Fall has arrived and with it comes peak road race and marathon season. Signing up for a road race, including a marathon, can be a great way to inspire regular physical activity in yourself and even in those around you. Having a specific goal can help keep you on track with your physical activity. But what if you have never attempted a marathon, let alone any race before? Well, whether you have signed up for a race or are just thinking about it, we have some great tips to help you get started:
- Start small: If you have never done a race before it can be great practice to try a shorter race or two before moving up to running a marathon. Find a 5K, 10K or half-marathon near you and use it as a practice run before the big event. Then you can get a better feel for what happens on a race day and make sure you are prepared for it when the longer race arrives.
- Have a plan: Most training plans for marathons can run from 15 to 20 weeks. This is a significant amount of time and something you need to fit into your schedule. You don’t want to go out and try to run a marathon, or any race, without completing some quality training first. There are many websites where you can find free general training plans for any experience level. Some websites you could look at are Hal Higdon and Runner's World. There are also many apps that you can get on your phone to help you get started including C25K and C10K, which help take you from the couch to finishing a 5K or a 10K.
- Find some fun: Even if you love running, sometimes it can be hard to stay motivated. Find different ways to inject more fun into your training and racing. Gather a group of friends or family members to train together for a specific race. If you don’t have anyone you know who wants to take part, join a local running group. You can also create an inspirational play list to really get you moving during solo training runs. There are also a lot of races with fun themes and where you get great swag at the end to show everyone how awesome you are.
- Focus on nutrition: A proper marathon training plan should also include a focus on your food and water intake. It is important to focus on your food throughout your whole training cycle and not just the day before your race. You will have more success with your training sessions and a better result on race day with the proper fuel in your system. Start with focusing on balanced meals throughout the day, each meal containing 3-5 food groups. For planned snacks, try to get 2-3 food groups. Remember that your body needs good energy to be able to do the training for a race.
- Race day ready: Make race day go smoother by making sure you have everything you need ready to go the night before. Don’t change any gear or fueling habits the day of the race; keep everything the same as you did throughout your training plan. Get there early so that you have plenty of time to find a parking spot, go to the bathroom, check your gear, find your starting line, chat with other racers, etc. Make sure your cheering squad is in place and ready to help keep you motivated throughout the race.
Running a marathon, or any race, is a great endeavor. The race can be tough, but it is made better through good planning, dedicated training and healthy food. Remember that everyone is different and has different goals, so it is important to find a training plan that works for you. To get more individualized guidance on your nutrition, reach out to your local Hy-Vee dietitian. You can schedule a FREE Discovery Session to find out more about how they can help support you.
*The blog articles, recipes and recommendations found on this site are not intended as medical advice and should not replace consulting with your medical provider. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.
About the Registered Dietitian
Alea Lester Fite, MS, RD, LD, received her bachelor’s degrees from the University of Minnesota in Spanish and biology and her master’s degree with coordinating internship program at the University of Illinois at Chicago in Nutrition and Dietetics. Alea has always had a passion for health and fitness, participating in competitive sports for most of her life. She found that she loved inspiring and helping people make healthy changes. Alea started seeing a registered dietitian when she was having her own digestive health issues and realized that she enjoyed learning about and working with food.