How to Train for a Marathon and Have a Life

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by Dan Chabert

A marathon is an enormous distance, and training for one takes a lot of commitment and time. When you decide to register for a marathon, one of the first thoughts that comes to your mind might be how in the world will you be able to train for such a huge distance while still honouring your other obligations related to your work and family while also still having something of a normal life. As long as you remain flexible, be creative, and don’t mind some planning, you can do it! Here are some tips to get you started.

Find your “sweet spot”.
Higher training volume isn’t always better, necessary, or safe. With social media permeating every inch of our lives, it’s easy to get bogged down in the comparison game with other runners. Don’t give in to the comparison trap! Most runners, particularly amateurs, do not post over 100K in training volume each week. It’s advisable that you consider joining a Running Room clinic or partnering with a coach to help you find your training “sweet spot”, meaning the highest running volume your schedule and body can safely handle each week. Running too many kilometres too quickly and too soon will set you up for overuse injuries, and a coach can help steer you in the right direction. In marathon training, more isn’t necessarily better, but staying healthy always is.

Get support, and communicate accordingly.
When you’re in the throes of training for a marathon, everything else in your non-running life will affect your training, and vice versa, so you’ll quickly learn how critical it is to have a support network in place to get you through your 12 to 18 weeks of concerted training. Your support network will be the folks you’ll lean on to get you through training, and while they’re not the ones running the mileage (that’s your job!), they are still critical to your training and performance. Do not take your support network for granted. It’ll behoove you to communicate your needs and wants as early as possible to your network so that you give them as much time as possible to plan and to figure out how they can help you.

Don’t lose your social life.
Consider making some of your training runs into social outings with your family and friends. Bonus: spending time with loved ones on the run will make the running seemingly fly by. Running and marathon training can be a solitary pursuit, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, you may find that the mileage you share with loved ones is among the most memorable of your training.

Run when it’s least inconvenient to others.
Many runners find that it’s least inconvenient to their loved ones if they complete their marathon training mileage early in the morning so that they can be present later. Regardless of when you post your mileage, don’t waste time. Get out the door on time each day to run. If you procrastinate, you’ll be inconveniencing your support network later (by not arriving home on time) and you likely won’t be able to fully complete your prescribed run that day. If you’ve given yourself 60 minutes to run, beginning at 5:00 a.m., do everything you can to get out the door on time so that you can run for 60 minutes—not 50, or 40, or even less.

Don’t forget to enjoy it.
We runners take our goals and pursuits pretty seriously, but remember to have a serving of humble pie every now and then. Unless you are earning a
paycheck from running, this is supposed to be a fun hobby! Don’t take yourself so seriously that you rob yourself of the fun and joy that is marathon training. Likewise, be realistic in what you ask your support network to do for you. Skipping a scheduled run here or there to tend to unexpected life circumstances is not the end of the world. Moreover, it’s important to remember that for all the sacrifices you’re making to fully commit to your marathon training, chances are quite high that your support network is also making many sacrifices of their own to support you.

Remember that while marathon training is understandably important to you, it’s not the be-all, end-all, and a lot of people are helping you behind the scenes on each step of your journey. When you are standing in the finisher’s chute at your marathon, revelling in your accomplishment, remember the support network that helped get you there. It’s not impossible to have a life while you train for a marathon; you just have to be creative, flexible, patient, committed,
and willing to ask for help.

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