7 essential tips for your first marathon or half marathon

Rick Copley Online Fitness Coach

Learn how to train properly for your first marathon or half marathon

As a personal trainer, coach and former distance runner it drives me absolutely CRAZY that people aren’t training properly for their first marathon or half marathon.

I watch, person after person, post to Facebook and Instagram about the latest epic run in preparation for their first long race. I have seen people dedicate so much time and effort to getting ready to complete a marathon or even a half.

Why does this drive me crazy?

Because to me it doesn’t make sense. To me 99% is complete overkill and, at best, not helpful but usually more like hurtful to your body long term.

So let’s say you are aged 35-50 and your bucket list goal is to do a marathon (or half marathon). I guess the elephant in the room question is…


Usually the answer is simply to just do it and that is 100% acceptable. We all have bucket lists and those of us that check things off are clearly winning this thing called life. This leads me to the first tip…

TIP #1: Remember why you are doing this.

You are training so that when it comes race time you can complete the distance with a minimal amount of misery. Perhaps you want to hit a time goal. The point is that you are NOT making a living at finishing a marathon. You aren’t going to change the world with your finisher medal. The goal is to get the finish line. Pride is on the line but its not life or death. So why do people change there whole lives around and forsake everything else to complete a marathon?

The point is this: All you have to give is your best. You can do that today. You don’t need to change all that much in your life to do this. Return to your why and the process will become easier.

TIP #2: The law of diminishing returns. Long runs.

We all have a love / hate relationship with long runs. We do them because we think we have to. We do them to “get used to the distance”. We do them because that what others do. We do them because the online programs say to do them…

But what do we REALLY get out of “long” runs?

Honestly, not much.

I know, crazy, right?

Don’t get me wrong. For some people long runs are productive. If you are trying to run fast then long runs, when done properly can be good, but we are not talking about running fast here. We are talking about doing our FIRST or one of our first.

Long runs destroy your body. Long runs run you down. Long runs make you more susceptible to injury and illness. Long runs take time…. lots of time…. to recover from.

Long runs are good for you if you keep the length appropriate. In my opinion you should never do more than 15-18 miles when prepping for a marathon and 10-12 getting ready for a half. I think 1-2 “long” runs are appropriate when training for a marathon. That’s it.

Consistent training and speed play will get you ready for a long race. That leads me to the next tip….

TIP #3: Pick up the pace.

Here a new perspective for you. What do you think is more helpful to you and your training long term: running for 4 hours on a Sunday morning slow and easy or doing intervals and being done with your workout in 30 minutes?

The answer is obvious to me but it seems like 99% of the people do the opposite.

It’s smarter long term to do intervals then to do long runs.

Most people will train for 3-6 months and never once run a different pace. That is 100% wrong. Don’t do this. You need to spend time at 3 different paces. I’ll explain the 3 paces.

FAST: the pace you run if you are going a minute or less.
Race pace: this is what you do for a 5k.
Slow and steady: this is your regular run and marathon pace.

For example my fast pace is about 5 minute per mile, race pace is 6 minutes per mile and regular pace is 7:30-8 minutes per mile. (OK, maybe not NOW but when I was in my competitive racing days.)

You need to spend time each week at each type of pace. This will force your body to get stronger and faster. It will also help you burn more calories and thus lower you body fat. You will also not be bored running ridiculous amounts of miles.

TIP #4: Fuel your body.

When you do a long event you will need more fuel then you think. Be prepared! Drink water while run and eat food as well. Gels work as food so practice this!

So many people do all these runs in the afternoon with food on their bellies then don’t eat before a race. That’s dumb. So is training without properly fuel.

If you are not using supplements it is very hard to get the right about of both calories and micro nutrition in your body. Check out this video I posted a while back that details the supplements that we suggest for runners. To learn more about these products go to out AdvoCare page on the website: http://www.therickcopley.com/advocare 

When training for your first marathon or half marathon experiment with what works. Personally I hate taking food and water with me on longer runs. I like to run loops or place stuff on course ahead of time. It’s up to your how you do this but you must keep calories and water going into your body as you up your mileage. This is essential!

TIP #5: Consistency is KEY!

I tell people that to train properly for their first marathon or half marathon they should, each week, feature an interval workout, a tempo run (“race pace” 10-20 minutes) and a long run. What else you do depends on your experience, your goals and your fitness. Running 4-6 times per week over time with prepare you for ANYTHING.

TIP #6: You MUST do other things besides running.

This is a big one. REAL BIG. You absolutely must do core strength training and some functional resistance training. This may be the biggest mistake runners make. If you don’t build strength in your body you will get hurt.

You don’t have to get super complex here. Push-ups and squats are amazing. Throw in some burpees and some kettle-bell exercises and you will be set as far as the functional fitness goes. Don’t neglect this.

TIP #7: Pick and fun event at a destination.

Your first marathon or half marathon should be fun! Make a weekend or a vacation out of it. Take the pressure off so that it becomes what is should be: Fun!

Most people that are getting ready for their first marathon or half marathon train too much and neglect things that are importation like nutrition and training variety.

If you are looking to get better and want some accountability we would be happy to coach you. We have several coaching options available. Click over to out coaching page to see the details: http://www.therickcopley.com/coaching 

Do you struggle with nutrition? Honestly, most people do. This is why we have put together the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge. This program provides meal plans, coaching and accountability.

Click to instantly download our FREE Report “10 Keys to RAPID Fat Loss”

Check it out if you are interested: http://30daycleaneatingchallenge.com

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