• Matt Lindner, CARA Member

I Just Signed Up To Run A Marathon…So Now What?

I’ll never forget the way I felt the morning after I signed up for my first Chicago Marathon after one too many glasses of wine in November 2016.

“What have I gotten myself into?”

Chances are if you just signed up for your first marathon, you’re thinking the same thing in part because, well, running a marathon isn’t an easy task.

So, you just signed up for your first marathon…now what?

Here are a couple of things you can do to set yourself up for success once the Chicago Marathon rolls around:

Ease into it: Marathon training doesn’t formally start for another six months, but going from running zero miles a week to running even 15 miles a week is a surefire recipe for disaster. If you haven’t run much – or at all – over the past few years, ease into running by downloading a couch to 5k app and building up your stamina from there. Building up gradually rather than diving in full force will make those first few weeks of the formal training schedule that much easier.

Don’t forget cross-training: Really like the Orangetheory or yoga classes that you’ve been going to? Worried about how they’re going to fit into marathon training? Don’t! Most first-time marathon runners get into a cycle wherein they ignore the cross training part altogether. Exercises like Orangetheory, yoga, boxing, or even your normal weightlifting regimen help strengthen other muscle groups that you’re going to be calling on in the later stages on race day.

Sign up for a couple of spring races: Running a race alongside the 40,000 or so who will be running the Chicago Marathon is a totally different experience than a leisurely run along the lakefront path. Make sure you sign up for a couple of races in the spring just so you can get the experience of running in a large crowd of people and stopping at water stations to rehydrate during a race. Plus, you’ll get a couple of extra workout shirts that you can wear on your training runs, thus extending the amount of time you can wait before doing laundry during training.

Figure out a schedule that works for you: Training for a marathon is a time-intensive endeavor that requires a lot of discipline and sacrifice. But, it’s doable. Figure out what time of day you’re going to get your training runs in – morning or evening – and start getting into the habit now of working out during those times. It’ll make the early wake-up calls a whole lot easier once summer rolls around.

Accept that you’re going to miss a run or two – and that is TOTALLY fine: One of the most commonly asked questions I get from runners after they sign up for their first marathon is “What happens if I have to miss a run?” Well, nothing. Life happens, and unless you’re a professional marathoner, you aren’t going to put your life on hold while training for a marathon.

Trust your training and your group: This last point is the most important one. CARA’s training plan has gotten tens of thousands of runners from the start of training through the finish line. The schedule is laid out for you clear as day, and it’s easy to follow. Group leaders are all veteran marathon runners who have seen just about everything there is to see throughout the process and can provide valuable advice on how to overcome any mental and physical hurdle you can overcome. Running a marathon is a daunting task, but if you trust your training, you are going to be fine come race day.

Matt Lindner will run his third Bank of America Chicago Marathon and fourth marathon overall in October.

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The Chicago Area Runners Association, CARA, is a non-profit organization committed to serving and advocating for the local running community. We are Chicagoland’s running club, providing accessible opportunities for all runners to train, race, learn, be social and volunteer. 

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