In honor of Global Running Day, here are 10 tools I used to get in shape and run my first marathon.
Here’s a bit of background on my conditioning at the time. As detailed in my earlier post, I had been horribly overweight for years and had serious spinal surgery just before I turned 19. While I was in Honolulu working on the classroom portion of my PhD, I decided to dedicate myself to improving my health significantly including running a 5k and having a regular routine of jogging about 10-12 miles per week.
Feeling more ambitious than I probably should have, a week before the 2014 Honolulu Marathon I decided that I was going to try and run in the 2015 edition. I knew this meant some more serious changes, and using my basic 3 step philosophy of learning, I dove in to find the resources I would need.
I had one acquaintance who had run multiple marathons, and my first step was to peruse their blog and follow what seemed to be the most promising links to other locations. I was also experimenting with different dietary approaches at the time and did this eating almost exclusively vegan (something I’m no longer doing). After assessing those sources, and others I found through Google searches and the local running store, I put my plan into action.
Here are 10 of the tools I used to run my first marathon:
Garmin 225. I spent the money to get a good quality running watch. This one in particular has features like heart rate without a monitor, GPS, compatibility with other running apps and websites, calorie counting, and more. I don’t think I would have been able to pull it off without a device like this. I could put an affiliate link here, but there are newer, better models available now and you should get one of them instead.
Garmin Connect/Express and Strava. I experimented with a few apps to go along with the Garmin watch, finally picking Strava over RunKeeper since my long term goals include some triathlons and Strava handles biking and swimming as well as running.
MyFitnessPal. Trying a new diet is one thing, even though I had been pretty solidly vegan for a while by that time, but trying it while doing practice runs that burn 2500-3000 calories meant I needed to be on top of things.
Shoes. This one is a bit tricky. I had some severe pain when I first started running, even after I got to the point that I could do a 5k, and I’ve ended up in a position contrary to much of what running shoe stores try to push now. My preferred brands are Brooks, Mizuno, and New Balance.
Despite the effort to get people to buy shoes that lessen impact and supposedly match your natural foot strike, I opted to go with an almost minimalist shoe. I also learned that using different types/weights of shoes helps to train your feet better for running. At all times now I have one pair that is around 8-10 ounces per shoe and one that’s closer to 5 ounces. It really makes a difference in how my legs feel during a training plan.
Technical Clothes. I did invest in real running shirts, shorts, and shoes. I wasn’t sure how much of a difference they would make, but I’m glad I made the purchases I did.
Body Glide. This is a godsend. I cannot stress enough how much this matters. Even with the best running gear, when you do something like a marathon there is going to be some blistering, swelling, and chafing. None of it is pleasant. I thankfully avoided the dreaded bloody nipples, and I attribute 90% of that to Body Glide. It’s expensive, but I would pay 2x the amount if I had to.
Strength Running. Coming into things with my back issues, and a few less significant problems with an ankle and both shoulders, I was looking for something that would help me avoid the common running injuries. I’m not an affiliate or anything, just a fan, but the basic warmup, cool down, and core exercises that Jason has put together is what I consider the single biggest factor in having no injuries for 2 years now.
Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway. Every single person, blog, etc that I turned to said to look at Hal Higdon’s free plans for marathon training and pick one. Quite a few also said to use Jeff Galloway’s “Magic Mile” concept to help keep track of where you are and what time you should aim for in the actual marathon. I ended up using Higdon’s Novice 2 marathon plan, and then his post marathon plan and Intermediate 1 Half Marathon plan for the 13.1 mile run I did 4 months later.
What are you going to do about it?
So, here we are again. I followed the three simple steps of Access, Assess, and Apply and was able to get in shape and run my first marathon at age 40. It didn’t all go perfectly, but it wasn’t bad and I did very well (for me) in the half marathon a few months later.
What do you want to do? What do you want to learn? Where do you want to go? It’s a lot easier than you think it is to figure out how to get there. Then you’ve just got to do the work and see how things turn out.