One of the most common items I see on the modern athlete’s bucket list is “run a marathon”. The 26.2-mile distance is formidable and, I would argue, the first distance where many people will have trouble finishing without specific training. With many live events postponed, this may be the perfect time to cross a virtual version of this off your list.

Here’s a couple of key tips that I’ve learned through experience that helped me cut almost an hour and half off my Personal Record (PR), that you can use to train for your marathon, whether it be your first or your fifteenth:

1) Don’t Neglect the Long Run

You are going to want to follow a training plan, whether it be from a book, a magazine, or a personal trainer. The repeated training days and recovery will allow you to extend the distance of your runs. This not only makes your heart and lungs more efficient for running but improves your muscle, tendons, ligaments, and bone density (as long as you are allowing for proper recovery). You may be hesitant to complete the weekly long runs of the training plan since they take so much time, energy, and mental fortitude, but this is the most important run of the week for you. Trust the process and get them done, you’ll thank me on race day.

2) Fuel on the Move

Everyone talks of “the dreaded wall”, which occurs around mile 20 for most people. This “wall” is a result of a combination of improper training and poor (or no) fueling mid-event. Get used to eating gels, which are easily processed, or other snacks mid-run. You don’t need to replace every calorie expended, in fact that’s not recommended or possible (you can only utilize 200-300 consumed calories an hour). At the lower end, 200 calories, that’s about three gels per hour. Look at the course map ahead of time and consume your gels near aid stations so you have something to wash them down with, saving the caffeinated ones for the halfway point or later to give you that final boost. Don’t rely on the course for your fuel, but pack your own fuel along with your race clothes in your bag to ensure you have the tools needed for success on race day.

3) When All Else Fails, Apply More Mental Grit

Running a marathon is not easy and you’re going to have to suffer at some point. Even with proper training, if you are running for a PR, you’ll be hurting later in the race. Go into the race expecting the pain and be ready to push through it. The expectation of lots of pain will make the amount you feel not seem as bad. Most physical challenges can be overcome by applying more mental grit even if you have come in woefully underprepared.

To help leverage this mental grit, try running for something bigger than yourself, like running for a charity. It doesn’t have to be a huge donation like those required for NYC Marathon charity events, just fundraise a little because every dollar helps. The choices are limitless but charities like Operation Underground Railroad, Team Rubicon, ScratchMyBelly.org or Barbells for Bullies are a couple of good options. When you start feeling sorry for yourself, a reminder that your suffering is less significant in the grand scheme of things will help pull you through the pain cave.

4) Train, Compete, (Recover), Live

If you miss your goal, don’t worry, a failure is just another learning experience and an excuse to train better next time. Don’t worry about “banking” time, run a consistent pace. I like to think of my marathons as a 20-mile warm up into a 10k all-out effort. This has led me to slightly negative split my top five fastest marathons. While I don’t reach my goal every time, I use the lessons learned and experience to spark the motivational fire to future training and racing. After the race, get comfortable in a HYLETE hoodie and warm up pants, take time off for recovery and go after another goal.

Follow these tips to be built to last allowing you to crush your goals on race day. Whether you are taking on a live race or a virtual one this fall have fun checking the item off your bucket list. Just beware, the slippery slope of endurance is indeed very slippery. You may find yourself back on the racecourse sooner than you expected…