The Lone Runner Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm: Avoid Overextending Yourself in the Early Days of Marathon Training
The Lone Runner Series: Curb Your Enthusiasm: Avoid Overextending Yourself in the Early Days of Marathon Training by Ben Connelly
Excited to start marathon training again? Whether new to marathoning, or a veteran, most marathoners experience a thrill when they embark on their training.
Just as you need patience in a race as long as the marathon, you need discipline during the long months of marathon training. In the early miles of a marathon, you often feel good and must hold yourself back a little to avoid running too hard too early. If you run too fast at the start, you may hit the wall later in the race. Similarly, in the first weeks of marathon training, you need to curb your enthusiasm in order to avoid burnout down the road.
Marathon training typically requires 18 to 24 weeks of dedicated training. With few exceptions, most runners will find themselves slowly building a mileage base 5-6 months before their goal marathon.
Ideally, during these early, mileage-building weeks, you will feel great. Perhaps you will itch to run longer. The mileage and intensity of your training will seem comparatively easy. During this period, you will need to hold yourself back, because both the mileage and intensity will ramp up. Later on, training may become very difficult. For now, you will want to conserve your energy.
While may feel good, you should avoid running extra mileage. You do not want to make the mistake of increasing your mileage too quickly and risking injury. You will also need to avoid running too fast. Many runners, especially younger runners, make the mistake of running too fast during easy runs. Just because you feel good now does not mean you will feel good later.
What can you do during the early weeks of marathon training if you feel great and you have excess energy?
During this period of training, you will likely have extra time on your hands. You can devote some of that time to strength training and recovery. You can practice foam rolling or other forms of self-myofascial release. You can devote extra time to post-run stretching. And you can also perform preventative physical therapy. You should not wait for an injury to occur to begin doing physical therapy, especially since many marathoners encounter some minor injuries during training.
If you enjoy running fast, you can also add post-run strides to your routine. Run 4-8 15-second strides with 45-second rests 2-3 times per week following easy runs. Keep strides fast but easy, focusing on turnover (not on stride length). You can try uphill strides. Or even uphill and downhill strides (especially important when preparing for the San Francisco Marathon and other hilly races). You can also try some barefoot strides. Or even some maximal effort strides (all out sprints), which can help counterbalance your submaximal endurance running and improve your hormone health.
In the early days of training, stay excited for your race, but avoid training too hard too quickly. Use your extra time and extra enthusiasm to add stretching, physical therapy, strides, and strength training to your routine.
Finally, enjoy this phase of training. The heady early days are some of the best and most enjoyable in all of training. Relax and remember that running is a gift.
Ben Connelly is a freelance writer and an experienced runner. He has written multiple e-books on running and general fitness, including a marathon training guide, which you can purchase here. You can find him at his Amazon Author page, or at his website.
April 9, 2021 (4:13 pm)
Great tips! Though I’m not a marathon runner (yet!), your article is great for even the shorter long distances. These are definitely things I needed to know prior to previous trainings as I have experienced burn out and injury due to pushing myself too hard, far and fast. Will definitely not make the same mistakes again, thanks!