I am a week from running my first marathon ever! Eeek! I still can’t believe I stayed committed to my training, I have almost reached my goal! I’ve ran a half marathon, and now getting ready to conquer the ultimate race.  What I’ve learned through this entire process is preparation is key. 
I started the mission of running the half marathon as a way to challenge myself post-baby. I ran my first half marathon when Calvin was just six months old. I have always been pretty competitive with myself.  Once I completed my first half I knew that wasn’t enough, I had to push myself to do the full marathon. It has been very challenging yet rewarding.  I wanted to share some practical tips for anyone that is considering running a race of any length. By no means do I believe I am a race extraordinaire.  However, I do know how to go from not working out consistently to running a half marathon, and building on that to run a full marathon.   I think a lot of times we talk ourselves out of completing races, because the fear of unknown. I hope this sets you up for success and motivates you to get out there.
1. Set the right goal for YOU: Make sure to set a race goal that is best suited for your current physical ability. Example, I probably would not train for a marathon if I have never ran a day in my life.  I mean, anything is possible if you put your mind to it. BUT I just wouldn’t recommend it. Plus you want this to be an enjoyable process. Ease into a length that will allow you to enjoy the process, and not put too much strain on your body. 
2. Find a race: Once you have decided on how far you want to run, now it’s time to choose the perfect race for you.  There are a ton of races, so it’s important to figure out what you want from your race. Do you want to run for a cause like breast cancer awareness? Are you interested in doing a color run? Or do you want to add an extra challenge and have obstacles?  When I moved to Texas I searched Dallas, TX races. I was able to find a list of all the nearby races, and picked the one best for me.  My first half marathon was the Plano hot air Balloon fest.  I LOVED it, while I was running I had hot air balloons surrounding me. 
3. Choosing a training plan: I strongly recommend using a training plan on your mobile device or smart watch.  I don’t know about you, but if I was left to figure out my own training runs, I probably would be running a 5k instead of a marathon.  Let’s face it, who naturally (unless you are a fierce olympic athlete) is going to schedule themselves tough and grueling long runs. The training plan held me accountable, I despised missing runs. If you aren’t using a running app, consider joining a local running group that offers a training plan. I use Runkeeper for my marathon training plan, and I also use Nike Plus as just another tracker. I like both for different reasons.  I like Runkeeper’s training plans better, but Nike is more user engaging.  Example…Nike gives you awards when you hit certain milestones. I got the platinum award for running over 100 miles in a month.  It keeps it fun! Use a training plan, you won’t regret it! 

4.  Be prepared for the time commitment: I want to tell you in advance that training for a race is a time commitment.  Before you commit to training for a longer race, just know that it will take time out of your day. I do my runs during the week after I get off work, and right when I get home.  If I don’t then I will start my evening and definitely will not run. (Being honest with yourself is key too.) On the weekends I start my runs typically by 7am, before my house is stirring.  Find the time that works best for your schedule. Also, if you live in warmer climates this will help you beat the heat. Only you know your schedule, make sure that you are realistic with your time constraints. Training for a race may take you away from your evening TV lineup, so make sure you get your DVR’s ready. TV shows will suffer lol! Training for a race is definitely a sacrifice so push through and stay committed. 
5.  Find the perfect workout gear: Yay for new clothes! Training for a race gives you the perfect excuse to get out there and buy some new gear.  Make sure you get comfortable workout gear.  Especially if you are training for a longer race. It gets rough out there, so if you are out there just to look cute you may end up paying the price later.  Case and point, I use to wear running shorts that had a shorter length. I DO NOT anymore.  My thighs rub together when I run (I am not ashamed to admit that lol). So wearing a shorter length and running for a longer duration was a recipe for chafing, and my thighs paid the price.  For longer runs I have to wear shorts with at least a 5 inch length. Side note: Workout clothes can be pricey. Try to pay attention to whenever Nike is having their 25% clearance, and slowly have build your workout wardrobe that way. 
It’s always a good idea to make sure you have a variety of clothes every weather condition.  In the course of my training I have ran in the rain, sleet, and deathly hot conditions.  Be prepared for all conditions, so it doesn’t prevent you from still training. Let’s talk shoes! Make sure your running shoes are in good condition.  It makes all the difference for your feet and knees.  I noticed my feet were starting to hurt after runs, so just recently bought new running shoes. Once you buy new running shoes make sure you break them in on a shorter run.  Your feet may need to adjust with them, you don’t want to deal with any pain on a long run because your shoes have not been broken in yet.   Sources vary with how often you should change your running shoes.  In general, it is safe to say every 6-8 months if you are an consistent runner.  Most running apps, allow you to track your shoe mileage, take advantage of this feature. 

6. Don’t slack on Pre and Post workout! I spend about 20-30 minutes stretching and warming up to get loose.  I’ve found when I don’t warm up prior to running my first mile is typically slower, and I feel tight for a good 10-15 minutes.  After your work out make sure to cool-down and get a great stretch! Do your body a service and factor this in your training. Skipping this could increase your risk for injury! 
7. Get those extras! By extras I mean your phone arm band, waist pack, headphones, vaseline, and fuel packs! They all make a difference.  I lost my arm band for a while and was running holding my phone.  That is the worse! Not only are you at risk to drop your phone (which has happened to me), BUT when you are struggling with a hard run and feel like a ton of bricks. The LAST thing you want is to carry a phone that feels like Thor’s hammer. Training for this marathon I have started carrying a waist pack that holds two 20 oz. water bottles, with a pouch for my fuel packs! I love it. Vaseline is a runner’s best friend.  Apply before or during your run to prevent chaffing. Fuel packs help me get through my longer runs, to not feel completely depleted of all energy. 

8. Don’t push the pace: Every person will have their own pace that works for them.  Make sure you run at a pace safe for you.  I normally start off a little slower and then gradually get faster with each mile. Once you are consistently running, set personal goals for the pace you would like to hit. This will help you get stronger with each run. Set a goal based on your physical ability, not based on what your peers are running.
9. Stay Motivated: Running can get tough. I am not gonna lie, there are times where I have contemplating calling my husband mid-run to pick me up lol. You have to push through that feeling and don’t quit.  Make sure you have a good music playlist that keeps you motivated. Allow your mind to wander, so you are not focusing on how your legs feel like they are about to fall off.  Not to sound crazy lol, but sometimes when it gets tough I will give myself pep talks.  You gotta do what pushes you through. If you cannot run the entire way try not to completely stop.  Keep it at a run/walk. It can be tough but fight hard to complete each run. 
10. Diet and hydration! I won’t get too technical here, because there is a ton of resources to learn the best food and drinks to prepare you for training and your race.  I went to Runner’s World and read a ton of articles to educate myself on what I should be eating, and how much I should be drinking. Generally, its not the best idea to be drinking tons of pop and junk food prior to run.  You have to start preparing your body for the work it will be doing days before. Personally, I know when I have not drank enough water.  My body feels slow, tired, and never really can get in my grove. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet, and not having a diet filled with a ton of sodium and sugar. 
11. Cross-train: If your time allows it, train at least one day a week to do a different type of work out.  Yoga, Pilates, or anything else.  Running is great, but you want to switch it up to continue to build muscles in a different capacity. It also helps with not getting bored during your training plan.
12. HAVE FUN! Enjoy your training and have fun! You are working towards a tough goal. It’s kinda cool to think no one is forcing you to race, you saw the desire to push and challenge yourself for a positive goal.  That is huge, so enjoy that! 
Get out there and train for a race! YOU CAN DO IT!