Make no mistake about it, success in finishing a 26.2-mile course requires a dogged determination to stick with a regimented routine. It’s certainly not something one does on a whim. It’s all about pacing yourself, lengthening your endurance, getting the proper training and footwear, planning a strategy and getting the adequate nutrition and hydration.
There’s also a mental side to it, one that involves following through on a long-term commitment and responding to a higher calling. Training must sometimes take precedence over activities involving friends and family. Or to put it another way, “You’re in the Army now.”
Marathon Training Builds Stamina
The first step to considering whether to run a marathon is to make sure running is something that suits you. One advantage is that runners don’t need the natural talent some athletes possess – only raw determination and stamina.
Before making the decision to sign up for a marathon, do some long-distance running on your own for six months to a year and get comfortable with a three- to four-times-per-week regimen. Once you’re comfortable with 5-mile jogs, you’re a good candidate for marathon training.
Choosing Running Shoes
Compared to other sports, running doesn’t require a big investment in equipment. To avoid injury and ensure relative comfort, however, prospective marathoners should go to a store where footwear experts can advise them to make sure they get the best gear based on the shape of their feet.
Try out several pairs of good-quality shoes, making sure your inner sole gets adequate support. Once you make the purchase, use the shoes only for long-distance running.
Marathon Training Motivations
Now that you’ve made a decision to run a marathon, give yourself about six months to do the necessary build-up. Many big-city marathons have training groups associated with them. For a modest fee, you can take advantage of weekly long-distance runs with people who can relate to your struggles and concerns.
Such groups can help you find out what your optimum marathon pace should be and group you with runners of the same speed. A key challenge is to internalize the training in such a way that you will be able to pace yourself even amid the hoopla and cheering throngs at the starting line. Training groups also provide snacks and water along the practice courses.
Extending Marathon Training Schedules
Running groups will provide a schedule so that participants can gradually lengthen the distances they cover. This means following the recommended running schedule during the week on your own time so you’ll be prepared for the group runs on the weekends.
As veteran long-distance runner Rod Dixon put it, “For runners, the gradual increase in training time and distance and/or the pace of some of your runs … together with sufficient recovery is the balance for improvement.”
Runners’ Stretching Strategies
Most experts will tell you that stretching leg muscles is essential for a healthy routine that helps prevent aches, cramping and general soreness. But stretching need not be done immediate before a long run. Try running a mile or so to loosen up and then stretch the calves, hamstrings and quadriceps.
And don’t forget to stretch those muscles and maybe enjoy a warm bath or Jacuzzi after a long run.
Marathon Runner Hydration
Many medical professionals say consuming 1,700 to 2,000 calories a day during marathon training should compensate for rigorous workouts. And 60 percent to 70 percent of them should be carbohydrates, the kind found in pasta dishes and whole-grain foods.
A good, balanced diet is key, and be cautious of advertised food supplements that claim to boost energy. And stay hydrated. Don’t wait until you feel an extreme thirst before drinking water during your training. (A good preventative step is not training in hot weather; mornings and early evenings are best.)
On race day, carry some nutrition with you such as energy bar bites or goo. That ensures you’ll have enough fuel to complete the last half of the marathon. Consider also hard candy that melts in your mouth as you run, providing some timed-release energy.
Completing a marathon at the pace you set is a milestone indeed. Aside from being in perhaps the best shape of your life, you may find the best part of the experience comes later, as you redirect the determination you sustained in your months of training to other parts of your life, and to demonstrate this contagious sense of confidence, team work and accomplishment to friends and family.