Training for your first marathon becomes a lifestyle as well as a lesson in dedication.  In 2009 there were 468,000 marathon finishers, and I decided I wanted to be one of them in 2010.  When it came to preparing for my first marathon I did not realize how much I had to learn about training for  a marathon.    As a lifelong runner I figured it would be like training for any other race I had planned for, but I was very wrong.  Hopefully, after reading this article, if you are considering running your first marathon, you will take away the 4 key lessons I learned and incorporate them into your training and preparation. 

Lesson One- Dedication 

Preparing to run your first marathon takes a lot of dedication and support, especially if you have a family, but it is by no means impossible.  There are many different training plans out there, and I chose a 16 week plan I found at Marathon Rookie online.  You can also get a number of books outlining first time marathon training plans like Hal Higdon's Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide.  There is one similarity to all training plans, and that is the time required during the week to complete the training plan.  You will have 3 to 4 runs during the week ranging from 3 to 8 miles and one long run on the weekend up to 20 miles.  I was fortunate that my wife was so supportive of my goal to complete my first marathon because every Saturday morning I would leave on my long run and she would spend the next 2 to 4 hours watching the kids.  

Lesson Two- Your primary goal is to finish!! 

Before I decided to train for my first marathon I ran 5k and 10k races.  In these races my mindset from the very beginning was to run my best possible time.  This worked just fine for the first couple weeks of training, but as the long runs started getting longer I quickly learned to decrease my mile splits and aim to finish the runs.  When I hit the 12 and 14 mile long runs, I did something I had never done on a run before, WALK.  That was when I realized that I couldn’t start fast and maintain like I always had before, I needed to pace myself and my goal was to complete the run.  Fortunately I learned this lesson prior to my first half marathon during my training cycle and I had no problems finishing it.  The key point to this lesson is to swallow the pride and aim to finish.  Plan for a time goal after you finish the first and get the itch to run your second! 

Lesson Three- June thru August have the least marathons for a reason 

Hot and humid is not good for your first marathon.  I chose to train in the winter and spring months to beat the heat and run my marathon in June.  The marathon I chose for my first marathon was the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon on June 13th, 2010 in Wyomissing, PA.  At the start of the race it was 80 degrees and 85% humidity.  If this were a 5k or 10k that would not be a problem with an 8 am start time.  When running your first marathon, the average marathon finish time is 4 hours 35 minutes 42 seconds, you have to plan on running through the hottest hours of the day.  The temperature that day went up into the low 90’s and the humidity had to hit 90% after it rained.  Even for a seasoned marathoner this was a tough race to run.  I would recommend running your first marathon in the months of March-May or October to December depending on the part of the country you live in. 

Lesson Four- Spring for the good Band-Aids 

The final lesson was one of pain (literally).  One of the key lessons you learn in running longer distances is to make sure you cover your nipples.  I used some regular band-aids and with the heat and humidity they would no longer stick after mile eight, so for the next 16.2 miles they became very chaffed.  That is one lesson that I will not repeat.  The next time I will make sure that I use something that provides better protection like NipGuards.  Of all the lessons I learned this is the most important of all. 

I did finish my first marathong in 5 hours 45 minutes and I can say finishing your first marathon is an incredible feeling that makes all those hours of training worth it.  I hope these tips help make your first marathon training a success.  Many say it is a life changing event to learn they can do it, find out for yourself.