7 Ways Marathon Training Transformed My Running

Marathon runners begin a road race in a city location
‘sports-210661.jpg’ by 90970 on Pixabay

Marathon training changed my running. Although I was already a runner, my past training had always been casual, go-by-feel sessions. Setting out to complete my first 26.2 mile race switched my training into a new gear.

For the first time, I followed a rigid training plan, considered why I wanted to do this, and explored aspects such as fuelling. The process changed my approach and attitude to running significantly.

Here are seven ways training for a marathon transformed my running:

1. A Structured Approach

I had run half marathons before. In the past, my approach was more guesswork than any masterplan. I knew doubling my furthest distance would be a challenge. So, I chose to follow a training plan for the first time.

The training plan gave me a strict regimen to follow. I trusted the plan would deliver me, marathon-ready, at the end. But first, I had to commit to it. Now, even for shorter races, I make a rough plan to structure my training – so I can get the most out of my sessions.

2. Renewed Motivation

I had a goal: to complete a marathon. So, I knew what I was training for. This renewed my focus. Meanwhile, the training plan gave me a pathway to achieve that goal.

The plan I chose was intense – sometimes prescribing up to five sessions a week. Yet, every session was a step towards my goal. This gave my motivation a boost. I knew my efforts were making my goal more of a reality.

3. More Accountability

Every training session I completed, I crossed off my plan. So, if I skipped a session, I had to justify it to myself. This made me more accountable.

I also trained with a training partner for the first time. Although we didn’t complete every session together, we followed the same plan and regularly compared notes on our progress. The camaraderie spurred us on. Whenever we caught up with one another, we each wanted to have something to show for ourselves.

4. Greater Sense of Purpose

Training for a marathon is a significant commitment. Before undertaking the challenge, I considered why. Why did I want to run a marathon? Once I understood my reasons, my training and efforts had a greater sense of purpose.

Although I chose not to support a charity for my first marathon, I have since. Fundraising gave me a cause to strive for. I felt a responsibility to follow-through on my promises, to validate my supporters’ generosity and to make the event count for my chosen charity. My training also became a public affair: I shared progress updates with my supporters so they would understand what I was doing to justify their sponsorship. With friends and family looking on, I wanted to prove I was upholding my side of the bargain.

5. Clear Progress

When I embarked on my training plan, some of the distances ahead seemed unthinkable. Yet, the structure of the plan built me up to each new milestone: 15 miles, 18 miles, 22 miles – then onto the full 26.2. As I checked-off each session, I could clearly see the progress I had made written in distances and dates.

6. New Tricks

Training for a longer distance required me to try new things. My training plan introduced me to new types of sessions, such as hill repeats and interval training. Meanwhile, the increasing length of my long runs forced me to plan new routes. Plus, the demands of endurance running made me consider new elements such as my pacing and fuelling strategy. For instance, I began using energy gels for the first time to meet the energy demands of my long training runs.

These new discoveries all added to my training toolbox. Now, they are regular features of my running outside of marathon training.

7. Fresh Perspective

As my training progressed, I conquered distances which had previously seemed unimaginable. I frequently ran beyond a half marathon, my previous furthest distance. Meanwhile, 10K became a regular maintenance run.

Naturally, my progress altered how I viewed these distances and shifted my horizons. Distances I’d previously had to push for became ordinary. Meanwhile, the marathon at last became attainable. My perspective of what was possible shifted.

Lasting Lessons

The lessons marathon training taught me have crossed over into my preparation for subsequent races – of all distances. Marathon training equipped me with a renewed sense of purpose, a disciplined approach to training and a greater toolbox of training techniques.

Are you considering running your first marathon? Here are nine tips to help you tackle your first 26.2 miles.

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