Watching a marathon can be pretty amazing – the rock hard leg muscles, the determined looks amidst the drops of sweat, the thud of strong feet against the ground.   But what is it like to actually be part of those runners? People who have run marathons all say one thing – it is life-changing, from training to the finish line. In the end, a runner has acquired not only a pair of lean, muscular legs, but more importantly superior energy and strength, renewed health, and a passion for discipline.

Prior to training

Training for a marathon is far from just running. Besides a complete makeover of attitude and stamina, marathon training is also about setting realistic expectations. Before you begin, you will need to know exactly what you are getting into. How many miles do you intend to run? For example if you are running 26.2m, then you will need to understand that it would take about 30 minutes to drive this distance at a speed of 60kph.

Before you begin training for a marathon or a race, you will need a plan of action.  Here are a few of our favorite running resources to help you get started along with a few training tips to help you prepare for your big day.  Plus, we give you our list of the Top 5 US Marathons.

To help you get started check out:

Run Like a Mother

Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Guide

Runner’s World

Once you have decided, it is time to invest in high-quality equipment (in this case, running clothes and shoes). You will need shoes and clothes which you can break into. You will use the same gear for your training as well as your marathon. Therefore, they need to be comfortable, stable and provide plenty of motion control. As for clothes, choose materials that keep moisture away from your skin. Never go for cotton because the sweat absorbed will weigh you down.   More and more women who actively run are choosing to forgo traditional running shorts and pants and opt for running skirts.  Also remember to choose clothing that is appropriate for the climate that you will be running in.

All of the extra miles that you will be logging will send your body practically gasping for carbohydrates, so a major part of a marathon diet is good-quality carbohydrates and lean protein. Also, remember to hydrate yourself consistently. Remember you are building a foundation for training.

While training for a marathon, your priority should be safety. If you are a newbie, do not attempt going overboard as you can cause yourself some serious injuries. Always do a little warm-up and stretching before and after training. If you are sore, do not attempt running all the way. You need to undergo body alignment and learn the proper way it is to run before starting.

Expect bumps, aches and pains here and there, so when muscles become sore, take some Aspirin, Ibuprofen or similar anti-inflammatory medications to help. Apply ice to bruised areas.

Don’t Hit the Wallthis is a figurative way of saying one has “quit” before finishing the marathon. Without the proper discipline, energy and determination, one may not be able to go all the way through. A marathon isn’t about training to run – it entails training one’s character.

The Top 5 US Marathons

1. Boston Marathon

This is most well known for its hundred years tradition. According to John Wallace, Boston is the running Mecca. The race is usually done during April, and the race starts at high noon, usually at Hopkinton and ends in Copley Square. The Boston Marathon is thought to be the most prestigious marathon in the world, requiring runners to enter through a qualifying exam and be  a charity program participant.

2.     Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

This marathon starts in May, in Cincinnati. It is one of the major marathons in the US, garnering impressive marks from runners. It is fun and organized, running from Cincinnati to Newport. What’s great about the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon is that it’s flexible.  Half-marathons are available for those not quite ready for the full plunge.

3. Country Music Marathon

Held during the last week of April, this marathon in Nashville will get you entertained with several bands, cheerleaders and stages. What’s great about this marathon is that it is themed, and features historic landmarks like the Parthenon. There’s a great finish line festival to look forward to, plus an after-marathon concert to chill out at.

4. KeyBank Vermont City Marathon

This marathon is held in Burlington, usually on the last week of May. There is a limit of runners to up to 3600. People enjoy Vermont because of its scenes and views. Imagine running with the gorgeous Lake Champlain and the Adirondack mountains as your backdrop. This marathon allows relays to up to five people. What do runners use as their motivation to reach the finish line? Free massages and free ice cream.

5.      The Big Sur International Marathon

This is held on the first of May in Big Sur in California, and is best loved for its stunningly beautiful and varied backdrop. You will get to witness Pacific Ocean vistas, rolling hills and redwoods as you complete the marathon, Classical music at Bixby Bridge, played on a piano, is truly a tradition at this incredible marathon.

Skinny Mom Fact: A marathon runner will go through 2 pairs of sneakers while training for the race and the average woman burns 2,880 calories while running a marathon race!