I. ran. a. marathon.
I'm being completely honest here when I say it: If I can run a marathon, anyone can run a marathon.
- Decide on a race. This one is HUGE. Look around. Do some research. Read some race reports. Check out those top 5 (fill-in-the-blank) lists. Do you want to stay local? (easier logistically and financially) Or do you want to make it a destination event? (way more fun and expensive) Pay attention: some races are "hilly" (and if you live in a flat as a pancake place, this could mean mountainous), some "flat and fast," trail races vs. road races, early-early morning vs. later, colder vs. warmer races, great big giant city races vs. smaller races... marathons come in all shapes and sizes (except they are all 26.2 miles long). And then of course, you should for sure check out what kind of swag you get-- giant medal? hot chocolate or arroz con pollo at the end? tech shirt or long sleeve? I would recommend choosing a race close to your training conditions.
- Commit to a training plan. Training plans can be about as varied as the marathons themselves. Do you want to run-walk (these will have you alternating running and walking the whole race) or run the entire time? How many times a week can you faithfully run? Do you like to run by time or by distance? How new to running are you? Most marathon plans will have you begin about 16 weeks before the race. Some are specifically designed for beginners and just include the basics-- running. Some are for more experienced and include hill and speed work. All plans will have you building milage slowly and safely so that you get to race day uninjured and completely competent to go the distance.
- Involve friends. Maybe your friends will commit to training and running the race with you. Maybe they will cheer you on from the sidelines. Regardless, they will ask you how your training is going and how you're feeling as race day approaches. Warning: do not talk about running all the time. Ok, that's impossible. So, I highly recommend that you find some running friends. Check your local running store for groups that meet-up and run together. If you don't have a local running store, join a running Facebook group. We're everywhere. When it comes time for race day, if you're not running with a friends or a group, join a pace group. Most large marathons offer free pace groups-- find them at the expo. There's no commitment, if you change your mind you can leave the pace group. But they will help you stay on track on race day by reminding you to drink water, take in fuel, and encourage you in the later miles.
- Enjoy the journey. And it is a journey. You might begin a little unsure (or a lot unsure). And as you cover the miles, when you do that first 16 miler (and you don't die), you'll realize that you're so much stronger than you ever thought. You'll know that if your legs can carry your body 16 miles, it can go 26(.2). You have some exceptional runs. And you crash and burn on some. You'll learn that you really do need to eat something during a long run. And you'll learn that you really don't need a whole buffet during a long run. You'll know where every hill, water stop and restroom is in a 6 mile radius of your house. You'll think, dream, cry, pray, and listen more than you've ever done in your life.
- Believe in yourself. You can do this. Follow the plan. Trust your training.