Let me start off by saying that I have yet to have completed a full marathon, but that will change in 2 weeks when I run the Niagara Falls International Marathon. I have however run numerous races in the two years that I’ve been running — everything from 5K’s to the 30K “Around the Bay” race in March of this year (with a time of 2:31 and change). I have discovered that running is the one thing that I truly know that I do well — and this stems from my own personal marathon tips that I found works for me specifically. It’s still a learning process, but I find the more that I apply these marathon tips and they turn out to be successful, the further I improve as a runner. This improvement reflects in the cut in my race times, so I know for a fact that by following what I have learned I am setting out on the goals that I’m aiming towards. And for right now, it is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
I would like to state for the record that these are my specific running tips. These are not marathon tips that I’m simply pulling off of training magazines or Google. This is just what works for me — and hell, if it works for me, it may work for you. Worth a read!
Tip#1: Run frequently, run often, run like Forrest!
Probably the most obvious of marathon tips out there. You simply can’t go from zero to 26.2 miles overnight and not expect to pay the price. Start off by running a 5K distance, then 10K, then 10-mile, half marathon and then gradually increase your mileage. Running a marathon is about endurance, it’s about stamina, and overcoming pain. When I initially started running it was to lose the baby weight so I ran literally every day, 10K at a time. I never took a rest and because of that, I suffered through shin splints and achilles tendon pain. Even through this pain I continued to run and then suddenly I was over-compensating on the other leg and getting pain on the other side as well. I visited a local chiropractor here in Niagara Falls named Joanne McKinley-Molodynia who specializes in sports therapy as she is a runner herself. She fixed me up and I was back on the streets again running in fine form! However, I will say this — running through the pain taught me how to mentally focus on getting through the hurdle of overcoming the discomfort. It is not recommended, but for me if it wasn’t for those multiple injuries and running through them, I wouldn’t have learned to take rest days, know at the first time of ache when to stop and most importantly, tap into the mindset that running long distances isn’t just physical — but mental too.
Tip#2: Practice your nutrition before long runs, or pay the price.
What I have learned that is probably the most important of my marathon tips, or any long run for that matter — carb up the night before, keep it healthy, limit yourself to a banana or a granola bar a couple of hours before the race and drink plenty of water — with a dissolvable electrolyte tablet like a Nuun tablet. I have, through experience, ran long runs on empty and they haven’t been pretty. You need the energy of good carbrohydrates to carry you through your long runs and bust down the dreaded “wall”. Think whole wheat pasta. I personally overdue it on the oatmeal, but that’s just me. If you aren’t sure what a good source of carbs is for running, click here for ideas. On my oatmeal I throw on chia seeds, fruit or almonds for an extra burst.
The electrolyte tablet works just like a sports drink, minus all the added sugars that may or may not upset your stomach. Shorter runs don’t usually depend so much on electrolytes like distance running does. If you have run long distances before or work out really heavily, you will lose sodium which is a very important factor in maintaining muscle balance. The loss of fluid through sweat may cause serious muscle cramps which you want to try to avoid. This is why restocking electrolytes is important.
Also, if you are prone to stomach issues such as myself when you are training, may I suggest another marathon tip: Eat light a couple of hours before the race and leave it at that. Running causes blood to flow away from your intestines to other parts of your body, resulting in running for the nearest toilet (or bush!) during a race. Don’t let this happen to you!! I don’t want it happening to me, so I not only eat light but I take something to hopefully avoid the issue all together, like Immodium. There is a reason why some distance runners have run in diapers. Let’s leave it at that and move on…
Tip#3: Stay motivated.
For me, staying motivated is by entering 1 race a month (whatever distance I choose) to stay on top of my training and also, by envisioning my son everytime I step outside for a run. I not only run to maintain my health, but to stay healthy for my son and encourage him that physical fitness is important. During the race, here is another marathon tip that works for me: run to music! It gives me that extra bump in my step, but it also blocks out noise. The sound of my own laboured breathing makes me physchologically think that I am more tired than I actually am. I also don’t want to hear everyone else’s breathing, coughing, spitting, talking, throat-clearing, farting lol, whatever. You get the picture. It’s distracting! BUT keep the volume low enough that you can hear cars coming. A lot of races will tell you to leave the headphones at home for this reason. I sneak them in anyhow. I need music.
I think I’ve touched on this on almost every single blog that I have written for the Niagara Falls International Marathon: If you have an iphone, download the FREE Nike+GPS App!! When I started adding other runners on there, I started becoming competitive and I always want to be within the top 5 in the leaderboard or I feel like a slacker lol. You can also challenge other runners to beating specific distances or pace — I love it! Currently, my friend Mike is killing me, but as long as I’m in 2nd, I’m happy.
Tip#4: Run outside.
There are several benefits to this I have found. Firstly, running on a treadmill is boring. Straight up. Running outside varies up the scenery — unless you stick to the same route, in which case, there’s still something new to look at each time. Also, it’s much too easy to be distracted on the treadmill by kids, your spouse, people at the gym that want to socialize, etc. Running outside means that if you run 5K from home, you still need to run the 5K back home again!
You also don’t have the assistance of a belt moving under your feet instantly propelling you forward. You have to use your own body weight to move, thus making it just that little bit more difficult running outside.
You get the added benefit of different surfaces to run on — putting your training just that hair above the rest. Concrete, asphault, trails, hills, you name it!
You are training in varying temperatures. You are running against wind, you are running against bitter cold temps and hot and humid temps. You are running in the rain, sleet and snow. You are used to it and you may even find yourself enjoying it.
Also, while I personally prefer to run alone, many people like a running partner and running outdoors allows you to do this. This marathon tip could also fall under the “stay motivated” category. Perhaps you need that little extra push that a running partner can do for you, or perhaps you get so lost in conversation that you just completed 13 miles without realizing it. Whatever it is, a running partner may be just what you need.
So, those are four of the main marathon tips that work for me and perhaps they can work for you too. If you have any additional tips that you would like to share, please I would love to hear them! Leave a comment and share what you have learned.
I would like to wish all the runners that will be doing the Niagara Falls International Marathon good luck on whatever distance they have chosen and I hope you reach whatever goal you set your mind to. Whether it be finishing in a specific time, trying to qualify for Boston, or simply just to finish the race and to say that you did it. For me, my personal goal is to complete the marathon in sub 4:00. My last half marathon was 1:42:05 so it’s doable! My bonus goal is to qualify for Boston which I would need to do in a time of 3:40 or less– it’s a goal to shoot for! Throw that one under the “stay motivated” category as well!
Lastly, there are many hotels in Niagara Falls sold out of rooms already. If you are looking for a great hotel, close to the finish line with standard rooms (2 double beds) still available at 15% off, the Comfort Inn Clifton Hill has some rooms left — but they’re booking up fast! Click here to reserve a room before they sell out!