First Marathon: Rookie Mistakes
Athletes who are tackling their first serious long distance run in the form of a marathon or half marathon are about to engage in one of the most powerful physical challenges their bodies may ever face. This calls for congratulations-- No matter where the process leads, or what the eventual results of the race may be, facing down a long distance race requires determination, patience, resilience, and commitment.
But while new runners may be overflowing with energy and ambition, their lack of experience can sometimes stand in the way of a positive outcome. Those who are taking on a marathon training plan for the first time should watch out for common rookie mistakes like the ones below.
First Marathon Training Plan: Common Mistakes
1. Setting the wrong goal.
It’s a good idea for athletes facing their first marathon to build a marathon training plan around an accurate and realistic goal. Too often, rookie distance runners build goals around their race times. But this often leads to some disappointment and surprise when they face the actual day of the race. Instead of focusing on times, runners should focus on simply crossing the finish line. It takes a bit of experience to understand what 26 miles actually feels like, and every individual body will feel this timeline and respond to it in a unique way.
2. An inaccurate marathon training plan.
Again, the goal for a first marathon should be finishing the race, not finishing within a certain time. So a training plan designed for experienced pros won’t be very helpful to a beginner and may actually lead to exhaustion, injury, or a sense of disappointment and defeat before the race even begins.
3. Not enlisting outside help and support.
Athletes facing their first marathon sometimes keep their plans and goals to themselves instead of sharing them with friends and family. This usually happens because the marathon training process is intimidating, and some rookie runners are afraid of the response they’ll receive if they don’t make it all the way through successfully. But ironically, a runner’s chances of success will be much higher if they feel the encouragement and support of others. Even if you see yourself as an introvert and don’t believe this support will matter much, give the people around you a chance to back you up and cheer you on.
4. A lack of research.
Scientists, professional athletes, serious trainers, and thousands and thousands of other runners have studied this process and learned valuable lessons through endless trial and error. A 13 or 26 mile run can’t be accomplished with sheer willpower alone. And it doesn’t have to be. Rookie runners who simply strap on a pair of sneakers and hit the road are putting themselves in the path of needless obstacles, pain, and potential injury that could be avoided with a simple trip to the internet before developing a marathon training plan. Volumes of advice are available on how to set and keep a marathon training schedule and nutrition plan. Benefit from this advice. Don’t strike out on the path alone.
5. Inadequate stretching and hydration.
Dynamic stretching and warm ups before a long training run can improve outcomes and prevent injury, but stretching after long runs can be indispensable to success. All the same, some inexperienced athletes neglect this part of the marathon training process for some reason. This can lead to aches and soreness that reduce potential and interfere with motivation in the days that follow.
Hydration is also a commonly neglected aspect of the marathon training process. Distance runners should remember to weigh themselves after before and after every long run and make sure they bring their fluid content back up to pre-run levels. The amount of water intake required by distance running can come as a surprise to new beginners.
6. Starting too fast and pushing too hard.
At the beginning of a marathon training plan, many new runners often feel that if a little is good, more is better. Adding an extra mile onto the end of a scheduled training run feels good and sometimes seems like a beneficial step. But avoid this temptation. “Pushing yourself” a little harder than your plan suggests may not improve your long term outcome and may even set you back. Once you’ve set a plan, try to stick with it. This means stopping when it’s time to stop and respecting rest breaks and low-key days.
7. Underestimating the body’s ability to grow, strengthen, and adapt.
Some runners facing a first marathon are disappointed and discouraged by their levels of exhaustion after the first few long runs. If five miles is so difficult, according to this logic, how will they ever be able to survive ten? First time runners often give up early in the process because the challenge of an entire marathon seems unattainable. But if new runners keep item 4 in mind, conduct in-depth research, and stick with a proven marathon training plan, they may be surprised by their own capacity to improve and adapt. With proper training, muscles do grow stronger, including the heart. Lung capacity improves, limbs become more flexible, and endurance rises to unexpected levels. Watching your own body transform before your eyes can be a remarkable experience—but only if you follow through have the patience to let this happen.
The Real Danger of a Rookie Mistake
Any of the mistakes above can lead to negative consequences like, for example, not having as much fun with the process as a runner might otherwise have had. Or making fewer positive memories that he or she intended. But the main concern with any of the mistakes on this list is simple and relatively serious: an injury. Even a minor injury can close down the process before the day of the race, and a serious injury can lead to major setbacks in an otherwise promising running career. So while first-time runners work hard, enjoy the path to achieving a major life goal, make new connections, and build great memories, they also need to protect their bodies from harm so they can enjoy excellent health and many more long distance runs in the future.
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