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Marathon running is one of the most rewarding and life-changing experience any runner would dream of. However, in order to accomplish this precious goal, you need to possess three qualities: commitment, determination, and self–discipline. Failing to push yourself through the rigorous training, which’s an absolute must for any marathon runner, you might end up “surviving” the marathon instead of enjoying it. In other words, the road to the marathon glory is not paved with roses. But if you believe you’re up for it, the sky is your limit!
Marathon Training Basics for Beginners
Experts recommend that a runner shouldn’t consider training for a marathon unless he/she have been consistently running for at least one year. To be exact, the minimum prerequisite for marathon running is practicing four to five days a week, averaging twenty five miles for at least one year.
Before you kick off your marathon adventure, try to acquire as much knowledge as you can by reading and, even better, asking experienced marathon runners. It’s very important to keep a training log, using a calendar, a notebook, whatever. In this log, you need to record the following information at minimum: total time run, miles run, and your running shoe model. Using a training log will definitely help you in deciding that most effective training methods that worked well with you in the past, not to mention that the log is an excellent motivator. In addition, it’s recommended to keep a “shoe mileage chart”. This way, you could keep the cumulative mileage total for your shoes to make it easy for you to decide when it’s time to purchase new shoes.
To make sure that you have a successful marathon experience, you need to have “sports specificity”. In other words, it’s a must to log the miles leading up to the marathon event. To help reduce the risk of injury while improving your total body conditioning, it’s important to add some cross-training activities, like aerobics for example, to your regular weight training and stretching work. Cross-training is highly recommended for new marathon runners in order to build their mileage base while strengthening their apposing muscle groups which, in turn, reduce the chances of an overuse injury during the mileage build-up stage.
Race Countdown Marathon Strategy
With the marathon day finally approaching and all the hard training is done, most runners assume they have nothing more to do except travelling to the race site and completing the marathon. However, what you choose to do or not do during this crucial period, could have a tremendous effect on your race performance. Let’s highlight the most important areas that require your full attention in the final decisive hours before, during, and after the marathon.
“Less is Best” is what tapering is all about. The taper phase is one of the most important aspects of marathon training. You must reduce long runs and weekly mileage during the two weeks before the race in order to make sure you have fully recovered from previous workouts while getting enough rest for the big event. What you need to do as often as you can during the final weeks is stretching. In addition, it’s certainly a very clever idea to have a leg message no more than two days before the race. Other common sense advises include clipping long toenails and treating calluses and blisters if needed.
As for the pre-marathon nutritional issues, you’re likely to gain few extra pounds during the tapering period but don’t worry: these will be your energy fuel during the race. Needless to say, you need to hydrate very well before the marathon particularly during “the carbohydrate loading period”, namely the last three days before the marathon. For lunch and dinner, make sure that your food choices are high in carbohydrates, including rice, potatoes pasta…etc., without neglecting vegetables, fruits and protein sources. Fat is what you really need to scale down during this time.
You must reduce long runs and weekly mileage during the two weeks before the race
Other good tips include preparing healthy snacks ahead and if you’re travelling by plane, make sure you carry a bottle of water because high altitudes result in dehydration. Also, try to avoid caffeine sources and alcoholic beverages because they are diuretics, which, in turn, contribute to dehydration. Make sure that you keep drinking fluids up to fifteen minutes before the beginning of the race and eat your final snack no more than thirty minutes prior to the race.
During the tapering period, focus on stress-free activities that would inspire and motivate you for the big day. It’s perfectly normal to feel tense or anxious before the marathon, even experienced runners feel the same. Just remember that negative energy is contagious. Stay away from pessimistic or excessively negative participants. Now this may sound a bit odd but it’s highly recommended that you do NOT check out the course before the race! Why? Because doing so would certainly contribute to your nervousness. Instead, feel free to look at the course map if available. Above all the more positive anticipation you have about your marathon experience, the more you’re likely to make it happen.
Goal Setting and Race Strategy
The evening before to the marathon is definitely not the right time to plan your racing strategy. Everything starting with pacing, stopping at the aid stations, meeting up with friends, etc. should be planned ahead. The best gift you could give yourself the last hours before the race is to relax and get enough sleep.
In the weeks before to the marathon, motivate yourself by coming up with at least three goals you’d love to accomplish for your marathon. Such goals should be attainable yet moderately challenging. You need to be flexible and have a plan “B” to accomplish a less ambitious goal if things didn’t work out as you planned. Above all, be realistic: acknowledge your strengths and know your limitations.
Important Considerations During Your Marathon
The Marathon Start
You need to line up based on your expected pace, faster runners are upfront. Please don’t get too excited and line up in front of faster runners for two reasons: firstly, it’s simply not fair to the other runners! Secondly, slower runners might end up being pushed down or falling which is a natural consequence of mixing up with faster runners.
By now, you should be well aware of the correct running pace suitable for your fitness level and physical ability. Probably your pace during the first mile would feel effortless due to the excitement of the event. However, I you run a too fast pace in the first miles, you’ll badly regret it in later miles. A better plan is to start out slower and build your pace up gradually, slowly but surely. Here’s how you do it: start the first few miles slower than your average. Then, run the middle miles based on your chosen, hopefully realistic, pace. Ultimately, you could increase the pace in the final miles. This’s a much more effective strategy that starting aggressively and draining all your energy before you could make it to the end. One last tip: Throughout the marathon, make sure that you constantly monitor your feelings in order to adjust your pace accordingly, based on your perceived pacing level. All your past rigorous training should enable you to do this.
Make sure that you drink enough quantities of sports drinks during the marathon to guarantee maintaining electrolytes and carbohydrate and levels in the working muscles. Do not pass up any fluid-station in the marathon. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to drink water only during the early miles, you must drink sports beverages no later than sixty minutes of running, and even earlier if possible.
At the fluid station, make sure that you politely ask if unsure whether they serve water or sports drinks. It’s a good idea to squeeze the top of the cup like a “V” shape to have a smooth delivery of fluid into your mouth. This’s particularly helpful if you choose to run and drink at the same time.
If you noticed an increased pain rate as you run, please seriously consider dropping off the marathon. Trust me: no race is worth the risk of hurting yourself by forcing yourself to run which might cause a minor injury to turn into a major setback!
The Marathon is Over! What’s Next?
Don’t get too carried away by your victory: you need to do few tasks before celebrating and relaxing. First, don’t ignore any minor discomforts. If you’re feeling joint or muscles pain or blisters or any other complications, you need to visit the medical tent immediately after the race. Then, drink any healthy none- alcoholic beverage and try to eat as soon as you can. Stretching is highly recommended within twenty minutes after completing the race. Contrary to what you may think, you shouldn’t consider even the thought of lying down! Just keep moving in order to minimize the legs muscles soreness. It would be wonderful if you could get a post-race massage. Also, make sure to soak your legs in cold water after an hour or two of finishing the race. Three of four hours later, try to spend at least few minutes in a warm whirlpool.
Now after all your hard work paid off, go out and have a blast! You certainly deserve it.