The “I just signed up for a marathon!” survival guide

You did it.

Whether you signed up by yourself, with a friend or as a team, you booked your bib for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on May 29, 2016.

How are you feeling? Pumped up? A little scared? Don’t stress too much, because there’s still a little over 7 months until race day and plenty of time to train.

Whether you’re going the distance for the first time or an experienced runner hunting for a new PB, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help get you in your best racing shape by the time spring rolls around.

Find your motivation

Making a commitment to a race that’s still a long way off is tough, and that’s why you need to find a source of motivation that will stick.

It could be to improve your health and fitness, to cross a goal off the bucket list, or reaching that aforementioned personal best. Your reasons might be different from everyone else’s; the important thing is that they are meaningful to you.

Check out a few of our past articles on how to stay motivated.

Another way to stay on track is to find a cause close to your heart and then sign up for the Scotiabank Charity Challenge. Raising money as you train is a great way to keep yourself accountable to your goal, just ask the runners who raised over $800,000 for local and national charities last year!

Make a plan

Now that you’ve got your reason(s), you need a training plan to follow. There are many marathon training plans that are just a Google search and a few clicks away, but choosing one can be difficult.

To make it a bit easier to choose one, you need to account for your goal (distance, speed or both), your relative fitness level and your available time. Whatever plan you end up choosing, many will have you running:

  • Long runs for endurance
  • Tempo runs for speed and pacing
  • Hills for strength
  • Intervals for speed and versatility
  • Cross training

Check out some of the training plans and schedules on popular sites like Runner’s World or Cool Running to get an idea of what you need to do.

Another option would be to get a customized plan and fitness assessment from a local organization like the Peak Centre, which we’ll be writing about soon.

Get running

This is the part where you actually lace up your shoes and head out the door. There are a lot of kilometres between you and the starting line, so start tackling them like how would eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

If running solo doesn’t really appeal to you (especially for those long Sunday morning runs), find a local training group to run with. It can do wonders for keeping you accountable, and make those runs a lot more fun. Check out the Run Ottawa club, the Running Room or the Ottawa Running Club for a group near you.

Another great way to stay motivated is to sign up for other races along the way. Running is an awesome social activity and running in races is a great way to meet new friends and training partners. Check out the Run Ottawa race calendar to see upcoming races (like our Free 5K run on December 5).

Sweat the small stuff

Training for a marathon isn’t just about the kilometres you put on your shoes. It’s also about keeping your diet in check and staying injury-free.

When you invest so much time and energy into exercise and training, you need to make sure you’re putting some of that energy into thinking about how you eat. You can check out this article by local nutritionist Dr. Elizabeth Mansfield on how to get started with run specific nutrition.

Running injuries can be a source of frustration. But with adequate time to rest and recover from your training, most can be avoided. Check out this story by sports massage therapist Paula Burchat on how to make of the most of winter training while staying injury-free.

Ready for 42.2?

We might be a bit biased, but completing a marathon is one of the most satisfying items to cross off the bucket list. If you follow these tips, you’ll know what we’re talking about on May 29th.

Have a tip that we missed? Share it with us on Twitter or Facebook.