How to Run Your First Marathon

The Honolulu Marathon is on December 13. That gives me almost three months to get my act together and be ready to “wog” (or what I call my walk-jog) 26.2 miles. 

Earlier in the year, I was a woman on a mission. I finished the Pineapple Run, the Girls on the Run 5K with my daughter, the Hapalua Half Marathon in April, and the Hibiscus Half Marathon at the end of May. 

And then I took a little “break” from running. That break grew and grew (and grew) thanks to my kids, a bout of strep throat and bronchitis, and – I’ll be honest -- laziness has crept up. I haven’t been running on a regular basis for the past two months.

But now, I’m back at it – and I’m finding it a little tough to get back into the groove. I guess it’s like weight lifting, if you stop cold turkey it’s hard to get back into the swing of things, then you’re kicking yourself for stopping. 

Seeking some guidance, I asked local expert and coach Jonathan Lyau (below, photo courtesy of Hawaii Sports Magazine) for some pointers on prepping for a marathon and I chatted with veteran runner Kit Smith who has trained with Jon on what keeps him racing at 80 years young. 

Jon ran the Honolulu Marathon in 2012 in only 2:54:20, which is approximately twice as fast as my finish time for the half marathon! Here are Jon’s tips on training: 

1. Get used to pounding the roads. 

If you haven’t been preparing for the marathon, start your training using the run/walk approach. Start off by easing your body (muscles, joints, bones) into running and to adjust to the impact that comes with continuous running. Easing back into training will minimize the chance of getting injured. Try running for two minutes, then walk for one minute and do this 15 times over or run for four minutes and then walk for two minutes and do that five times over. What you want to do is build the time up to increase the time spent on your feet. 

2. Don’t get discouraged, keep at it. 

Everyone progresses at a different rate, but around the third week of training, you’ll feel a “jump” in fitness and your running should become easier. You may begin to increase your speed on one of your running days to challenge yourself. 

3. A marathon is an endurance event, so build your endurance. 

Be consistent, this is key! Try to aim for a minimum of three to four runs a week to prepare for a marathon. If you skip weeks, you can’t really “catch up” in another week and being inconsistent could lead to injury. As a general rule of thumb, try to increase your running by ten to 20 percent per week. Your “long day” of running should be a peak of three to 3.5 hours around three weeks before the marathon. In Hawaii’s elements, you’re not getting much more from being out there past that. Try not to force yourself to do too much.  

4. Taper before the big day. 

The last two to three weeks before the marathon, taper off your runs to allow your body and mind to get fresh for marathon day. This is when you can decrease your long running day down to 90 minutes the week before the marathon. 

Jon also offers this tip: 

“To stay motivated and on track, using a running app is fun! A couple of popular free run apps are the Nike+ and Runkeeper. Another strategy that you can use is running with a local running group. There are many free ones around town where you can just show up and have a group to train with that has people of different abilities. Having people to train with makes it so much easier to get your workout done.” 

Here are some free runners groups:

Tuesday: Runners HI (Aiea) at 5:30 p.m., Runner’s Route (Honolulu) at 5:30 p.m. and Personal Best Training (Ala Moana Park) also at 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Running Room (Kapahulu) at 5:30 p.m. and Lanikai Juice Waikiki at 6 p.m.

Thursday: Lanikai Juice at 6 p.m.

Sunday: Honolulu Marathon Clinic (Kapiolani Park, Paki St.) at 7:30 a.m. 

There are also other groups that have Honolulu Marathon training that you can join for a fee. You can find them in Hawaii Sport magazine. 

Kit Smith (right), 80 years old and running right past me in any event I enter, shared with me some thoughts: “When I consider why I keep running, I'd say that pursuit of fitness and loving to compete rank about equally in importance to me.

I'd have to say, if there weren't races to prepare for, I'm not sure I could get myself out on the road, just for fitness.  And without Jonathan's day-by-day schedules to follow -- which I do slavishly -- I would lack a key motivator.

I train entirely on my own. I'm not fast enough to train with Jon's younger, swifter runners -- the ‘big kids,’ as I like to refer to them.

How would I feel -- with regard to fitness -- if I didn't run? I know I'd weigh more! I'm now 155 pounds. And because I've run so constantly over the years -- with a couple of days off each week -- I'm not sure what I would weigh, and how I'd feel, if I didn't run. I know that when I was married, 55 years ago, I was 180+.”

Oh, and I can't imagine spending as much time running if it weren't for Hawaii Public Radio, which I listen to ALWAYS when running -- with a headset plugged into my iPhone. The iPhone also has an app that allows me to determine how far and at what pace I have run.

Any of you training for the Honolulu Marathon? Share your tips!