Naturally, runners who have finished their first half-marathon are eager for that what’s next. Whether you want to run a marathon or not, the half-marathon can give you a brief idea of what to expect and what to work on before you move up in distance.
Although moving up from a half-marathon to a marathon makes sense, that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. Here are five things to remember when moving up to the marathon.
Find the right race
Find a destination that means a lot to you or that will help motivate you to train. Don’t just sign up for the next marathon on the race calendar. There are several things you should take into account before signing up, such as race date, field size, location and course elevation. If you are trying to chase a Boston qualifier you may want to lean toward a marathon with a flatter course, but for some, a marathon with rolling hills can help the miles go by faster.
Plan. Plan. Plan
Planning is essential, and maybe the most important thing when moving up in distance. You’ll need enough time to find or develop a training plan and build a base before you dive head first into training. Increasing your mileage will take time, and there is nothing more discouraging than trying to quickly increase your mileage because you are in over your head. Plan your training in advance or month-by-month to set yourself up for success. Most runners will begin training 16 to 20 weeks out from their marathon, whereas in the half, 10 to 12 weeks is standard.
If you are going straight from a half to the marathon, be sure to space out the dates by at least four to six weeks to allow your body to recover and increase mileage. The last thing you want to do is run your first marathon on tired legs.
If it is your first marathon, you should focus on increasing your distance instead of your speed. Prioritize the mileage, and let the speed come naturally.
Don’t feel discouraged if it feels like you are losing speed–it is a natural occurrence when training for the marathon. Running longer distances increases the stress on your muscles and joints, so don’t be too concerned if your 5K to 10K paces slow down as a result. It’s temporary. Take your time on the long runs and do what you need to finish strong, rather than pushing yourself to potential injury.
Some runners can get through a half-marathon without energy gels or bars, but for a marathon, you need to find a fueling strategy that will work for you. After 75 minutes of exercise, the body’s glycogen stores are depleted and you need to take on carbohydrates.
There are tons of great products out there for marathon runners, but you’ll want to experiment with them during training to find the ones that work for you. Practice and tweak your fueling and hydration techniques early in your training to ensure you have enough time to settle on the right one. Once you find a fueling strategy, it will help you feel more confident and comfortable come race day.
Be modest with your expectations
Although preparation is important for your first marathon, the race itself will provide you with the most wisdom. Anything can and will happen during your first marathon, and most of the time it’s beyond your control. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.