Marathon Training Suggestions from a Novice

It struck me recently that I’ve actually had many opportunities to share some of my own running tips to several people. This is pretty comical when you consider that as a high schooler I was a pretty average (if not lousy) runner. I ran cross country and winter track for a season and managed cross country for a season just so I could be with my friends who were much more accomplished runners. I specifically enjoyed the bus rides and conversations with my buddies Brian Willem and Paul Braun. In the past six years, I’ve taken up running for several reasons. First, running has provided an avenue for “Jon-think” time. I truly enjoy the chance to think about all kinds of things during my runs. Second, running has helped to balance one of my other favorite hobbies – eating. I enjoy food, and I have found that I can eat more without positive waistline growth if I am consistent with my running. I believe my friends from high school have been amazed that I’m the first one of us to run a marathon. Actually during the past six years, I’ve run two marathons (Philadelphia and Baltimore), four half marathons (four Philadelphia Distance Runs), two ten milers (two Broad Street runs), two survival triathalons (two Lenape Survival Challenges), and dozens of 5Ks (too many to recount).

So what are my suggestions to someone who is considering running a longer race? Good question. Here’s a few things that come to mind:

1. Slow down! This may seem crazy, but for me it makes a lot of sense. So many people try to run a 5K or longer at their one mile pace. For most of us, this is simply unrealistic. Try running a minute or two per mile slower. Once you’ve done this, you can start adding mileage. I was amazed the first time I did this and was able to run nine miles all at the same time.

2. Find a running partner. This was critical for me at the beginning. Joe Homan was a huge part of my initial running resurgence. We held each other accountable to getting up on those days when we both felt like being in bed. I didn’t want to leave him hanging, and I knew he wouldn’t leave me waiting for an early morning run.

3. Eat smart. Food is an important part of keeping your energy strong throughout your training. Don’t eat foods that you know will upset your stomach during those long runs. Find foods that will give you good energy and hydration. Fruit is a big part of a runner’s diet. I believe it’s also important to get the appropriate levels of protein to help build and rebuild your muscles.

4. Get sleep. This may sound crazy, but sleep is important to maintaining my energy for the runs but more importantly for the rest of my day.

5. Drink smart. Drinks lots of water throughout the day. When you start running longer distances consider carrying water or dropping water off on your route that you can pick up while you’re running. I’ve also found that energy gels are helpful on the longer runs. Don’t try this out during your race. Make sure you test the energy gel thing during your training. Your stomach will most likely respond differently to the many different kinds of gels that are out there.

6. Get the right shoes. There are many running stores around that will help you find the right pair of shoes for your feet. I actually went to a store in Allentown, PA that let me run outside in nine different pairs of shoes before I found the right pair for me. I run in Asics Gel Landreths right now. I have two pairs that I try to rotate. (Actually, I’m in need of two new pairs as mine are way past their normal mileage for appropriate cushioning.)

7. Start reading running magazines. I read Runner’s World and Running Times regularly. These magazines provide great tips for runners at all levels. For me, they also provide stories of inspiration of other average “jons” who are making a go at this running thing.

8. Set goals. Find a race that interests you and put it on your calendar. Make it your goal to be ready for this race. If I run another marathon, I want it to be in another state. That’s part of the reason that I’m considering the New Jersey Marathon on May 4th in Long Branch, NJ.

9. Cross train. I really should do a better job of this. I know it’s important to keeping your body healthy. Consider swimming or biking.

10. Have fun. Believe it or not, running can be fun.

Well, these are just a few of my thoughts. Let me know if you have any ideas to add to my list.

Until the next post, run…