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Run Your First Marathon This Year

Run Your First Marathon This Year
Resolve to Run Your First Marathon This Year

OK, you've thought about it for years, possibly even decades, but you've never had enough nerve or personal motivation to actually commit to doing it. With the turn of a fresh new year, maybe this is the year to finally commit yourself to running your first marathon. Running a marathon is something a whole lot of people have on their bucket list to complete in their lifetime. However, there is a reason most people have never run one, its just plain very hard to do. And not just for the difficulty of the race but also for the exceptional amount of time and energy required to train and prepare for one.

Marathon TrainingThe personal reward you receive for completing your first marathon is a feeling you will remember forever. When that finish line volunteer slips that medallion over your head, as if you were an Olympic medallist, you will be overcome with joy over the accomplishment you've completed. But you will also be on the verge of collapsing from complete physical exhaustion. The combination of the exhaustion and the feelings and emotions of the finish line burns an unforgettable notch into your memory that lasts a lifetime. You will even see some people breakdown and cry after completing their first marathon they are so overcome with emotions of the moment.

For the average first time marathoner, the race could be broken down to into three main parts.
The first part would be the first half (thirteen miles) of the race where you are just taking in the scenery, talking with your running mates, and just taking in the experience. This part is great and you should enjoy it fully. After all bad things are coming soon ;-)
The second part of the race would be the next seven or eight miles when the mental and physical struggles truly begin. You see there simply is no way to fake a marathon. If you haven't fully trained you will likely not be able to finish unless you are already an exceptional athlete or you plan on walking for half the race. During this second part your mind begins doing mind games and tricks such as running various math equations on how many miles you have left, what time you will finish in, what pace you are running at, how much are you slowing down per mile, how many steps till I see my next mile marker, and on and on the mind games go. These are your mind's techniques to pass the time and keep you from dwelling on the pain that is beginning to grow in your legs.
The final part is that final 5 or 6 miles. This is where the true battle begins both mental and physical, but mostly physical! You see at this point your muscles have become so depleted and begin to reach complete exhaustion. For some, your muscles will even seem to rebel against you as if they had their own plan to pull out of the race. If you've ever seen a long distance runner on TV stumbling along at the end of a race as if they were drunk, you can understand how hard it is when muscles cease to respond. This is commonly called hitting the wall. Until you experience this it pretty much can't be described. You have to call upon your mind to take over what your body is failing to do and it can be a prolonged painful battle. I am reminded of Tim Noakes famous quote:
"Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic."
Depending on your conditioning level, those last miles can be among the hardest physical challenges you will ever undertake. By mile 24 however you begin to realize how close you are to finishing and usually this hope is enough to carry you through to the finish line. Another quote I am reminded of is:
"There will be days when I don't know if I can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime knowing that I have."
You can repeat that quote in your head as motivation to get through those last painful miles.

My personal marathon advice for a first time marathoner would be:
  1. Choose a "destination marathon". Don't just run one because it may be the closest marathon to where you live. Pick one and turn it into a vacation. Maybe you can run one in Florida or California as a winter getaway or possibly a beautiful scenic autumn marathon like the Wineglass Marathon in the Finger Lakes. There are just so many great marathons around the United States to choose from. Check out NYMarathons.com for a list of marathons in New York and Here is a listing of marathons around the United States. Take time and choose carefully.
  2. Find a good training schedule that progresses slowly and last at least four months. Stick to it as closely as you can but don't overdo it. If you are tired on certain days and don't feel like training, don't sweat it or be discouraged, just pick up where you left off later. Never run the full marathon distance in any of your training runs, leave it for the great day of the race.
  3. Plan to run it with at least one friend or family member. Training and planning together will make it a more enjoyable and memorable experience.
  4. After you complete your marathon hang your finisher's medal in a distinguished place in your home as a daily reminder to you of your great accomplishment because you've earned it.


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