26.2 miles or 42.1 kilometers are not numbers you toy with when it comes to running. Your body must be conditioned to endure the physical and mental stress that is part and parcel of the charity-driven trend of running marathons.
While you may get tugged along by friends, colleagues, or family, there are certain questions you must ask yourself before you wear your running shoes:
- Are you a runner?
- How long has it been since you last ran?
- Are you new to the idea of running, leave alone running long distances?
- And most importantly, why do you want to run a marathon?
If you can convince yourself with a long-standing reason, in addition to your new (hopefully reliable) commitment, here are some tips marathon rookies like yourself can benefit from.
1. Dress For The Occasion
Your overworked feet will need all the support they can clamber on to while you run long distances. Even for pre-marathon training, invest in shoes that will provide adequate support as you propel yourself forward. Don’t practise in shoes you walk around in or have been using for years. When buying shoes, consider parameters like your mileage per week, the running surface you will train on, how often you intend to run, and so on. Test your shoes before you commit to them.
For your training attire, opt for materials that absorb sweat quickly and dry quickly.
2. Measure Time, Not Distance
Start running. Don’t focus on your speed. Your criteria should be the time you run. Your goal should be to be able to run for 30 minutes non-stop. At first this may seem difficult. You may do the run/walk drill, i.e. say run 3 minutes then walk for 1 minute, and repeat. This is your starting point to build the muscle and stamina needed to make it to the finish line on the big day.
3. Decide Upon Your Workout Schedule
Once you are confident about running for 30 minutes at a go, it’s time you turn it up a notch. Write out your weekly workout schedule keeping 5 days for training and 2 rest days. A schedule like this is apt:
- 1 day only running (preferably Saturday, it should be your longest run of the week)
- 2 days cross-training (swimming, rowing/cycling) and running
- 2 days strength-training (weights/Pilates/yoga) and running
- 2 rest days (preferably Friday and Saturday).
If you are forced to miss a workout, try not missing Saturday. The long run is what really counts at the end of the day.
4. Condition Your Body Gradually
Fartlek training is the way to go—alternate fast sprints with slow jogs. Run at different locations to develop agility in your feet.
Your body needs at least six weeks to adapt to this new, demanding schedule. Ease your body into it by incrementally increasing the intensity of your training with each passing week. Increase your run time by 15% or mileage by 10% every subsequent week. For example, go from a 30-minute run to a 34:30 run or from 5 miles to 5.5 miles.
Along with increasing the intensity of your training, you may intermittently participate in shorter races before the final day. This will not only give your confidence a boost, it will also help set your expectations right in terms of emotional and physical requirements—the stress of being surrounded by keen spectators and the strain on your muscles.
5. Don’t Skip Easy Week
With everything happening in your life along with your training, remember to slip in recovery time. Cut yourself some slack on stamina and speed every third or fourth week of training. Your body is not a machine and though you may feel fit, overworking it will take a toll on your health. Always listen to your body, and know when to take a break.
6. Hydrate And Eat Well
Drink 6-8 ounces of water or a sports drink every 20 minutes for runs lasting more than an hour. At the end of each training session, drink enough fluid to rehydrate and get your body weight to the same as it was before you started the run.
For your run, 65% of your total calories should come from carbs, 10% should come from protein, and 20-25% from unsaturated fats. In the week leading up to the final run, eat plenty of carbohydrate-rich foods.
7. Build Mental Stamina
Track your progress and reward yourself for your little achievements. In the last few miles in a marathon, mind overpowers body. By setting your expectations right and training accordingly, you should be able to develop a ‘Don’t ever quit’ attitude.
8. Sign Up For A Marathon
For absolute beginner’s, it is advisable to run half marathons before running full ones. Pick a local event and preferably a year from when you start to prepare for it.
A local event gives you the advantage of being able to explore the running surface before the final day. Perform a trial run of 2 to 3 miles to familiarize yourself with its elevations and texture. If running is not a feasible option, drive through (you take control of the wheel).
Marathons are usually conducted on city tarred roads. Its better to sign up for one such marathon before even considering options like off-road racing.
You’re all prepared to get set, go!