THE BLOG

How to Ace Your Very First Marathon

Marathons can be an extremely tricky experience but by following these tips, you will be putting yourself in a much better position to succeed. There are a million and one tips on how to succeed out there but these are just a few of the basics to help get you started. Good luck!
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

From the moment I pulled on my very first pair of running shoes, I knew I had stumbled across something that I would enjoy for years to come. It has been nearly six years since I entered my first event in the shape of the local half-marathon and I have loved every minute since. At the time, I was annoyed that it had taken me so long to discover this "free" sport but I feel like I have made up for it now.

There is nothing better than pulling on the trainers, shutting your troubles behind you and going for a run every now and then. However, taking it one step further and training for a marathon can be a very different prospect. For this reason, I have a number of tips that will put you in the very best position to ace your very first marathon.

Starting Point -- If you have little to no experience running, don't just jump straight in with long distance as this will get you absolutely nowhere. Firstly, you will quickly get demotivated when you find that even 5 or 10 miles is beyond your reach. Secondly, you run the risk of succumbing to injury which will put an end to things before you even get going.

Instead, start with a little run around the block to see what condition you are in; it is much better to start slow as you can increase the distance whenever you feel necessary and this leads nicely on to the next point.

Take Your Time -- If you happen to read a story about someone who, rather than train, woke up on the morning of the marathon and ran it in a good time, this is not the norm. You are welcome to try it... in fact, I don't even recommend trying it. If you have never run 26 miles before, take your time to build up your long-distance running.

A good rule of thumb is to run 10 percent extra each week; this means if you run 20 miles one week, you can increase this to 22 the next. The idea of this is that you will, of course, clearly be progressing but you won't feel it as drastically as if you were to go from 20 to 30, for example.

Running Shoes -- The wonderful thing about running is that it doesn't require significant investment in a number of different pieces of equipment, the only thing you need are running shoes. When I first started running I chose, rather foolishly, to run in flat plimsoles. I would run on these thin pieces of material and then be confused as to why my feet and knees would hurt so much. I might as well have just run bare-footed.

The moment I invested in a decent pair of running shoes, my performance improved dramatically. I felt like I was running on air because the weight was taken off my feet and my knees were no longer taking the brunt of the impact. You don't have to stop eating to afford a pair of running shoes, just be sure to buy a good pair that will make things a lot easier for you.

Track Progress -- A really useful habit to get into is to write down every single step along the way. The first thing this will do is keep you motivated as you can look back and see how far you have come but also, you will be less likely to give up. There will be times along the way where you feel as though you can't do it but you will be less likely to quit if your progress can be clearly seen or if you go one better and have it stuck on a cupboard or fridge to see every day.

Make Running Fun -- To some, this may seem impossible but it really can be done and it will definitely help your running. To do this, you need to keep running fresh otherwise you will fall into the same routine which can become boring and tiresome. Try to change up the routes so you are always surrounded by different scenery and so you aren't always running along working out the math until you get home.

Furthermore, listen to your favorite music or go one better and buy an interesting podcast that will keep you intrigued. If you have a podcast that you only listen to while running, you will want to keep running for as long as you can. If the audiobook is a fictitious story, you could challenge yourself to run a certain amount of chapters. If the story is interesting enough, you will soon find yourself running longer than originally planned. If you're on a treadmill, this distraction will ensure that you don't spend the whole run looking at the numbers praying for them to speed up.

Breakfast -- The morning of the marathon is extremely important as it can decide how you will perform during the stages of the race. Throughout the weeks leading up to the run, you should experiment with different foods and drinks to see how they affect your energy levels. Of course, the standard advice is to consume a high-carb breakfast (carb loading), such as a combination of banana, a bagel with peanut butter, an energy bar, etc., but you need to experiment and find what works for you to gain the maximum energy boost.

Marathons can be an extremely tricky experience but by following these tips, you will be putting yourself in a much better position to succeed. There are a million and one tips on how to succeed out there but these are just a few of the basics to help get you started. Good luck!