Published on May 20, 2022

Congratulations, you’ve signed up to run a marathon!

Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or a first-timer looking to cross an item off your bucket list, it can be overwhelming to participate in a long-distance race.

That’s why physical therapist Ruth Ann Halls, who has been helping local runners train for the upcoming Essentia Health Fargo Marathon, gave us her top 10 tips for successfully covering 26.2 miles on foot.

Put the time in: To boost your chances of running a safe, injury-free race, it’s important to put enough time into your training. As a general rule of thumb, I suggest that runners spend four to six months training for a marathon.

Wear the right shoes: Do not show up to the race in a brand-new pair of shoes. Wear running shoes that you have trained in to make sure it feels good when you go long distances. You also want a shoe with a good cushion, so my rule of thumb is to wear a pair that you have run at least 20 miles in, but less than 200 miles to ensure there is no wear and tear.

Dress appropriately: I suggest checking the weather in the days before the race and having clothing options ready for any type of weather. If there is a chance of rain or colder weather, dress in layers. The innermost layer should be thin and comfortable, and the outer layer should be waterproof and wind-resistant. If it’s going to be sunny and warm, don’t forget sunscreen and a hat. Many people also find that their skin chafes against their clothes as they run, so I suggest packing an anti-chafing lubricant to help prevent any discomfort.

Arrive at the starting line healthy: In the week leading up to the race, it’s important to really take care of your body. Make sure you are eating good foods, like fruits, veggies and food packed with protein to ensure your body has stored enough nutrients. Avoid new foods that your body might not respond well to. Prioritize your sleep all week because you might experience some anxiety the night before the race that causes you to lose sleep. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Fuel during the race: Consuming carbs and drinking fluids with electrolytes during the race is crucial to sustain energy. Be sure to bring gel packs to consume during the run and check in with marathon organizers to see what types of drinks they are serving at the aid stations. If they are serving Gatorade and you trained with Powerade, for example, you will probably want to run with your own drink of choice. It is important to use products that worked for you during training. Do not experiment with new products on race day.

Know the course: Checking out the course a day or two ahead of the race can help you gain confidence because it will make you more familiar with what you are about to face. It’s also helpful to know where the aid stations are in case you want to stop for some water, Gatorade or Powerade.

Pace yourself: Don’t start off too fast at the beginning of the race. Starting off too fast and then hitting a wall can derail your goal for time. I recommend starting off 30 seconds slower than your normal pace to warm up, and then gradually work your way up to that normal pace.

Have a mantra: Running a marathon pushes people to their limits, and it can be easy to think, “I want to quit.” I suggest having a mantra, or a line that inspires you, for the hardest parts of the race. When I’ve run marathons, I think positive thoughts and visualize myself running light, easy, smooth, strong and happy.

Marathon recovery: After a race, it can be tempting to curl into a little ball and take a nap. However, it is important that runners take a couple hours to eat, drink and properly refuel their bodies. I also recommend that runners take a little time to walk and softly stretch to allow their muscles to properly cool down.

Enjoy the journey: Really stop and reflect on the journey that you have been on. What parts of it were hard, what did you learn and what relationships have you formed along the way? Training for and running a marathon is an incredible accomplishment, but this process can also teach you how to live your best and most successful life.