An overwhelming number of people think that running a marathon is not for the faint-hearted. That being said, numerous others do consider this a lifetime achievement.
Interestingly, only about 0.5 percent of the U.S. population has run a marathon.
Learning how to run a marathon doesn’t sound like some easy task at all. A marathon is seemingly endless miles of mind-numbing, tiring, consuming, exacting, agonized running. Be that as it may, this is not necessarily the case.
So, What Does Running a Marathon Entail?
If you are considering running your first marathon, here’s the thing: start slow. Then, gradually increase both mileage and speed. This works to build both your stamina and endurance, helping you cover the 26.2-mile distance.
Grab a pen and paper and, get comfortable. This comprehensive guide will show you exactly how to accomplish one of life’s most amazing experiences! Ready? Let’s go!
#1. Follow a Training Schedule
Consult your doctor before embarking on a training program. Once you get the go-ahead, look for a quality-training plan. An ideal plan outlines what you need to do to succeed. This will prepare you well, making you feel more confident about achieving your goal of completing a marathon.
The training duration depends on your fitness level. For beginners, it is advisable to train 4 times a week for 4 months to able to complete the distance. Most training plans for first-time marathoners cover a period of 16 to 24 weeks.
The schedule incorporates weekly long runs, shorter runs, cross-training, and rest days. Typically, you run 3-4 times per week with a rest day between each session. These activities make up the basic elements of marathon training.
Below is a brief explanation of the main training components:
§ The Long Run: This is done once a week, usually over the weekend. It helps you build endurance and prepares your mind for success.
§ Speed Work: both Interval and Tempo runs help increase your cardio capacity. Interval runs alternate between bursts of high and low-intensity periods. Tempos, on the other hand, are much longer runs done at a challenging, but sustainable pace.
Hill workouts (running uphill), can also be incorporated as an alternative to speed workouts. They will provide stamina and strengthen your legs.
These runs will mentally prepare you for the discomforts of running a marathon. Warm up before the workout and cool down afterward with an easy run or jog.
§ Easy Runs: They help in the development of your aerobic system. More so, they assist in recovery from hard runs and prepare your body for upcoming workouts. Run at an easy pace. You should be able to hold a conversation with ease.
§ Rest and Recovery: This is necessary to prevent injuries and mental burnout. Cross-training can be done on rest days. These are low-impact activities like walking, swimming, yoga or lifting weights. They help you maintain your endurance and build upper body strength.
The general rule of thumb is, always listen to your body. Rest when required. Avoid pushing through pain.
§ Stretching: always warm up and stretch for 10-30 minutes before you begin your workout. Stretching after your runs helps to decrease lactic acid build-up in your body, aids in muscle recovery and prevents injuries.
§ Tapering: You are advised to increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week. This helps you reduce the risk of injury. In the last 2-3 weeks to the marathon, reduce your overall mileage by 25-50%. This tapering will allow your body to rest up for race day.
As training gains momentum, your motivation is likely to wane. Logging your runs comes highly recommended as seeing your progress proves to be extremely inspirational. You are encouraged to train with other runners for their support and encouragement. It is also more fun!
Training for a marathon will undoubtedly have a major impact on your life. As more time gets dedicated to intense training, you may have to forgo your social life. You will thus need to be fully committed to reap maximum benefit.
#2. Get Your Nutrition Right
Your body will require to consume a lot of fuel. It is crucial to follow a nutritious diet program namely high-carb, high-protein.
Fuel with carbohydrates and sports drinks to stabilize your blood sugar and maintain your energy levels. This is especially so for runs longer than 60 minutes. Note that eating within 30 minutes after a run promotes your muscle recovery.
During training, maintain a diet full of complex carbohydrates such as fruit, yogurt, chicken, brown rice and whole-grain bread. These get digested more slowly, thus giving you longer lasting energy. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy whereas Proteins aid in muscle strength and repair.
After running for about 20 miles, glycogen levels in the body get depleted. To avoid “hitting the wall”, consume small amounts of carbohydrates like energy gels or bars. Your body will find these easy to digest. Pieces of fruit are a good option too.
Keep well hydrated. Monitor this by checking that your urine is clear, not dark in colour. This will ensure that your body does not suffer from cramping. For best performance, drink enough water before, during, and after your run.
Strive to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. You might want to add sports drinks to help replenish your electrolytes during long runs. Additionally, a hydration pack or belt may come in handy to carry your water and hydration gels.
#3. What about Gear?
Invest in a pair of well-cushioned running shoes. Have your feet fitted with the right shoe by a specialist at your local running store. It is recommended that you break into your shoes a few runs before running the marathon to avoid injury.
Refrain from wearing new clothes on race day. They might rub against your body causing chaffing. Try and avoid cotton fabrics. Go for synthetic materials instead. Cotton traps moisture, which can give you the chills in cool weather. Wear double-layered socks to protect your heels and toes from blisters.
Now that we have the basics covered, here is the lowdown on what it takes to run a successful marathon:
Key Tips for a Successful Marathon
These tips will enhance your chances of running a successful marathon:
Before the Race:
· Get a good night’s sleep. Aim to sleep for at least 7 to 9 hours during the week of the marathon.
· Eat a simple, high-carb breakfast 2-3 hours before the race such as oatmeal and fruit.
· Hydrate well, the week before your marathon. Drink a glass of water the night before the race and first thing in the morning.
· Lay out everything you might need the night before. Pre-race jitters may cause you to forget essential items.
· Don’t panic.
During the Race:
· Don’t try anything new on race day: from gear to food, or drinks. Stick to what worked during your training.
· Clip your toenails and lather up well with Vaseline in areas prone to chafing.
· Avoid starting too fast. This will cause you to wear out quickly, making you struggle to complete the race.
· Strive for an easy pace particularly in the first 16km (10miles) or opt for one that you can maintain throughout the race.
· Ensure you’ve fueled up with energy bars or gels by mid-race to avoid crashing by mile 20 (32 km).
· Keep positive, have fun! Be proud of yourself for pushing yourself to your limits by taking on this incredible challenge!
After the Race:
· You did It! Celebrate your victory!
· Keep moving. Walk and perform gentle stretches to cool down your muscles.
· Soak your legs for 10-15 minutes in an ice bath to help lessen inflammation.
· Drink lots of water or sports drink to nourish your tired muscles. Your body will be craving calories. It’s chowtime!
· Get plenty of sleep for your body to start repair and recovery.
· Do an easy recovery run the day after the marathon and continue with light stretching. This will ease stiffness and soreness.
· Rest for least one week before easing back to regular running.
Running a marathon is a personal challenge that many strive to attain in their lifetime. The one thing that will keep you running is motivation. You must find your reason for running. Use this to maintain your focus, discipline, and momentum through the arduous training period and more so on race day.
Completing a marathon is an extremely rewarding experience. The intense feeling of accomplishment is simply amazing! Run for good health. To keep fit. For charity or to bag a medal! Follow this guide to a successful debut marathon. You may just find yourself registering for the next one!