Top tips for first time marathoners

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or lacing up your trainers for the very first time, the big 26.2 mile mark can be a daunting prospect. It’s a bucket list favourite but one that goes unticked by so many for one reason or another. Virtual Runner is here to make sure you get to cross the finish line in one piece and put a big fat tick on your list with our top tips for first timers.

1. It pays to have a plan

This is not a race you can simply rock up to on the day and expect to complete. Marathon training takes time and for day one beginners you will need close to a year of training to be in good shape to make the distance. There are loads of free training programmes available online which you can adapt to suit your ability and don’t be afraid to ask for help – our Facebook group is a great place to find support from fellow runners.

Nic Walters from the Virtual Runner community tells us that you need to be prepared that taking on a marathon will take over your life. If you aren’t actually running then you’re thinking about/planning the next run. 

2. Listen to your body

You know your body better than anyone and sometimes a rest day or download week can pay dividends down the track. Rather than battling your way through a run, come back after a day off feeling refreshed and itching to get back into it. The same applies if you feel a niggle or you tweak a muscle, don’t try to push through it like some sort of martyr, stop and get it checked out, so it doesn’t turn into something far worse down the line.

3. Mix it up

Variety is a beautiful thing and sometimes a change of scenery can give you the boost you need on a tough week. Make sure you try out different routes, vary your distances and even throw in some cross training and strength sessions to keep things interesting. This will also help to prevent any overuse injuries from creeping in as you’ll be working different muscle groups.

Kirstie Dodsley gave a great tip about finding the best ways to fit your training in around your life. The kids can join on their bikes or you can make a family day of it and even include parkrun.

Helen Sargison highlighted the importance of strength and cross training. But she also added that you shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself and most importantly enjoy the experience with a smile on your face!

4. Keep your feet happy

A decent pair of running shoes is a non-negotiable for any would-be marathoners. While your fly-air-knit-max trainers might look cool, they’re not going to carry you through any significant mileage and may even lead to some nasty injuries like stress fractures and tendonitis. It pays to get your running style and foot-type assessed in store, so you can be confident you’re in the right pair of runners for you. It’s well worth the investment.

5. Supporters club

Nothing compares to the feeling of crossing the finish line of your first marathon, but it’s even better if you’ve got your friends and family there to share it with. It also helps to have a shoulder to cry on, or someone to share your training stories with as you experience the highs and lows along the way.

A number of the Virtual Runner community including Carrie Barker (although she may be a little biased as I am her run buddy!) and Dawn Jordan said that not only is it key to have support on race day but a someone to run with at a similar pace is also a great support/motivator. 

Dawn Jordan continued to comment on our blog thread with the following great tips (number 1 being to find a run buddy), her number 2 was that you need a plan. Importantly number 3 was to be prepared to change the plan. Number 4 – perhaps even change that plan several times. Number 5, was to practice eating. Number 6 – wear your race day gear beforehand on a number of training runs. Number 7, enjoy! Number 8 (we like this one!), use virtual races as a way to motivate yourself. Dawn awarded her friend a 20 mile medal from Virtual Runner after completing that milestone. Take it all in was her ninth top tip and finally remember why you signed up!

Now that you’re on your marks to get set for a marathon, why not sign up for some of our upcoming races? It’s a great way to stay motivated and celebrate the mini milestones before the big race.