What It Takes To Run a Marathon

You may know someone that has ran a half or full marathon and think, “I could never do that!” Truth is, running a marathon is more do-able then people realize. I’m not saying it isn’t hard-it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. So when you say, “I could never do that”, do you mean you would never want to do it, or do you think you literally couldn’t? I think everyone should run at least a half marathon. It gives you such confidence and belief in yourself that shows in all aspects of life. There are so many amazing health benefits to running, all of which flow into your mental and emotional state as well as the physical.

I read a book where the author talked about two different mindset, one that says “I could never afford that.” vs the one that says, “How can I afford that?” The same can be applied to running. Rather than quickly writing it off, instead think of the how. What daily changes do you need to make in order to complete a half or full marathon? Here’s some of the basics of what it takes to finish running 13.1 or 26.2 miles. (For those that are new to running, here’s some running tips for beginners.)

1 The right gear

I have several posts about the best running gear because it is a huge part of running! True, running doesn’t require as much stuff as other sports, but you do want to be sure you are wearing the right shoes for your feet, the best gels for your stomach, and clothing that is comfy and will cause the least amount of chafing!

2 Persistence

How does one go from running 3 miles, to running 20? Persistence. They keep with it, take it one step at a time. Just like how one goes from running a 5 hour marathon, to qualifying for Boston. Just like how a great painting is completed. Just like how the computer was invented. All great things take persistence-greatness never happens over night.

3I can” attitude

Believing in yourself is key during marathon training as well as during the race itself. If you talk to yourself negatively, then your body will respond negatively. Build yourself up with powerful, uplifting words, and your body will respond positively! Did you know when people are sick or injured, being positive can literally cure them?? I love the phrase, “Be careful what you say about yourself, because you are always listening.” You need to believe in yourself in all aspects of life. God doesn’t want us to doubt ourselves. When we doubt ourselves we are doubting Him! He blessed us with amazing minds and bodies, He wants us to utilize these gifts-not treat ourselves poorly and have no faith in what God Himself gave us.

4 Break it down-Daily goals that help you reach the large goal

Set a major goal, like finishing a marathon (this can also be applied to goals like ‘write a book’, ‘be able to afford a car’, ‘get a job doing [insert whatever job may be your goal]’). Then write what daily goals will help you reach that major goal. For running a half or full you don’t even necessarily have to come up with the daily goals. There are many free training plans for running a race. Just make base your daily goals on the miles that are said on the training plans. While training, don’t overwhelm yourself with thinking how daunting the major goal is. Just focus on one day at a time. Focus on the 5 miles you have to get done today.

Same can be applied for when beginning a long run. Don’t think too much about how much distance you have to cover. A popular phrase is “run the mile you’re in”. At the start of a 20 mile run, or the start of a marathon, you’ll get too stressed and start to doubt yourself if you begin thinking too much off all the miles ahead of you.

5 Diet

I’m not saying you have to be extreme in any way, but the better your eat, the better you’ll feel while running, and the better you’ll recover. If you are in the habit of eating junk food, lots of sugary foods, ultra processed foods, and sugary drinks such as soda (or juice, energy drinks, sweet teas, ect.)-then I would recommend changing your diet in a pretty extreme way. This could be looked at in the same way as the above bullet. Write a major food goal (don’t have it weight related, like having a goal to loose ten pounds is a bad goal. You want to set controllable goals, and having a goal to lose a certain amount of weight isn’t totally in your control). Your food goal could be to eventually cut out soda entirely, or to eat a certain serving of vegetables a day. Set daily goals, that will help you reach that major goal.

Depending on what your current diet is, figure out what, if any, changes need to be made. Also be mindful of how much you are eating. When training for a first marathon, you especially tend to eat more than you actually need to. Of course though, be sure you are increasing your complex carb consumption.

6 Build up your pain threshold

Running long distance is hard. There’s a reason why runners hit the wall. Training will help you mentally prepare yourself for the extreme discomfort and fatigue. But the actual race day will push you. Your mind plays just as big a part as your body when running. What your mind tells your body, your body will believe. You need to expect to be pushed further than ever before, but keep telling yourself that you can do it. Similar to going through anything hard in life, we may feel we are being pushed too far. But you tell yourselves to keep going and you’ll make it.

If during training or on race day, you have something difficult going on in your life. It will translate into the run. Your mind will be using too much energy on whatever it is, and will then make your body feel tired. You can’t always control life changes or difficulties, but if it’s possible to avoid stressful things on race day-you will run better not having that stress on your mind. (Having said that, when I’ve gone through difficult things while training, running has helped me so much to deal with the difficulties and to think through things.)

7 Trained Body

As stated above, you need to do the training and have the right diet. Yes, the mental aspect is HUGE, but of course you need to be physically capable as well. It’s annoying when non-runners decide on a whim to run a marathon without the proper training. They always end up either dropping out or getting injured. Don’t be cocky-put in the work.

Cross training can also help a lot. It helps work the muscles that running doesn’t, as well as prevent injury. My two favorite ways to cross train are cycling, and rebounding! This is the best rebounder I’ve tried!

8 Find out what running a race means to you

When someone decides to run a marathon, it’s very rarely just because they want to loose weight. You can lose weight running 10 miles a week, so why would they feel the need to up it to 40 miles or more a week? The answer is they wouldn’t. Running a marathon is beyond weight loss (but yes that is a nice perk). Write a list of why you want to run a marathon. If weight loss is your only reason, chances are, when the going gets tough (and it will) you will all too easily back out of it. It may seem cheesy, but running long distances and completing a race is life changing. It becomes a deeper, more meaningful experience than you may have realized. So make your reasons for doing it deep, meaningful and personal.

If you struggle getting yourself to be motivated, here are some ways help motivate yourself to workout. Having an inspiring book to read has also helped me keep the fire burning. Whether I’m reading it, or listening to it while running-check out my favorite inspirational running books!

What were struggles you faced when training for a race? For new runners, what is something that is holding you back from running a race?