Running Your First Marathon: Principles to Remember

Pre-diabetes was the doctor’s diagnosis several years ago. You were in denial briefly and did not want to take your Metformin. But the numbness in your extremities is becoming more frequent. You needed to shape up. You took control of your diet and started exercising again. You tried mountain trekking and trail runs. But it’s the city runs that get you going. Getting to the tape at the end of each run was like reaching the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You started with 5K then moved up to the 10K. Now, you mostly do half-Marys or 21K. You’re 48 and fit as you could ever be.

You are about to run your first full marathon, all of 42.195 km (26.2 miles). Are you ready? How does one train for a marathon?

Gain Perspective

You’re not doing this to break Eliud Kipchoge’s world record. Remember that you’re still joining a fun run. No matter how well organized the race is, always remember why you are doing it. You want to stay healthy, and you want to keep running.

Your 21K is usually a sub-three hours finish. That’s fine. This means that you are likely to finish a 42K in more than four or five hours. For professional marathoners, that’s an embarrassing time. For fun runners, finishing the race is already an accomplishment.

Gear Up

One thing good about the sport of running is that it’s an inexpensive sport. There’s not much gear required. That said, don’t scrimp on your shoe budget. Get the best shoes that fit your feet well. Find a shop that allows you to test your stride while trying on different shoes on a treadmill. Don’t simply rely on recommendations from other people. Because what suits them might damage your feet.


woman working out

You will find plenty of information online about the details of how to train. It might overwhelm you. Stick with what you know is working for you. If you’ve been running shorter races every week or every other week, then continue to do so. This will help build your stamina.

If you are new to running, a basic principle to remember is that you either run for time or you run for distance. If you plan to run for one hour, don’t worry about the distance that you need to cover. If you plan to run 3 km, finish that distance without worrying about how fast you will finish.

As you increase your stamina, you will increase both your speed and thus, the distance covered. Do a practice run of the 42K either outside or on a treadmill.

Mental Preparation

Organizers typically provide a map of the racecourse. Prepare yourself mentally by familiarizing yourself with the map. Identify spots on the map and imagine how you would be feeling at each point: the 5K point, the 10K point, 21K point, etc.

Be prepared when you hit “the wall.” For many runners, hitting the wall usually, happen at the 32K mark. Hitting the wall means you’ve depleted your glycogen supply. Think of a car running out of gas. No matter how much you try to ignite the engine, it won’t.

These are broad principles to follow, and they can help you achieve your goal of finishing a full marathon.

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