I ran my first marathon last October in Cologne. I finished after 4 hours, 37 minutes and 22 seconds. I was really proud of myself because it was my first marathon and I my longest run before this was 24km, about 15 miles. This wasn' actually my plan. I had plan how long and how much I wanted to run, but I lost some training weeks because of a stem cell donation, a tonsillitis, a bent ankle and a heat wave in Germany. This is why I didn't really had a goal in mind. I wanted to run under 5 hours. I could possible hit 4:30 hours but I wanted to enjoy the race - and this is the most impotant tip for your first marathon: enjoy the expierence. You probably worked your ass of for that day, you paid a lot of money and you possible had a million nervous breakdowns. I hope I am not the only one panicking about the marathon. I just want to give you some tips for surviving your first marathon with a smile on your face.
Take your time and ask yourself: what are your fitness level?
How long and how much you need to train before the marathon is really different. It depends on your fitness level - are you overweight? Are you underweight? Did you workout before? Haven't you worked out in a long time? All of this is important. If you are at a normal weight, working out 3-4 times a week and are a healthy person, but never run before, I would train for about 4-6 month in advance. Your muscles need to get used to running and it's important to slowly increase the miles. Start with 2-3 miles, and every weeks add 2-3 miles. After you done that try to run for 3-4 times every week. Two shorter runs about 4 to 5 miles, one longer run about 8 to 10 miles and one really long run. Start with a 12-13 miles long run and increase your long runs slowly, maybe every two weeks. They shouldn't be longer than 17-18 miles. Your longest run should be 20 miles three to four weeks before your marathon. It is an amazing practice for the big day. Eat the same food you are going to eat on the big day, wear the same clothes, wake up at the same time.
If you are really unfit and maybe overweigh: take your time. You don't want to hurt yourself or go to hell during the marathon. You should start 10 to 12 month in advance and increase you miles really really slowly. It is more important that you run the miles and it's less important to work on your speed. Focus on making the long runs and not being super fast. You can work on your speed when training for your second marathon ;)
Don't stress, run at a pace you feel good but it's also not to slow.
I had one goal for my first marathon: I wanted to enjoy the whole expierence. I knew that my times wouldn't be that great. So I just ran. I kept an eye on my heart rate, run faster if I thought I was to slow and slowed down if I felt a little but exhausted. I wasn't really exhausted during or after the race because my pace was perfect for me. Yes, it really hurts after 20 miles, but the pain is normal. I just didn't stressed myself. I smiled, I looked around and I stayed in the moment. I didn't count down the miles. I just ran. I knew that I would wanted to walk, I was going to make it - I knew it. Believe in yourself and be relaxed. It is your first marathon and you can be so proud of yourself.
Fuel your body and eat good food.
It is really important to think about your nutrition. You can't eat what you want just because you are running a lot. It would be really sad if you're gaining weight while training for a marathon. You are going to be more hungry, of course. But fuel your body with good foods: a lot of vegetables, healthy carbs before your long runs and protein after your runs. Controll your portions sizes, don't make them to big. You can have a healthy snack if you're getting hungry after 2-3 hours. You should never be hungry, your body needs nutrition because it has a lot of work to do. One weeks before the marathon you should start your carbloading, but that doesn't mean three bowls of pasta everyday. Have normal meals during your day and normal portions sizes. Just have some more healthy carbs and reduce your fat and protein intake, but you should continue to eat healthy fats and protein. I always had whole-grain pasta with a lot of vegetables and selfmade tomato sauce as dinner. It was really good. I had oatmeal or muesli for breakfast, coconut sugar and coconut syrup, nutbutter.
One the day before the marathon it is time for the: PASTA PARTY! Yes, you will find a lot of them before the marathon. But it is really important that you don't binch on pasta. You're going to feel so full and tired afterwards, maybe it affects your sleep because your so full. I had a normal portion of pasta and some bread. It was enough. Your body can only store a certain amount of carbs. It is not necessary to 500g of pasta.
Have a training plan.
Write done your plan and find three to four day to run every week. Your goal should be to at least run 42.195km / 26.2 miles every week. It's much better to run even more kilometres every week but it's really time consuming so not everybody is able to. Try to run at list 26 miles every week in 3-4 runs. And: your runs should be appointments. Do not skip them - motivate yourself, stand up early and start!
Feel comfortable in your clothes and run in good shoes.
You run in an outfit you love. It's better if you already ran in an outfit. You then know if it's comfortable and practical. You don't want to stress about your outfit on your big day. It's also really important to have good shoes. Go to a running shop (like Runnerspoint) and ask them which shoes will be best for you. It is also important to not run in new shows. It's going to hurt really bad. You should already ran 1-2 month in your shoes, about 200 kilometres. You foot is going to get used to the shoe and it's not going to hurt your heel.
I hope my tips helped you a little bit. I am starting my marathon training this week. It's a 16-week training plan and I'm doing the plan two times, but I am going to increase the speed in the second 16-weeks of training. I am really excited. If you want me to tell you about my running, my training, my nutrition, my thoughts - write a comment :)