I am not your stereotypical long distance runner. In fact, until just a few years ago I absolutely despised it. Sure put me on the elliptical for 15 minutes and I’ll get my cardio in, but I’d use every excuse in the book to avoid lacing up and hitting the pavement for a legitimate run. As a 225 pound bodybuilder, I had never had any intention nor desire to take up running. I hated the feeling of aerobic exhaustion, I didn’t want to lose size or strength and I found running absolutely boring.
Go find someone that has run a marathon and ask them about their experience. Watch their eyes widen and posture straighten with pride in the opportunity to tell you about their accomplishment. I saw this time and time again and eventually I was visualizing myself crossing the finish line. I wanted this feeling and as much as I hated running and I knew it was going to happen.
I signed myself up for the Honolulu Marathon nine months in advance with no plan, no gear and no real experience running long-distance. Amid the doubt and concern of family and friends, I started training. Nine months later, I crushed my first marathon and had a new found love and respect for running.
Although it's becoming more common, a marathon still puts you in elite company with only 1/2 percent of Americans completing a marathon each year. If you’re a seasoned runner, I'm sure you have all sorts of tips, tricks and techniques to help you smash your runs. Going at it alone and with very little experience, I learned quite a few lessons the hard way and I ended up spending many late nights researching products and training plans online to help me achieve my goal.
So, for all those who are considering running long distance or competing in a marathon let me share with you a list of the things I wish I would have known before embarking on my journey.
1. Follow a plan
The internet is flooded with weekly plans to help you prepare for full and half marathons. Find one that appeals to you and stick to it. Typically these are 14 to 20 week plans with alternating workouts and runs that increase in length to help you prepare to go a full 26.2 miles. I went with Nike’s 18-week NRC: Marathon Training Plan. It was great and it helped me plan my weeks, it kept me on track and motivated.
2. Get fitted for shoes
If you are serious about getting into running do yourself a favor and get fitted for shoes. I learned this the hard way by throwing on my nearest pair of Nike Frees and calling it good. They seemed fine at first, but as I began to run longer than 5 miles I started experiencing back and knee pain, not to mention massive debilitating blisters on my pinky toes. If you are from the Pacific Northwest, check out Super Jock N’ Jill. These guys are top notch! They watched me run in several pairs of shoes to make sure my step and stride was correct. I ended up with the Brooks Ghost 9 running shoe. No more back pain, no more blisters.
3. Socks are more important than you think
This lesson was learned along with the shoes, another culprit of my horrible blisters. I found that wearing a thick sock that wicks away sweat and keeps my feet dry was most comfortable. Hands down, my favorite sock in the world is the Balega Hidden Comfort running sock.
4. Energy gel-packs are your lifeline
When you start running over 6 miles you’ll be glad you brought these. These guys seriously work. I believe it is recommended that you consume one about 45 to 60 minutes after you start running and then every 30 minutes or so after that. These gel-packs are super concentrated and should always be taken with water. Trust me, you will get a huge surge of energy. There are lots of companies that make these in all sorts of flavors. I typically stick to GU energy gels.
5. The bluetooth earbud dilemma
Good music can make or break a workout. I am extremely particular with my earbuds and have tried many different brands. Personally, I prefer wireless earbuds however I did run into a problem during my first marathon. While running, the silicon earbud cap came off and got lodged deep in my ear. After I was able to pry it out, my earbuds ran out of charge and died. That totally sucked and is one reason why you may want to go with wired earbuds. From my experience, the earbud industry still has a long way to go in providing a solid solution for listening to music while working out. Jaybird Freedoms, I believe, is currently the best option out there.
6. Track your progress
There are a number of apps out there that will track your run, let you compete in challenges and connect you with others. It's always fulfilling to go back and review your distances, routes and times. I found myself constantly competing with my previous run. I have used both ‘Map My Run’ by Under Armor and the Nike+ Run Club. Check them out and see which you like best.
7. Listen to your body
At some point during your training you are bound to get aches, pains and tight muscles. Pay close attention to what your body is telling you and adjust your workouts and rest days accordingly. Be sure you are getting proper nutrition and enough hydration. Trust me, your runs will suffer if you don’t eat or rest enough. Keep your ultimate goal in mind and set yourself up for success.
8. Establish a SMART goal
Clearly defining your goals will keep you focused, motivated and give you a benchmark to track and measure your success. Check out our article, “You Can’t Score Without A Goal” for more information on setting SMART goals.
Whether you're a seasoned professional or just getting started in running don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions. We would love to connect with you and would be happy to answer any questions you have directly or in one of our follow-up Q&A articles.
Until Next Time,
Keep Getting After It!
Co-Founder and CFO, RAM