How to run your first marathon (or any other distance) – by a non-runner!

I had always wanted to run a marathon.  Having seen my husband and friends complete them, I thought what a fantastic feeling it must be to finish 42kms. However, I am not a natural runner, so running a marathon was like walking on the moon to me. That was until April 5 years ago.  I am now living proof that anyone can run a marathon, and here are a few tips from my experience that I hope will help others to finish their own personal marathon, be it 42km or 5km

Running, shoesTraining is the key – finding the right training program is vital to your success. I was a business owner, a mother, and have a full time job so fitting in the immense amount of training required was always going to be difficult. I found a program on the internet for a first time marathon which only involved 3-4 runs a week over 16 weeks, which seemed achievable to me. I committed for 16 weeks to waking at 5am for the mid week runs and every time my alarm clock went off my mantra was “its only 16 weeks, you can do it!”  So find a program that you know you will stick to that you can fit in around your life.

Run for a charity – I decided to fundraise for the PINC Cancer Rehabilitation Trust, which helps women to recover strength and fitness following treatment for cancer. This charity was close to my heart as I work with many of these ladies every day. Once people start giving you money there really is no way out. You HAVE to keep going. It is incredibly motivating to know that people are relying on you.  Also, when I was out on my longer runs and feeling sorry for myself, I only had to think about those who weren’t lucky enough to be able to run and that soon put me in my place. Choose a charity you believe in or are close to and that way you are locked in – no way out!

stretch, run, fitStretch, stretch, stretch – The last thing you want to happen is get to week 14 in your program and pick up a niggly injury that forces you out of the race. To avoid this you need to stretch from the very beginning.  As boring as you might find it, it’s a necessary evil. Also invest in a foam roller to roll out those tight muscles in the calves and down the outside of the thighs, for some more self-torture. If you do develop an injury or pain then see a Physio immediately. It is much easier to deal with an injury in the early stages than to ignore it and let it become a full-blown crisis that may end your race.

Music – running for so many hours does become a mental game as well. I like to listen to music when running but I know others do not. If you do, get yourself a mind-blowing play list and change it regularly.  These days, there are plenty of pre-made ones online – just use your friend Google to find one. I also had a friend who joined me for one run a week, and I found this the most enjoyable run of the week as my mind was on other things as we gossiped our way around 10km. Having someone support you, even if it is for your shortest run will help battle the mental fatigue.  Prior to the big race, my husband took some voice recordings on his smartphone of my son, family and friends, and added them to my playlist. So on the day of the marathon, in between Beyoncé and Eye of the Tiger, I had people wishing me good luck and willing me to keep running. It was so nice to hear their voices, as it can be lonely out there.

So that’s how I got through my marathon. I completed the Rotorua Marathon in 5hrs and 13 minutes and can now join that group of people who can say “I have run a marathon” – or whatever other distance and event you have been through. If I can do it, anyone can. Give it a go.

The Active+ group of therapists are really keen to get you out there, doing whatever it is you want to still do in life. So What’s Holding You Back? Check out and let’s get whatever’s stopping you from being active sorted, so you can leave it behind.

Megan Schmidt, Physiotherapist.