8 things I wish I knew before training for a marathon

8 things I wish I knew before training for a marathon
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Personally, I can think of about 3,234 things I’d rather do than run.

Even still, the idea of long-distance running fascinates me. It takes a lot to build up your stamina and be able to pound the pavement for hours on end. And run a marathon? 26.2 miles? Insanity.

Charlotte Marathon runner Chelsi Colleton generously agreed to share the inner workings of training for a marathon, from the proper playlist to bathroom breaks.

(1) No, you don’t need to be a super athlete to run a marathon

My mom was so confused when I told her I would be running a marathon, because I actively avoided running for most of my life. 


It can be intimidating when you see people who finish marathons in three hours, but I really think that if you dedicate yourself to the training, anyone can finish.

I wouldn’t suggest starting with a marathon as your first race, and be realistic about your goals. For example, don’t aim to finish in less than five hours if you know you’re going to walk for parts of it.  

Some of the runners I used for inspiration when training for my own marathon define themselves as being different from the “normal” runner. Check out Kelly Roberts, LaToya Snell, Martinus Evans, Mirna Valerio, and Amanda Sullivan on Instagram! 

(2) Running isn’t an “all or nothing” type of deal

You don’t have to run nonstop and never take walking breaks to be considered a runner. There are a lot of plans that actually incorporate walking into your runs. Going hard all the time is a sure way to burn out.

It’s super important to be realistic about what you can actually do, because you will definitely get hurt if you try to do too much too soon.

(3) There’s a method to the madness when it comes to training

I chose a 22-week training program.

Each week had four days of running, two cross-train days and a rest day. For run days, there would be three days at around 3-5 miles and one long run day, increasing from 4 miles the first week to 20 miles for my longest run.

I knew keeping myself motivated and tackling some of the long runs would be difficult, so I signed up for a bunch of races to incorporate into my training. On my 20-mile day, I ran a 15k (9 miles), then ran 11 miles on my own. It made it a lot easier mentally to break it down like that.

(4) It’s not all carbo loading.

A big misconception is that running a marathon means you get to eat whatever you want, including massive plates of pasta the day before the race. You don’t want to eat too many extra calories in the week leading up to the race. And hydration is key.
For breakfast on marathon day I had a blueberry bagel with butter, a banana, Tailwind endurance fuel (similar to Gatorade) and a honey stinger waffle.
During the race, I had Hammer electrolyte drink mix, GU energy gels, some mini pretzels and water.
After I was done, I had Tailwind rebuild recovery mix, a turkey sandwich and water.

(5) Get yourself a good playlist

I switch back and forth between my running playlist on Spotify and podcasts. My running playlist is a mix of EDM and classic pump up songs — lots of Queen.

For podcasts, I mostly listen to All Fantasy Everything, because I don’t have to listen the whole time, it’s wicked funny, and the episodes usually last an hour or two. 

(6) Yes, you’ll probably want to quit halfway through the race

Mile 16 was pretty tough. I had fallen below the cutoff time, so I could see the mile markers and course cones being taken down ahead of me. I knew that I would be on my own for the last 10 miles. Luckily, my boyfriend and some friends were waiting to cheer me on in NoDa, so that really kept me going.

In a weird way, being by myself without any course support (closed roads, water stops, etc.) actually helped me, because I was so focused on staying on the course that I couldn’t focus as much on being tired. 


(7) Um, bathroom issues are a thing to think about

I would highly recommend bringing some toilet paper. You don’t want to be trapped in a port-o-potty with an empty roll.
Also, TMI, but running can, uh, get things moving, so I was terrified of pooping my pants on the course. I’ve seen it happen during other races, and it’s not pretty. I took some Imodium before the race to make sure I’d be all set.

(8) You may surprise yourself when you’re done.

After I was done with the marathon, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I finished my marathon dead last. They had already started to take down the finishing area.

I had gotten lost and ended up running almost two extra miles because of that, so when I came around the corner, I was so proud of myself for actually finishing and relieved that it was over.

The thing that surprised me the most? I actually want to do another one!


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