Dan Stringer

navigating the convergence of faith, culture and the common good

How to run your first marathon in 26.2 not-so-quick steps

December 18, 2011

1. Find your motivation. For me, it was a bucket list-esque way to work through some grief issues during a now-or-never type of opportunity window during the peculiar year that was 2011.

2. Pick up a second-hand copy of The Non-Runners Marathon Trainer at a thrift store for $2.

3. Remember your goal: to FINISH the marathon without injury.

4. Resist the pull of concepts that distract from this goal—namely speed, competitiveness and overtraining.

5. Begin training as early as possible, preferably at least 9 months before the marathon if you’re a non-runner like me.

6. Keep a running log to inflate your fragile ego with impressive-sounding monthly mileage totals (i.e. February: 32.9, March: 43.2, etc).

7. Back off the mileage in April and May to concentrate on finishing up grad school.

8. Take a lazy vacation in June (no running whatsoever).

9. Drop some dough on quality running shoes.

10. Maximize downtime in July and August before your new job starts in late September. (I still can’t believe I actually ran 189.8 miles during those 3 months.)

11. Recognize that proper training requires ample attention to nutrition, hydration, rest and stretching just as much as putting in adequate practice mileage.

12. When your knees inevitably become sore and sensitive, rest them militantly. Lots of protein, stretching and ice baths also help.

13. Unless you feel like getting injured, do not overtrain. (Did I say that already?) I never ran more than 11 days in any given month.

14. Obtain running tips from experienced marathoners like your athletic sister and brother-in-law.

15. Experiment with running paraphernalia and energy gels/chews without getting carried away.

16. Complete at least one 18+ mile run and three other runs of 13+ miles before tackling a marathon. Or you could just sign up for the excellent Readiness Series put together by 808 Race Hawaii.

17. Wear your bib with pride.

18. To increase motivation as the big event approaches, arrange for your sister and brother-in-law to arrive from 2600 miles away on the day before the marathon. No turning back now.

19. On race day, show up at 4:30 am with over 22,000 other runners. After 404.7 miles of practice, what’s another 26.2?

20. Enjoy the 5:00 am fireworks show as the race gets underway.

21. Take it extra slow and easy for the first 20 miles (about 4 hours for me). There’s a reason they call it the “first half” of a marathon.

22. Keep an eye out for funny spectator-held signs like, “This parade stinks” and “You’re doing great. Chuck Norris never ran this far.”

23. Dig deep to endure through miles 21 through 24, when each plodding step feels like an experiment in senseless self-punishment.

24. Gather one last burst of momentum for the final 2 miles. Spot your fan club cheering from the sidelines with 200 yards to go.

25. Cross the finish line after 5 hours, 40 minutes and 5 seconds. Take some photos and pick up your precious finisher’s t-shirt.

26.2. Eat, drink, take an ice bath and settle down for the greatest nap of your life.