Top 11 marathon training tips

| Stephen Gerring

I was diagnosed with psoriasis in 2005 when I was 19. A sudden flare covered almost 90 percent of my skin. Thanks to the National Psoriasis Foundation, I was able to overcome my initial flare and learn how to effectively manage life with psoriasis. I ran in the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the 2018 Big Sur Marathon to give back and to help spread awareness of the disease.

Interested in running a marathon for Team NPF but not sure how to train on your own? Here are some useful training tips.

1. Make your bed in the morning: It may sound silly, but the satisfaction of accomplishing small tasks can propel you to accomplish larger tasks. Make your bed before you leave for your morning run and you’ll be ready to go out and tackle bigger challenges. 

2. Sit-ups: For the Chicago marathon, Team NPF provided the NPF runners with a coach, Mark Buciak, who has an impressive marathon resume. One of the first things Coach Mark conveyed was the importance of your core in running long distances. The more you can rely on your core muscles, the less strain you put on your legs. Do 100 sit-ups or crunches after you make your bed in the morning. It won’t give you a six-pack overnight, but it will give you the core strength you need to save your legs on race day and push through 26.2. 

3. Keep a handwritten journal: At the beginning, your marathon journey seems impossible and daunting. Chop up this mountainous task by keeping a log of your daily runs. This helps to solidify your running commitment in the early days while your motivation is still fresh. I found it to be a productive habit that helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses as a runner.

4. Audiobooks and podcasts: Running temporarily frees you from the grind of life’s responsibilities. What better way to use this free time than to learn something new, simultaneously stimulating your mind and body. I listened to six or seven full audiobooks and countless podcasts while training. Running for hours on end can get monotonous. 

5. Create momentum: Many people think that they could never run a marathon. That is not true for the vast majority of people who think that way. While you might not finish under 4 hours, you will finish if you develop strong training habits. Set your training so that you can’t back out of any run for the first three weeks. This is very important if you are training on your own, like I did. After that period, you will have built up a powerful habit where skipping a run for a non-health related issue would be unthinkable. Use the momentum of habit to carry you all the way to the finish line on race day. 

6. Take a break: There is a ying to every yang. Don’t be scared to take a break. Most first-timers training for a marathon feel like they will never finish the race if they deviate from the schedule in any way. Humans are not robots. Adjust your schedule to fit your body. It is OK to take days off here and there. This is especially true during the later phases of training. Use your bike or go for a swim instead of running.

7. Pick a training regime and stick to it: There are lots of training plans and advice online about how to train for a marathon. Educate yourself on what is best for you, but don’t listen to everything. Pick your training plan and stay with it. Do not change your plan because you heard someone else ran a personal best doing something different. There are hundreds of ways to prepare. 

8. Get a physical: Make sure your doctor doesn’t have any concerns about you training for a marathon. Coach Mark advised me to get an EKG, too.

9. Strava: Smart watches are nice to keep track of your heart rate, but they can be unreliable when it comes to providing GPS. Download the Strava app on your phone to log your runs. It has a lot of great features to compare your performance with prior runs or against others. While the app won’t work for treadmill runs, it is a very reliable GPS tracker.

10. Start slow, finish fast: Try not to overwork your heart at the beginning of your run. Slowly ease into the first few miles before hitting your stride. You will feel better if you start slow and finish progressively faster than if you started fast and finished slow. 

11. Tell everyone you are running a marathon: You are more likely to do things if you tell your friends that you intend to do them. Don’t be obnoxious about it, but take advantage of this psychological hack by telling the people in your life, whose opinions you most respect, that you are running a marathon. This creates personal accountability and helps you to form your own identity as a marathon runner. In addition to telling your friends, you should also tell yourself. I suggest handwriting a two-page letter to yourself explaining why you are running a marathon. You can reference this letter throughout your training for motivation.  

Ready to run with Team NPF? Check our calendar to find an event near you. If there’s no Team NPF Run event in your hometown, learn how you can run your own race.

Stephen Gerring is training for the Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon in October. He is a personal injury lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri, where he spends his free time with his wife, Jessica, their 10-month-old daughter, Georgia, and their two hound/lab mixes, Dixie and Jordan. Photo: Gerring and Georgia.

Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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