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Running a marathon is a noble goal—one that fewer than 1 percent of the world’s population completes.
The training, fitness, endurance, and determination required to run 26.2 miles at one time is commendable. Whether you’re new to running, been running for years, or have never ran a race in your life, it’s never too late to challenge yourself to complete a marathon.
What does it take to run such a race? From training to nutrition to hydration, here are some helpful tips.
It Takes Motivation
More than being in incredible shape, running a marathon requires motivation and mental stamina. When the hills get high, your feet get sore, and the rain is pouring down, you’ll need to constantly remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Is it for the sense of accomplishment, to lose weight, to prove your abilities, or to raise money for a good cause? Whatever your motivation may be, keep it at the forefront of your mind.
Most people won’t expect to enter the race next month or even in six months. Marathon running isn’t for the novice. It takes time to develop the endurance, strength, and mind power necessary for distance running. Common advice is to slowly build up your running distance to 20–30 miles a week for at least a year before considering a marathon. If you run before your muscles and joints are strong enough, you could in fact do long-term damage to your body.
Great ways to prepare mentally and physically for a marathon is to participate in shorter races. First, train for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon (13.1 miles). These beginner races will teach you how to pace yourself and reveal areas of weakness.
If you’re in excellent shape, allow 12–20 weeks to train for a marathon.
Training is four-fold:
Base mileage refers to the number of miles you run each week. Training schedules can be found online to guide you. Over the course of three to five months of training, you’ll slowly increase your distance to up to 50 miles a week.
While this distance isn’t necessary, it may boost your confidence for the race.
Once a week:
plan for a long run done at a slower pace.
increase your distance by a mile or two until you’re able to run for 20 miles without stopping.
A few training sessions:
Incorporate speed work to increase your aerobic capacity and make your regular runs feel easier. Interval training is a great way to incorporate speed work.
Though you may have the urge to run, run, run, you should know that rest is vital for your body to prepare for marathon running and avoid injury.
Don’t plan to run seven days a week, but aim for three to five so your muscles can recover and rest in between.
In the two weeks prior to the big race, reduce the distance and intensity of your runs to allow your body to rest and prepare to go the distance.
Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles. During your weeks of training, the majority of your daily calories should come from complex carbohydrates, one-tenth should come from protein, and a quarter should come from unsaturated fats. This combination will keep your muscles strong and healthy.
The morning of the race, eat a small breakfast high in carbs. To avoid feeling depleted of energy and muscle fatigue during the race, keep a few energy chews or gels handy to pop in your mouth along the way.
In the days leading up to the race, drink lots of water to hydrate your body. Then—whether you carry your own water or stop along the way—drink around 6 ounces of water or sports beverage every 20 minutes.
You made it to the finish line! Congratulations! Upon completion of a long-distance race, drink plenty of water or sports drink to replenish your muscles. Walk to cool down, stretch out your body, and eat a snack of simple carbs. Then take a week off of running, get lots of sleep, and take care of your body. Include training sports massage to heal faster and more completely. (Also your sports massage therapist will help you identify if you are over-training or if there are areas of your body that are starting to show signs of over-training.
These tips for training for your first marathon will help you reach your goal of finishing, and the next race you can even begin to challenge yourself with a goal finish time!
Good luck and we’ll see you hopefully sprinting in for your sports massage!
If you have any other training tips that we didn’t cover here, please post them below to inspire us all.