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Five Tips For Running Your First Marathon

If you’ve caught the running bug, it probably won’t be long until you’ve signed up for your first race too. Eyes set on running your first half or full marathon? There are a few things you’ll need to consider.

Before lacing up your shoes and pounding the pavement, check out these five tips to ensure you are physically and mentally prepared to cross that finish line.

Invest in Proper Footwear

Running may be one of the easiest and most affordable sports to access, but you shouldn’t skimp on ill-fitted shoes. Proper footwear is essential as it provides support to withstand the load on your body and helps you maintain proper form and movement, which in the end reduces your risk for injury.

“If you don’t have proper shoes, you could put yourself at risk for injury and pain, not only to your feet, but also to the rest of your body,” said Brodie Howard, DO, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist with Banner Health Center in Gilbert, Arizona. “Poor footwear can help contribute to things like overuse injuries, such as shin splints, stress fractures and tendinitis.”

To limit injury, plan to replace your shoes every 300-400 miles or purchase two of the same pair of shoes and rotate between the two. If you begin to feel muscle fatigue or pain and notice your tread is going on the bottom, it’s time to get a new pair.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

When it comes to any race, preparation is key, especially if you are new to distance running. Ramping up your mileage too quickly could increase your risk for injury.

Give yourself about one week of training for every mile of the race—13 weeks for a half and at least 20 weeks for a full marathon—gradually increasing mileage.

Fuel Your Body Pre- and Post-Runs

Adequate nutrition and hydration are keys to successful training. You’d never drive a car without fuel and the same should go for your body.

“Make sure you are getting proper nutrition pre- and post-runs and staying hydrated,” said Jennifer Oikarinen, a registered dietitian at Banner - University Medical Center Phoenix. “Pre-run eating not only helps fuel your muscles, it can prevent hypoglycemia which can cause feelings of light-headedness, fatigue, and blurry vision. Post-run hydration helps replenish lost fluids from sweating while post-run eating restores glycogen, the main energy source of muscles.”

Oikarinen shared these nutrition tips:

  • Pre-Run: Eat 200-300 calories at least an hour before your training run. If you experience GI discomfort, start with easy-to-digest foods and drinks, such as small sips of sports drinks, crackers or dry cereal and slowly build up to 200-300 calories. Avoid high-protein and high-fat foods as these can increase your risk of GI problems.
  • Post-Run: Prioritize hydration before, during and after runs. Consume carbohydrate-rich foods and a serving of protein within 30-45 minutes after finishing your run. Consuming just 10 grams of protein post-run can reduce cortisol levels, a stress hormone that breaks down muscle. Some options are cheese and crackers, banana with peanut butter or even chocolate milk. If training more than 60 minutes, consider consuming 100 calories of carbohydrates mid-run.

Include Cross-Training

Running is a high impact sport. Mixing up your fitness routine at least one day a week with non-running aerobic cross-training can optimize your running. Light resistance training and targeting your core can help maintain good form and fight fatigue.

“Cross-training helps strengthen and condition other muscles while your running muscles rest, and it also maintains your cardiovascular stamina,” Dr. Howard said. “Most of all it can prevent overuse injuries.”

Get Some Rest

Make sure you aren’t skipping rest days, because doing so can put additional strain on your body and make you more prone to injury. Rest days allow your body to restore and rebuild. Dr. Howard suggested focusing on stretching, going for a walk and letting your mind take a break.

If you are just starting running, it is also a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor to assess your health and address any possible limitations. Need a doctor? We are here to help. Visit to find a healthcare provider near you. Happy running!

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