Many people gravitate towards distance running in hopes of changing their bodies, and in turn their lives. This is not a bad thing, but this lack of faith in who you are TODAY and a laser-like focus on race day itself can set you up to make bad choices throughout the training process. We need to make sure your work, works for YOU!
I’ve been jogging since I was 6, marathoning since I was 19, and coaching for the past decade. These are the biggest mistakes first-time marathoners make:
1. They Don’t Trust Themselves, or Their Plan- when you are new to running, you will get a LOT of conflicting information with no way to sort through it all. So, you will look at what other runners are doing and imitate their behavior without wondering if what they do would actually be right for you. Whether we like it or not, that’s not critical thinking that’s FOMO (fear of missing out). Not every runner needs supplemental nutrition, or tempo runs, or even track intervals in their training. Each time you modify your training plan out of fear, you aren’t necessarily improving your race-day outcome but you are arguably making your life harder than it needs to be.
2. They Don’t Question Free Advice- Runners LOVE talking about running, and we feel outnumbered by all of the people who will try to scare you away from running. Few of the people who will jump at the chance to discuss your marathon with you are coaches with experience customizing training plans. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt, and stay the course.
3. They Think They Don’t Need a Coach- most of us associate good coaching with mean behavior, correcting our mistakes and holding us accountable’. Coaching can be that, but it can be SO much more than that. We are personal guide as well as personal cheerleader, answering questions, troubleshooting and helping you figure out what your best next step is, every step of the way. A coach can reduce the stress that comes with chasing big goals, and most of us offer virtual options or have podcasts where you can get to know us before you commit.
4. They Underestimate the Time-Suck or Training- Finding time to workout is one thing, but you also have to build in time to shower, change, commute etc as well as plan for mistakes (having an extra, complete set of run clothes and work clothes in your car or office), let alone getting enough sleep (“I have an 8am meeting so I need to finish my run by 7 which means I start at 6 so I need the alarm to go off at 5:45 and I need to go to bed the night before by 9…”). It adds up quickly- training for a marathon can add more structure to a person’s life than they bargained for.
5. They Set Unrealistic Expectations for Race Day- Training takes a lot out of our lives, usually more than we bargained for, so we look to race to day make it all worthwhile…and that’s too much to ask from one day. Find ways to make the process enjoyable so you can enjoy the journey, even if race day brings torrential rain or unseasonable heat. Give yourself credit for all of the weeks of training, that’s what changes you, and if the race doesn’t go well, it will be easier to not let that define you.
Running can be amazing, this is why I’ve been doing it for nearly 36 years! With the right approach to training, marathoning can become a lifestyle choice you make for decades to come!