6 Lessons You’ll Learn While Training For A Marathon

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For the past four months, I have been training for my first marathon. It has been a demanding endeavor, both physically and mentally. Now, I’m no expert or champion runner, but I do believe that I have learned some valuable lessons, and I would like to share them with any fellow runners who may be entertaining the thought of running a marathon.

1. TRAIN.

If you want to run a marathon, you have to train for it. Period. There will be people who will say, “Oh, I ran a marathon, but I like, BARELY trained for it.” Seriously, screw those people. They are either lying, or they put their body through extreme, unhealthy, and unnecessary suffering by running a distance that it was in no way prepared for. It doesn’t matter what kind of training plan you use (although I am partial to Hal Higdon — look him up) but you should definitely follow one. Have I mentioned that you need to train? Do it.

2. FOOD.

Congratulations! You’ve started training for a marathon. You are now constantly hungry, and may have even gained a few pounds from your increase in calorie intake. Don’t fret about this. Once you progress further into your training, you will be running many more miles, and thus burning more calories than you can possibly keep up with. However, this is NOT, I repeat, NOT a reason to binge eat junk food. Although you may have the calories to spare, you do not want to spend all night after a long run eating pizza and ice cream and drinking beer. I did this, and it was not pleasant. If you fuel your body with junk, you will feel like junk on your subsequent runs. I’m not saying you shouldn’t reward yourself after an 18 mile training run, because you definitely should. Eat that pint of Ben & Jerry’s…but stop there. Don’t overdo it.

3. FUEL.

During your long runs, you will need to take in some sort of fuel every 5 miles or so. Personally I prefer GU energy gels. They are little pouches of a fruit flavored, mucus-like goo and quite frankly, they are pretty disgusting. However, those babies will give you the calories, carbohydrates, sugar, and caffeine you need to keep your muscles going. There are also energy chews, but I often found that I was too tired to chew them, and preferred to just choke down the fruit mucus goo. In addition, you will need to carry water and a sports electrolyte drink of some kind. I recommend purchasing a super flattering and sexy fuel belt. It’s a glorified fanny pack, with little holsters for bottles. It’s weird and awkward to run with at first, but you’ll get used to it. All of the snide looks you will get will be worth it when your mouth goes completely dry 8 miles into a 20 miler, and BOOM — fanny pack with water and Gatorade at your fingertips.

4. MUSIC.

A motivating playlist is ESSENTIAL for marathon training. At least, for me it is, and I think most runners would agree. I put more time and effort into cultivating the ultimate running playlist than I did on any of the papers I wrote this semester. The finished product ended up being a glorious disaster of music. I had everything from vulgar rap music to Taylor Swift to songs from Disney movies. The point is, your running playlist should include a variety of music, so that you don’t get bored. Sure, you’ll have the classics like “Eye of the Tiger” and “Remember the Name” on there, but you may also have “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan. And OBVIOUSLY, plenty of Beyonce. Anything that gets your adrenaline pumping and makes you want to keep putting one foot in front of the other should be on that playlist.

5. YOGA.

After a long run, you’re not going to want to do anything but lay around. And that’s totally cool, but you will pay for it the next day in muscle soreness. Instead, before you indulge in your post long run treat, do some yoga. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, you can just google something like “my ass and thighs are burning because I just ran 15 miles. FIX ME, YOGA PEOPLE.” You’d be surprised how much a 25 minute cool down yoga session can both relax your aching muscles and clear your mind, leaving you feeling refreshed and much less sore the following day.

6. PHYSICAL CHANGES.

Your body is going to change. Your skin will chafe and break out from sweating so much, you will have bulging thigh muscles, and your resting heart rate will slow considerably. You might gain or lose weight, and feel pain in muscles that you didn’t know existed. However, you will also be in the best shape of your life. You will feel happy and strong, and you should! Be proud of the body that you have earned, the body that can withstand miles and miles of the feet pounding, heart racing, sweaty glory that is running.

So, I will leave you with this. At first, it will be really tough. There will be days when you don’t feel like running, and you will just want to sleep in. There will be nights that you can’t go out drinking with your friends, because you have to be up early to do a long run. You will have to sacrifice free time, social activities, and sleep. But at the end of all of the training, you will run a marathon. You will accomplish something that less than 1% of Americans have accomplished. You will have bragging rights for life. You will be much tougher, both physically and mentally. I promise you, it will be worth it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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