‘Tis the season for fall marathon training. Some of the world’s largest fall marathons are just around the corner — Berlin Marathon (90 days), Chicago Marathon (104 days), NYC Marathon (125 days) and with many more starting in September, training is definitely in full swing.
Whether a first-time or veteran marathoner, there is a bit to plan and prepare for during the 3 to 4 month training cycle. Even after 7 marathons in three years, I find that I do something different each training cycle. You’d think I’d have it down to a science by now. Without further ado, here are my top 5 tips for preparing for a training cycle.
- Find a marathon training plan based on running experience. I’ve had success with the Hal Higdon plans and some of my friends have used the Hanson Method. Regardless of the training plan, it’s important to make sure to allocate enough time for proper training and find one that suits your lifestyle and fitness level.
- Find a running group or friends to run with. Running in numbers will hold you accountable, push your limits, and keep you company/motivated on the long runs. I’ve found it most helpful to run with a group or friends for speed work. They can really help push pacing and for the long runs, they’re your source of entertainment and positivity. You can find local running groups on Meetup, on Road Runners Club of America (RRCA), or join a local charity team for your upcoming race.
- Purchase a good pair of shoes (or two). You’ll go through many pairs of shoes during training. If you average 100 miles per month, and likely more during peak training, you’ll easily go through 2 pairs of shoes and will want to save a pair for the race. There’s no need to buy the race day shoes so early in the season unless you’re sure what you like, but in the meantime, it’s a good opportunity to try some of the new models out there. There are good shoe advisors online, but I generally like going to a local running store when I’m looking for new models. Some stores have a treadmill to analyze your gait and pronation but it’s also a good way to test whether you like the shoe. Also, some stores have a flexible return policy where you can put your new shoes to a test run at home first.
- Invest in moisture-wicking running clothes (especially socks). While some technical/moisture-wicking items seem expensive upfront especially compared to cotton items, I promise you they are worth the money. You’ll feel many pounds lighter when sweating in a technical shirt and shorts than you will wearing cotton. Also, they will dry faster. There is a big price range for these items – from free race shirts (well included in the race entry) to Target to Gap to running brands (like Saucony or Brooks) to Lululemon, there is something for everyone. Running socks are also extremely important to prevent blisters. I especially love colorful ones since I can’t get away with wearing bright socks to work!
- Start trying fuel on long runs. This is the one area that I struggle with season after season. I cannot seem to get my fueling strategy down right. There are a variety of products out there from gels to chews to sport beans to normal food, but it’s important to see what works for you. There’s no better time to try these different options out than on a long run. Generally the rule of thumb is to start fueling on runs longer than 75 minutes, but during the training cycle, you’ll get a sense of what your body needs especially given your eating schedule before the run. I’ve tried pretty much every option out there and my current favorite is Clif Organic Energy Food (stay posted for an exciting giveaway this week).
There’s always so much to take in and read about but I look forward to sharing more tips and some of my favorite items during the fall training season.
What’s the best piece of advice someone gave you before your first marathon?