If you’re truly wondering how to train for a marathon, you may not know where to start. Don’t worry; there are several training plans already in use to help you take your first steps toward that 26.2 miles. A great one to begin with is that of veteran runner, Hal Higdon. His series of running guides consist of an 18-week schedule, broken down by skill level, which all but guarantees marathon success.
Once you’ve marked your calendar with Higdon’s recommended daily mileage (a modest six-miler comprises your first week’s long run), the larger question remains: “Can I really complete a marathon?” If you follow Higdon’s program consistently, you will most certainly cross the finish line on race day. Depending on your preferences, however, there are different routes you can take to make every run fun and rewarding. I’ve tried each of the below methods myself, and they all offer a variety of benefits to the aspiring marathon runner.
The Lone Wolf
Running long distances by yourself is perfect for anyone with a busy schedule that changes from week to week. You have the flexibility of running at any time of day without worry, and you can lace up your running shoes at a moment’s notice. Solo running is also great for introverts, as it allows you to spend time contemplating your thoughts on life, family, work, or whatever keeps you inspired to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
Distance running can be quite meditative, as well. The repetitive motion, steady breathing, and focused movement while training alone allows you to set your own pace, freeing your mind and leaving you feeling mentally rejuvenated.
Tip: Purchase a water belt at your local running store to keep you hydrated on long solo runs.
Running with a friend, spouse, or family member is a great way to stay motivated in your training, while enriching your bond with that person. Having a running buddy holds you accountable for the training of someone else, keeping you from skipping out on a run. If you cancel a 16-miler because you were especially tired, it also affects your partner. This level of commitment to another person’s success has definitely helped me to get out of bed on a few gloomy Sunday mornings.
Time flies when you run with a partner; you can get lost in conversation about anything and everything. Running with a buddy also allows you to more safely explore the road less traveled in nature, as you have a companion by your side in more volatile areas.
Tip: Find a running partner who runs at the same pace as you. If your partner is too fast or too slow, they may actually make the job of logging miles more difficult without you realizing it.
If you’re gearing up for your first marathon, running with a group is a fantastic option. For my first marathon I trained with the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA), and the experience was priceless. You learn a great deal from more experienced runners, and the group takes care of all the logistics—from mapping a course to having water stations along the way.
Group training also provides a great sense of camaraderie throughout the training process, and simulates the crowd you’ll line up with on race day. Use this support system to gripe about blisters and share in the joy of the final, relaxing tapering portion of your marathon training.
Tip: Ask the staff at your local running store about group marathon training programs in your area.
Learning how to train for a marathon is something each runner can decide for him- or herself. I find a combination of running solo and with a friend works best for me, but I know of people who have run 20 marathons and enjoyed training with a group for each and every one of them.
Which marathon training plan works best for you? Share your tips in the comments section or send us a tweet tagged #GoodMatters. Happy running!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.