Health + Wellness

So You Want to Run A Marathon? Here’s Where to Start

October 06, 2016

runner stretches in NYC

Words by Chatel Theagene

Are you currently the most fit and active person in your squad? Or, maybe you just have that type A competitive nature that seeks out a challenge the minute they wake up in the morning. Either way, at some point, the thought of running a long distance marathon has most likely crossed your mind. Now, the bigger question really is, have you ever done anything about it? What does it actually take to run a marathon? Will I keel over at mile one or nah?

So depending on whether your knees buckle at the thought or not, the how factor is key to putting one foot in front of the other and saying, yeah…I can get down with that runner’s life. And while we’d definitely get the go-ahead from our doctor before embarking on a fitness challenge as involved as runner’s paradise [just as a rule of thumb, do this first y’all], we sought out a first hand account of someone who never considered themselves a runner until this past year to uncover the real deal.

Branden Getchell, a first time marathon runner, recently ran the 2016 Boston Marathon on behalf of an organization that goes above and beyond by empowering youth in foster care, Silver Lining Mentoring. Silver Lining Mentoring (SLM) is the only mentoring organization in Massachusetts that exclusively serves youth in foster care. Check out his tips, runner-to-potential runner, on what to expect on your journey.

From a runner’s POV, what were the four building blocks or key things you focused on while training for your first marathon?

Nutrition

Before running the Boston Marathon, I quickly learned how important good nutritional habits are for maintaining consistency within my routines. Within the first few weeks of training, I switched my diet pretty drastically to include more fruits, vegetables and lean meats such as chicken and fish. I also started eating breakfast, which I hadn’t been in the habit of initially. Training for a marathon takes a lot out of you, so it’s key to be sure you’re giving your body the fuel it needs to keep you in top shape.

Just as important, is making sure your body has what it needs during the race as well; whether it be salts, gels, goo’s etc. Figuring out early on what you can stomach during a race is key, so that you don’t burn out or pass out on race day. The last thing you want is to be trying new foods or nutritional tricks that may upset your stomach because you didn’t try them first in your training.

The “Why” of it all

On race day, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, defeated and like you want to quit, it won’t be the training that helps you stick it out. It may just come down to the “why” behind your choosing to run a marathon. Remember to keep in perspective the inspiration behind your run. It’ll prove to be your number one driving force. And if thoughts of cheating myself ever crossed my mind, I remembered how hard it was for me to get to where I am in life and all the youth out there fighting for their lives every day because they have to. What example would I be if I took the easy way out?

Training Gear

Marathon training is time consuming and taxing on your body. When you finally commit to running a marathon, you’re also making a financial commitment. You’re not running the marathon in the same shoes you’ve been training in since the start. In fact, by race day, you should be on your third, if not fourth pair of shoes. Make sure you find out quickly what works and what doesn’t, what’s comfortable and what’s not. On race day, you should have all of this down to a science. This is all to ensure that you can finish the race with minimal pain, because let’s be real, it IS a Marathon so there WILL be some pain involved.

My Moral

Training for a Marathon is incredibly time consuming. It’s always good to remember that:
1. You made the decision to run a marathon, no one is making you.
2. You’re running a marathon! How many of your friends can say the same? So many cool points.
3. Always reminding yourself that you’re a part of something so much bigger than yourself. Take pride in your efforts to help the community around you thrive.

Athletic man running in park

man running
BC: Any tips to share on the actual Race Day for first timers? How did you mentally prepare? 

Manage your energy. You’re going to have so much adrenaline running through your body, it’s YOUR responsibility to manage it. On race day, you will not have any more energy than you have at the start of the race, so it’s incredibly important that you pace yourself.

Most marathons start off incredibly packed. The first 4 – 5 miles are much slower than you’ve probably trained – this is OK. Store your energy because as you come up to mile 20 (Heartbreak Hill) you’ll need that energy to see you through the rest of the race. A lot of people get caught up in the hype at the start line; they start jumping around, doing jumping jacks, shaking out their legs and wasting a TON of energy.

If you’ve trained well, there won’t be anything more you can do on that day that prepares you more than your current fitness level.

men running marathon

Image sourced from Wikimedia Commons

men running

Image sourced from Pexels

How did you build a training schedule or approach to endurance running?

If it’s your first time running a marathon, I advise you train with a group who’ve already run a marathon before. It’s impossible (in my opinion) to create a training schedule for something you’ve never done before.

I trained with a group of 200 people representing 20+ nonprofit organizations in Boston, MA. Our schedule started at the end of October, and went through April, – Boston Marathon race day. The schedule was 21 weeks long and started at a gradual pace.

  • Weekday runs were do-it-yourself and started from 2 miles up to 4 miles. 3-4 weeks before the Boston Marathon, we reached 5 miles through 12 miles within the weekdays
  • Weekend runs were done as a group along the actual marathon route. We started these also at the end of November from 4 miles and worked our way up each week to 21 Miles – the longest distance we ran before the big race

Let’s talk recovery after the race, what was your plan going in and how did your body feel?

My plan after the race consisted of: rest, more nutrition (and maybe a burger here and there) as well as a vacation to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I did water exercises and a ton of stretching to get back to normal. After about a week, I was was no longer limping around.

How would you describe your personal transformation after running such a lengthy marathon for the first time?

Talk about feeling like you can do it all! Mentally and spiritually, I was on-top of the world. I was so proud of myself for so many reasons; sticking with my training despite any and all weather conditions (especially in New England!). I even stuck with my eating regiment, and so much more. When you’re training for a marathon, there comes a point in your training when you’re no longer counting the miles, but instead counting the time you’ll be out on the road.

You can create the best playlists in the world, but when you’re training as rigorously as you do for a marathon, it almost seems as though there’s just not enough music to keep you going.  You’re literally running through all your music. That’s when the runs start to become therapeutic. Your thoughts become introspective. You also become your own coach and or therapist because you get to work through so many thoughts in your head. By the middle of training, I found that I would need to run in order to “clear my head” which was always a rewarding feeling

Physically, my body hurt a lot yet still felt so strong because of what it had just endured. Days after the run, I knew that I could physically accomplish anything I set my mind to.