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My brother-in-law, RB, emailed me a few days ago.  He had decided that this was the year he was going to scratch “Run a Marathon” off of the bucket list.  He came to me looking for a little advice on the how and what to do over the next several months.

I essentially wrote back with the following list plus a link to Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon Training Plan:

  • Your goal in this marathon will be to “just finish”.  Currently your base of 18 – 20 miles per week means that you need to concentrate on the distance of the marathon as opposed to speed.
  • Your most important workout every week will be your long run.  You can skip the shorter runs here and there, but you shouldn’t miss more than 2 long runs for the whole training cycle.  And you CANNOT miss your two longest runs (18 and 20).  Those two runs are key to giving you the mental confidence of finishing a marathon.  There will be a point in the marathon when you want to quit, but if you have these two long runs under your belt, you will be able to draw on the experience of running them and finish.
  • Your long runs should also be run a little slower than what you are used to running (10% – 20% slower than what you anticipate your marathon pace to be).  If you don’t know what your pace will be, just make sure you are running at a pace where you could carry on a conversation (at least for the first 14 – 16 miles).
  • If you have the desire, join a running social network like dailymile.com.  It’s an easy way to keep track of your training and I could hook you up with a lot of my running friends who would give you support throughout your training.
  • Running shoes.  Whatever shoes you believe you will be running the marathon in, use them for your long runs.  And then get a fresh pair of the same shoes maybe 4 weeks before marathon time and do maybe 4 or 5 runs in them to break them in.  Your feet will thank you.

When I first started running regularly, I leaned a lot on my friend MK.  He was and is a huge wealth of knowledge.  Unfortunately, when I first decided to give the marathon distance a try, neither one of us had run a marathon yet.  I wish I had had the resources I have now at my disposal.

So with that said, I would like to ask you, my readers, specifically those who have run marathons, to help me out.  Whether you are a serial marathoner (as it seems I am turning into) or a one-time marathoner who is just happy to get the race off of the bucket list, I would like to elicit what advice you would have given yourself when you first set off to conquer this magical distance, knowing what you know now.

My hope is to make RB’s first experience of 26.2 miles an positive one.

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