5 things you should know before you enter your first marathon

People running a race, you can only see the legs and shoes.

This year’s Comrades Marathon saw 6 588 novices enter to run the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon race. The scenes of elation when the competitors finish such races often have other long-distance runners in awe and ready to enter the next marathon or half marathon as soon as possible.

Don’t be fooled though – the finish line and end of the race is the culmination of months, and even years of training.

Are you thinking of entering the Comrades or another marathon anytime soon? If so, the following are things you should know before you do so.

1. You have to take your training very seriously

Taking part in long-distance events requires proper preparation, which means you have to train – even if it’s just for a half marathon race. We’re talking 20 to 30 kilometres a week, at least. Relying on your natural running ability might enable you to complete a half marathon, but it certainly won’t come without the risk of injury.

2. Ease into it

Before entering a half marathon or a marathon, try entering competitions where the distance is shorter. That 5km park run and 10km night race will lay the foundation for a half marathon, which in turn enables you to be prepared for a marathon. If you can’t run 5km comfortably, you aren’t ready to start training for a marathon yet.

3. The right gear makes a difference

Running long distances in the wrong apparel will instantly make you realise why this is so important. The wrong running shoes make you prone to injury, whilst running clothes that do not fit your body correctly will lead to painful chafing. Buying the right gear can be expensive, especially when you consider the fact that your shoes need to be replaced every 500 to 800 kilometres – and that’s excludes entry fees for races and travelling to the event and back home safely.

4. Failing to plan is planning to fail

Make sure that you have a training plan to prepare for the race you’re aiming to run. You will find many such plans on the internet. You should preferably choose plans endorsed by professional runners. When training, consistency is key – so regular training each week and participation in various shorter distance races over weekends are non-negotiable. Each of these runs will help you to prepare for the Big One. It’s not a case of going for a run when you feel like it.

5. You’ll get by with a little help from your friends

Even though running can be a solitary activity from time to time where your mindset and personal motivation are of the utmost importance, joining a running club or a group of runners in your suburb will help you prepare. Knowing that there are other people expecting you will keep you accountable for your training and training together makes for a special kind of camaraderie. There are added advantages to this – your running mates will help push you to achieve your set running goals and to better your times far sooner than you would have on your own.

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