Letter to First Time Marathoners

Great Strides 20067 Shelly Florence-Glover

The Ideal First Timer
Anezka's First Marathon Run
Good Physical & Mental Training Habits
Time Commitment
Classic Marathon Training

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Novice Runners Experienced Runners

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© Shelly Glover Great Strides

Letter to First-Time Marathoners - A January to November Guide.

By Shelly Glover

So you think you want to run the New York City Marathon?

You know what happened to the first marathoner--Pheidippides? He died. Well actually, he didn't die. He only died in the poem Pheidippides written by Robert Browning in 1879--some 1800 years after the Greek's famous run.

Pheidippides was actually a member of a cult of Greek messengers called a hemerodromoi, or all-day runners. In 409 B.C., his Greek city-state faced a huge Persian Army in the Plains of Marathon, about 22 miles from the city of Athens. Knowing the survival of Athens hung in the balance, the Greeks attacked the Persians and routed the enemy.

Browning's fictional version of our hero was sent to deliver the victorious news to Athens. Browning claimed that Pheidippides completed his journey, shouted victory, and collapsed dead. In reality, 22 miles would have been a warm-up jog for Pheidippides and other hemerodromoi messengers. Pheidippides actually ran 132 miles--with no apparent problem--to seek military help for the Greeks at neighboring Sparta.

The first recorded female marathoner, Melpomene, named after the Greek muse of tragedy, completed her ancient Olympic marathon in a respectable four hours and 30 minutes. She didn't die either. So much for namesakes.

Some of you are wondering if you can finish 26.2 miles. Of course you can.



Ideal first timer

Who should be venturing to run their first marathon in this fall?

An ideal Novice Marathoner ( you ) is someone who:
  1. Has been running between one and two years
  2. Has a strong sense of commitment
  3. Has raced in 5Ks and/or 10Ks
  4. Works up to a mileage base of at least 20-30 miles per week for four to six weeks before marathon training begins in July
  5. Does 4 months of marathon-geared training
  6. Has a good support system in place, including running partner(s)

What if this isn't your profile and you still want to run?

A lot of people prepare to run their first marathon without all these elements in place. If you are thinking about running the NYC Marathon with less than one year's running experience, make your decision carefully and take into account your age, physical health, general activity level, your personal life, etc. Remember, the Marathon is just one goal in running. There are many goals to experience and savor that lie somewhere between a two-mile jog and a 26.2-mile marathon. Marathons have been around a long time, and will be around for several more years. Don't rush yourself--you might find that the Marathon isn't actually for you (maybe you'll fall in love with the 5K or Half-Marathon distance), or that if you push too hard too soon, you won't make it to Marathon Day at all.

So, if you're fairly new to the world of running, you might want to consider postponing the Marathon another year and, in the meantime, develop your skills as a runner by participating in the NYRRC's many races and/or taking one of the many running classes offered by Bob & Shelly Glover.


Do you know what you are getting into?

A marathon is very long, yet itís not that far. Like Melpomene, the average marathoner finishes in about four to six hours. It's four to six hours of foot slapping, Gatorade guzzling, arm pumping, soul-testing miles. In other terms, those four to six hours are equivalent to a good day of shopping, spring house cleaning, yard work or moving--all with an audience, a stopwatch and no pizza breaks.

A marathon is a doable distance. Most people could complete that distance at this very moment, depending, of course, on the motivation. If Godzilla was two steps behind you, you'd probably find some way to keep moving. Or, if there were a billion or so dollars waiting for you at the finish line, you could keep trotting along.

If you had to, you could complete a marathon today , every stride you take between now and November improves your marathon time and brings you one step closer to the finish line of your first marathon.

Do you really know what you are getting into here? Check out the 1997 first timer's story of Anezka Sebek. A film producer, Anezka gives a fresh view of casual marathoner's virgin run.

A Little More

Running Coach Shelly Glover has a master's degree in exercise physiology from Columbia University. She co-authored The Runner's Handbook and The Competitive Runner’s Handbook, is a veteran road runner and marathoner. She also coaches The Greater New York Racing Team is available for private coaching. Coaching Services