5 Tips for Returning to the Marathon

As you know, I am currently training to run my first marathon in over eight years. While I have been running consistently during that time, training to run 26.2 adds a new level of intensity. I want to do well, of course, but I know that I need to have realistic expectations and train smart to accomplish my goal and not get injured. Here are my suggestions for successfully returning to the marathon.

Returning to the Marathon 5 Tips for Returning to the Marathon

Tips for Returning to the Marathon

  1.  Start at the beginning: If it has been more than a few years since your last marathon, stop looking at the Advanced plans. No matter at which level you were training before your layoff, time and de-training will take its toll. This is especially true if you are older or if your training level overall has been minimal lately.
  2. Create a realistic goal based on your current running: Forget your wishlist time goal that you were so close to nailing five years ago. If you have been training and racing shorter distances, there are tools that can help you create a realistic marathon goal based on your most recent race times. If you have not been training at all, focus on building up your mileage (see tip 3). Try fitting in a few shorter races, including a half marathon about midway through training. That will help you define your marathon goal time.
  3. Take your time building your mileage: Maybe you could manage a 12 week training cycle five or 10 years ago when you were training consistently, running two marathons a year, and, well, five or 10 years younger. Face it, you’re starting from scratch here. While the 10 percent rule may be fiction, increase your mileage slowly and cautiously, and complete a solid base building period before you even start your actual training plan.
  4. Take care of yourself: Marathon training is hard. You’re pounding the pavement day after day, you’re increasing your mileage, you’re pushing your body to its limits. Don’t ignore small problems. Knees ache a bit? Do you feel a twinge in your heel? Take care of it now. Your ice pack may become your best friend. Take an extra day off every now and then. Get a massage. Stretch. Foam Roll. Your body will get you to the finish line, just give it a little love and appreciation.
  5. Have fun: Your doing this for fun, right? Or to prove that you still can? If you were going to make any money doing it you would have done so a long time ago. So relax. Enjoy the experience.  You know you can do it because you’ve done it before. You’re already a marathoner.

I am finding this return to the marathon challenging but enjoyable. My goal is to stay injury free, have fun, and just possibly hit that goal that McMillan says I can (based on my most recent half marathon time): 4:12:56. (Ironically, that is within a few minutes of my first ever marathon time of 4:10:31!)

Have you ever returned to running after a time off? How did it go?

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  1. says

    YAY!!! this is exciting news for you! I look forward to your training updates too. You will o so well I know it! I am envious of your weather to be sure. It is a real struggle here to train for the marathon. Winter is harsh up here. So I am slugging along and hope that my slow and steady training will help in at mile 38!! Maybe you can send some sun my way! I like your list to be sure! Have fun along the way is big for me. I look forwar t reading more about your training! xx
    Tina G recently posted..Run Pretty Far: One of My Favs!My Profile

  2. says

    This is a great post Debbie. Although I have not taken a break off running, my coach said I am only allowed to race one per year right now as I am training for it with such intensity. I am pretty scared of it after my fueling issues in my debut. You have some great advice here, and I think the recovery/rest one is the most important once the real intense training part begins. I am hoping to be better at this for Chicago…..and hopefully this time I will run way under 2:40, the marathon is a scary race, but you have lessened that a little.

    Looking forward to supporting you in your journey back to the marathon :)
    Tina Muir recently posted..Rise Bars Giveaway Product ReviewMy Profile

    • says

      I’m sure you’ll do fine. You’ve got the talent, so if you take what you learned from your first you will reach your goals. It actually took me until my 4th before I got it figured out. Of course I had the added challenge of the stupid exercise induced asthma. Chicago is a great course, and perfect for you to run that sub-2:40.
      Debbie Woodruff recently posted..5 Tips for Returning to the MarathonMy Profile

  3. says

    I’m really proud of you too Debbie and can’t wait to cheer you on (virtually) for your marathon!! These are such great tips. For me, #1 has been the biggest lesson and most important since returning to running longer distances. I keep thinking about the marathon or half I ran 10 years ago…but yeah, that was 10 years ago!

  4. says

    I am so excited for you!! Can’t wait to read about your training. #2 and #3 I think are so important. You can always revise a time goal if you’re responding well to your training, but it makes so much sense to go into the training with a realistic, or even conservative goal. And in terms of listening to your body and respecting its need for rest – yes!!!

    Good luck with the training!
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted..Healthy Travel TipsMy Profile

  5. says

    Congratulations for being able to come back and do something you find pleasure of. I commend those who run in marathons because of the determination and stamina you all have. I wish I can do something like that, even just a 5K run. I can’t even do a regular jog, let alone complete the lap in our park. :) Keep it up and stay fit!
    Ria C recently posted..Boston And Chicago, Here We Come!My Profile

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