4 Things I Learned Training for My First Marathon

Thinking about tackling the 26.2-mile distance? Read up on this advice.

Photo: Getty Images

Having run four half-marathons in the past two years, I had of course thought about running a full marathon, but I've always been concerned about the time commitment and whether my 42-year-old hips and knees would hold up.

And to be honest, I'm usually grateful when rounding the turn for mile 12 that I only have a mile and change to go—and I'm not those poor marathoners who split in the other direction to run another 14. But deep down I knew I would one day run the full 26.2 miles. It just had to be a special race to make me put in all that time and hard work.

So when ASICS invited me, as an editor at Health, to run the Tokyo Marathon—one of the six major marathons, along with New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and London—I knew this was my chance. It only took me as long as the time to Google the course and discover it’s flat-to-downhill to say yes. February 22nd is the big day.

Luckily, world-famous running coach Andrew Kastor is providing us with a training plan to get us to the finish line, as well as offering expert guidance along the way.

Here are a few winning strategies I can pass on to you.

Find the right plan

It's absolutely critical, I learned, to have a specific training plan that works for your fitness level (in other words, how much you'll run and when). The one I got from Kastor is designed for runners who are already logging 8-10 miles at a time. For a first race, your best bet is to build your own customized marathon training plan based on your running history.

Pencil in your long runs

In addition to the challenge of having to travel internationally for this race, I have the added obstacle of having several work trips scheduled throughout my training—some of which involve altitude training. So when I got the training plan, the first thing I did was plot out all of the long runs on my calendar to figure out which ones might need to be changed. For example, I have a trip to New York City coming up, so I set my long run on the Saturday before the trip and booked my flight on Sunday so that I didn’t miss a beat. Even if you're not going away, though, penciling in your long runs and making sure you don't have conflicts ensures you'll actually stick with the race-prep program.

Get fitted for a good pair of shoes

The most important thing with running shoes is to get fitted by a professional. Have an expert at a good running store watch you run and recommend the best shoe for you. Of course I’m running in ASICS, and based on my foot, I prefer the GT-3000 ($130, asicsamerica.com). It’s light, but still gives me the support and stability I need. I also went up by a half a size, which has saved my toes many blisters!

Address any lingering pain issues

Next up, I made an appointment to see my chiropractor and acupuncturist at Altus Sports Institute—an amazing sports medicine facility in Santa Monica that works with top athlete and movie stars—as well as regular people like me. I figured I wouldn’t take my car out on a long road trip without a tune-up, so why would I take my body out for marathon training without getting it fine tuned? I’ve suffered some knee and hip injuries over the years; Dr. Buckle and Dr. Dabcevic have given me great exercises and treatment to help stretch out before, during, and after runs. Building strength and stretching are keys to avoiding running injuries.

So now, it’s time to get back to running. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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