My uncle is an avid marathon runner. He is currently training for the New York Marathon and just missed qualifying for this past Boston Marathon (thankfully for our family). He has all the gear. He is committed to training even when on holidays. He’s made it an important part of his life from both a physical and mental state. I bug him about being the old man, but this guy could run circles around me and I’m 20 years younger (sorry uncle)

I’ve never been a runner. For me, the only reason to go for a run is to chase after the bus if I was late for school, or in short bursts when playing sports. I never saw the excitement of going for a 10k jog. To me this sounded painful.

Last winter, I set a goal for myself. I was going to try running. I started off with a simple goal of being able to run 5k. After a couple months, goal achieved.. Next I figured I’d shoot for 10k. That was a bit more challenging, but I’m proud to say that I can do this now. My next goal is to train for a marathon. I’m not thinking it’s going to be easy, but I’ve always followed through with the challenges I’ve set for myself.

So I set out to ask people who I know that have run marathons what they do to lead up to an event. Here’s a summary of what they have done to allow them to complete one of the toughest fitness challenges I think there is.

Week 1-3: Find Your Stride
As a novice runner, the first obstacle to overcome is yourself. While training, everyone says that running a marathon is 80 percent mental (my body begged to differ), so the biggest challenge was letting myself fail. Just as you can’t start with a 250 lb. deadlift, you can’t jump into training at an 8-minute mile.

Week 4-6: Stay Committed to Your Goal
You’ve made it four weeks in—this is the time to stay focused and stick to your program. Everyone will offer their admiration for your new-found commitment to road racing, especially while handing you another beer. Sure, it’s an accomplishment to run a marathon of any length, but unless your buddies are training with you, no one is going to hold your hand along the way. Know upfront that this is going to mean some sober happy hours and Friday nights in but if running a marathon came easy, everyone would do it.

So pass on a second round and spend the cash on creating an awesome playlist instead. The secret: every few songs, insert a guaranteed, pump-you-up track. It’ll remind you to pick up your speed, and push yourself, even if only for four minutes.

Week 7-9: Know the Gear
Now that you’re clocking in decent mileage it’s time for the tricks of the trade that make it all the more pleasant. Stock up on Body Glide to avoid dry, chafed and blistered skin don’t forget to apply over the nipples (you can also Band-Aid them to prevent the dreaded bloody runner’s chest). You’ll also want to avoid new clothes and sneakers on race day. Find the shorts you’re most comfortable in, does the lining and stitching hold up for the longer runs?

Week 10-12: Focus on the Race
You’re at the end stretch so work on sleeping and stretching to avoid injury. Use ice baths to recover after longer runs and avoid massages before the big event, but feel free to make an appointment now for a few days after the race (a sports massage one or two days after the event could help speed up recovery).

The night before race day is about fueling and hydrating. Indulge in a guilt-free pasta (bring on the bread basket) dinner, and be sure to drink lots of water. While it’s important to sip water consistently the morning of, you don’t want to be stopping at the bathroom every other mile and you don’t want to run with a sloggishy stomach.

Above all, the most important thing they all said was to have fun and enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with taking on a race. Oh, and wear your medal for the next few days, you’ve earned it.