A Beginners Guide to Running a Marathon

Can I tell you a secret, interwebs?

I am 100% NOT a runner.

Ask my dear friend Amy. She always laughs when people ask me about running, or think I’m this great runner, because she KNOWS that I’m not. I am huffing and puffing on our 6 mile walks around Rice every day. And training? Well that’s a funny topic. I don’t follow a training schedule, because it just doesn’t fit with my hectic lifestyle (i.e., I’d rather go on a date with the cute guy I met at the doctors office than go for a run). Somewhere all the real runners are judging me, and I’m a-okay with that (and the Chevron Houston Marathon is probably wishing they hadn’t picked me to be an ambassador).

Let me tell you a little story before I give my 10 tips on how to start training for your FIRST marathon (if you don’t want to read my little story, just use the scrolly button on the right side of your screen).

Back when I first moved to Houston, I had never run more than a mile (except maybe when forced back in high school). I started dating this guy who my friends and I commonly refer to as “TOTGA” (the one that got away). I was head over heels for this guy because he was the kindest and most brilliant person I had ever met. To this day, I can only find one flaw with him- HE LIKED TO EXERCISE (what a jerk, right?).

At that time in my life, I still had great metabolism and superb muscle tone, so I didn’t really need to exercise. But TOTGA was a former collegiate athlete. And he enjoyed doing activities that made you sweat (read into that what you want. . .except you, Mom).

One blistering hot afternoon, in the middle of a Houston summer, he suggested we take Sadie Burns  to go run around Rice. Wanting to do something that made him happy, I obliged. I could not tell you the last time I had run before that day, but it became apparent after about a quarter of a mile that I was DYING. Even Sadie Burns was out running me. I was panting. And sweating. And I ended up walking almost the entire 3 mile loop. I was beyond mortified. Here I was, this cute little (and immature) 23 year old, and my 32 year old boyfriend out ran me. My copout solution was to never run with him again, and when he suggested it, I would ride my bike along side him as he ran. Maybe that’s why he really was TOTGA.

Fast-forward to a few years later. I finally found the right shoes that didn’t make my back, or neck, or feet hurt. I signed up for the Blue-Bell 10k with some girlfriends and my boyfriend (like 3 boyfriends after TOTGA). Truth be told, the only reason I signed up for the Blue-Bell 10k was because I was PROMISED unlimited ice-cream post race (it’s totally true). I ran that 10k and didn’t stop running (except up hills, because I don’t do hills) the entire race.

My heart felt like it was going to explode.

My lungs were on the verge of collapsing.

My feet hurt like a bitch.

Then, I was finished. And I ate 3 ice cream sandwiches and 2 popsicles. It was glorious.

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This was my boyfriend. Just kidding, this is Jim and we ran together because we both had an affinity for Texas flag shorts. Note the popsicle. And my sheer happiness.

And that’s how I got hooked on running (I ran my first marathon roughly 7 months later). I just needed the right motivation (and for me, it was, and always will be, FOOD).

And now I present to you my 10 tips to training for your first marathon:

1. Find the right shoes. I have worn Vibrams or run completely barefoot for almost 5 years, but those don’t work for everyone. They don’t have to be expensive shoes, but they do need to fit your foot. There are so many specialty running shoe stores now that can help you find what works for you.

2. Set a goal. I’ve been running for a while now, and I still have days where my ONLY goal is to run the entire way through a song on my playlist without walking. My goals change every day. Sometimes I start with a goal to run 2 miles without walking, and it’s a “good running day”, and I end up running 12 miles because it feels right. And there are days where I suck wind, my feet hurt, and I tell myself it’s my last run ever. But whatever my goal is, I try to stick to it.

3. Get a running buddy, or join a running club. I walk every week day with Amy, but I run a couple of times a week with my friend Megan and virtually plan runs with my brother Preston. Megan and I are at a similar pace, and it helps to have someone to push you. We always pick a point in our run where we race each other to get our hearts really pumping, which I love.

4. SIGN UP FOR A RACE. I don’t exactly “train” for races , but I sign up for a boatload of races so that there is always something on the horizon. When my pocketbook is directly tied to something, you can bet that I’m going to get up and get the most bang for my buck.

5. Make a playlist you LOVE.  It helps me keep a good pace, and “get in the zone”. Some races don’t allow music, so make sure to check before putting your headphones on.

6. Figure out at what distances you might need “fuel”. I try to run always run with a snack (I like slices of apple or Kind Bars) in case I feel faint or get “hunger pains” in my back. My deal is that I get terribly sick (think runners trots) and crampy if I eat/drink more than 100 calories per hour, but do what works for you.

7. Find your second wind. Let’s get real y’all. I thought the second wind was just a myth. Or something my boyfriend would do after dinner. But it’s real. I can’t tell you how to find it, except to push through the pain until you start to feel awesome.

8. Get supporters. My friends are so sick of me asking them to come to my races, but do you know what? Sometimes the only thing that keeps me from calling a cab mid-run (which I’ve done before), is knowing that my friends are waiting on me at the finish line so we can all go have brunch. And pick them up. That way they can sleep in the car, and you can guarantee they’ll be there.

9. Walk the water stations in a race. It gives you mini-milestones to look forward to. I typically pick out the hottest guy at a water station, take my hat off, and pour water all over my body. I’d like to think I look sexy, but I’ve been told I just look like a moron. Whatever makes you happy, I guess.

10. Find your motivation. Mine is food and medals. You know what YOU love, make that your reward.

Do y’all have other tips for people considering doing their first race, like my friend Chad?

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