nuts for me physically but it’s my stretch goal. It’s a good idea I think to know what you plan to do so you can monitor how well you’re doing.
- Playlist and fun stuff! If you’re a crazy running person like I am, running for hours is fun and relaxing. Part of that is the music I get to listen to along the way. Planning for a marathon run is like planning for a long plane ride. You don’t want to get bored.