Another Mother Runner

Train For Longer Races

Ready to go longer?  The beauty of running is that there’s always another mile to run—or another longer race distance to conquer. And runDisney races, with the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge and the Glass Slipper Challenge and other awesome multi-day challenges, make going longer very attractive. Hello bling: 4, 5, 6 medals in one weekend!

Thing is, although we’ve heard of plenty of people doing it, it’s probably not the wisest idea to jump into a half marathon or a full marathon without running shorter races and getting your body adjusted to running regularly. When you go from minimal miles to training for a marathon, you’re inviting injury and burnout.

You may finish that 26.2, but chances are, you may not want to step foot near another starting line for years—or ever. Which isn’t, you know, how we like things to end. We want as many runners in the world as we can get.

So how do you know when you’re ready to take on 13.1 or 26.2 miles? Here are some key points:

You’re motivated.
No duh, right? Right. But the thought of the race should fill you with excitement and anticipation. You should be ready to stay in on Friday nights because of Saturday long runs. You should be ready to eat in a nutritious way to fuel your runs. You should think about race day and get a little tingly inside. If your friends in your training group are running a half marathon and, because of a demanding job or an injury, you’re feeling wishy-washy about it before you sign up, chances are, the long training runs will drag you down. Challenges will arise, so you have to want it.

You’ve climbed up the race ladder.
You’ll be most successful if, before you sign up for a marathon, you’ve run a 5K, a 10K, and a half marathon. (And preferably not in the same weekend you’re running the marathon, thank you very much Goofy fans.) Not only do the shorter races build mental toughness, teach you how to pace yourself, and get you familiar with race day procedures and crowds, the training for them also gets your body used to running, which happens to be a high-impact sport. The more your joints and muscles are used to regular mileage, the less injury-prone you’ll be.

You’re healthy and relatively injury-free.
If your IT Band has been angry for six months, you should calm that situation down before jumping into a training plan. If you’ve got a hacking cough that has been lingering for weeks, you may want to figure it out before committing to 13.1 miles. As you push up your mileage, all the aches and muscle imbalances lurking in your muscles will become all too apparent, so start off at ground zero.

You’ve got your family on board.
If you’ve got a partner or family, your demanding training won’t just affect you; your loved ones will feel your mileage too. If your spouse just took a new job with an extra-long commute or your new kindergartner is having adjustment issues, you may want to rethink committing to a big race and just hang at distances you know until things become more stable.

You know what it takes.
Nothing gives you the full spectrum of the race experience like being there. Volunteer at the finish line of the distance you are considering to get a feel for what it’s like from a finisher’s perspective. Ask friends who have completed the distance to share their two cents about what they liked and didn’t like about the training and the race—beyond the medals, of course.

If you’ve got a topic you’d like us to cover or question you’d like us to answer, let us know at @TheMotherRunner or on our Facebook page. Thanks and many happy miles!

Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell are the authors of Another Mother Runner and official contributors to runDisney.