So you think you want to run a marathon?

By: Tamara Walsky, Campus Recreation Services


It’s rare to encounter something with the potential for so many feels as running a marathon: one of the most painfully awesome— and awesomely painful — experiences out there. You’ll reach the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. With each breath, each heartbeat, each stride, you’ll feel simultaneously happy and miserable, both powerful and exhausted.

But it’s worth it. It’s worth the time, exhaustion, soreness and the $100 it costs to run the race. It won’t be cake—it’s a marathon after all. It’s not meant to be comfortable—  but you CAN do it with work, dedication and most importantly, a consistent positive mental attitude. Whatever your reason may be for running a marathon, you gotta really want it.

Training differs depending on how regular and intense of a runner or athlete you are. Inevitably, it’s a much bigger leap for someone who has never run a 5K before compared to someone who say, played a sport back in high school or runs for recreation.

Here are 5 tips for Terps thinking about running their first marathon …

  1. Start small. Regardless of your background, it’s best to start small and build up. Run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon. There are many blogs, books, and running websites that supply sample training plans and tips.
  2. Go for completion. With your first marathon, shoot for completion and don’t worry too much about time. It’s a looonngg race with very different pacing than you may be used to. On your training runs, focus on reaching the mileage versus hitting goal times. Training plans generally work up to a peak 20 mile long run and then back down with very light mileage (called a taper) in the couple weeks leading up to the marathon itself. The average training plans varies from two to five months; a more regular runner can hit the higher mileage sooner, but a beginner needs more time to build up.
  3. Find a buddy. If you can, find someone to train and race with. “Pain is inevitable, [but] suffering is optional.” (Haruki Murakami). Running with a buddy will make any run – long or short, fast or slow – that much easier and way more fun.  Many running shops and races offer training groups to run with. And when you finish the race, misery loves company.
  4. Fuel up. Nutrition for and during the race really depends on your personal preferences – a water belt or a hand bottle holder, solid food or gels (and what flavors, brands, caffeinated or not?!).  Whatever you do, you’ll want to test out and train with the same gear and nutrition you’ll race with. I recommend a bottle with a sip top for the race; its much easier than stopping to drink out of a cup. While training, keep a healthy, varied diet for all the necessary nutrients. Eat until satisfied; no need to overeat just because. Carbohydrate loading for the race should happen over a period of a few days before the race to ensure all the nutrients digest and are ready for use by the body. And hunger always hits eventually after a long run, so make sure you’ve got healthy snacks on hand. (More information: 5 Special Nutrition Considerations for Runners >>)
  5. Go exploring. You’re not stuck running on the treadmill or around campus. College Park has some great trails systems nearby, including the Anacostia Tributary Trail which runs through Lake Artemesia. Greenbelt Park and Buddy Attick Lake Park in Greenbelt make excellent routes as well.

If you’re not sure this kind of adventure is for you, try running a half marathon, read some blogs and online resources, talk to the folks at your local running shop, and ask anyone you know who has run a half or full marathon about their experience, even if it’s a friend of a friend of a friend.

But don’t ever doubt that you can; from the girl who couldn’t even finish three miles the beginning of her first cross country season freshman year of high school, let me remind you—“As we run, we become.”  (Amby Burfoot)


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