I get a lot of athletes that have finished their first 5k and feel ready to jump right to a full marathon. I always admire enthusiasm but there is a lot of room between a 5k and a full.
I’ve said this before, but my hesitation with new runners and a full marathon is based around my love of running. More than half of those that do a full in their first running season find it painful, hard, and unfortunately, vow to never run again. It doesn’t help that most beginner plans are designed to get you across the line – which is great (after all, it’s a major accomplishment), but also make people so sore they can’t walk for 2 days afterward.
I like to help athletes develop a love for running. With a gradual increase in distance – there is plenty of time to check off all the major accomplishments AND develop a loving relationship with running. Trust me! When you love running, there is ALWAYS time for a marathon or event.
If this is your first year, I tend to recommend planning a half marathon for late in the season. Between now and then, find some distances that are more than the standard 5k. Generally, you’ll find 8k, 10k, 7 or 8 mile, and 10 mile distances. If you’re lucky you’ll even find a series leading up a half. Locally, we have three races over 3 months as part of a series going from 5k, to 8 miles, to a half. This is a great way to build up, participate in some events, and do something amazing!
So how do you get there? Easy! Here are some recommendations on building up for distance:
Get a Training Plan
Avoid the mistake of “self training” and running when you feel like it. Whether you get a free plan (on the Internet) or buy one from a coach like me – a structured plan will help you build up, go faster, and avoid injuries (especially from overuse!). Bonus points if you find something that uses heart rate training – which will make every workout count!
Don’t ignore Speed Training
There are many reasons for speed training – in addition to improving cardio, it helps new runners get more efficient with running form. That’s right – go faster with less effort? Sign me up! Once a week at least a couple days from your long run will really help!
Practice Fueling on Longer Runs
I even see experienced runners make this mistake – try out different nutrition when you’re training. For longer runs, you’ll need it! Once you get to an hour of running at a time, try a Gu pack/honey stinger/pretzels/gummy bears/Gatorade and see how your body handles it. If it makes you feel sick or like you need to run for a bathroom, try something different on your next long run. The sooner you can figure out what works for you and what doesn’t, the sooner you’ll be able to handle longer distances.
Don’t Overdo It
When you’re starting out and everything is feeling good, you’ll want to run more or if you’re coming from another sport where you workout every day (or a couple times a day) dropping to a few hours a week is pretty tough. It takes a while for your body to adjust, so avoid the temptation of running too much. If you must workout or want to do something else, swimming and biking are great cross training (and are great if you think you might do a triathlon some day) as are Pilates and yoga.