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How to Train for a Marathon


For you, running a marathon may be about a personal accomplishment, testing your limits, or a hobby that you love to do. No matter what the reason you want to run a marathon, you need to train properly for it first. Proper training for a marathon will allow you to finish it, cut down on injuries, and enjoy it much more. The following is a guide to training for a marathon.

Choosing a Marathon

Marathons are located all over the country and normally take place in the spring or fall because of the cooler weather. However, there are some marathons during the summer, it just depends on what type of weather you like to run it. Think about this when deciding at what time of year to run your first marathon.

The location of the marathon will most likely determine the size of it. If you go for a marathon located in a big city, expect lots of people and crowds. These may be more expensive, but they also have more amenities and runners like the atmosphere and energy these big marathons give. If you are looking for something smaller for your first marathon, try something local or not a well-known marathon. It will be less expensive and less crowded.

Take travel into consideration when looking for marathons. If you want to travel to a different city, you could make a weekend out of the event. Some runners do find this stressful, so you may find it easier to do a marathon you can drive to that morning. Think about these two things when deciding what marathon to run.

Check out the course map before picking your final destination. The marathon’s website should have the elevation profile, map, and course description. Out and back or double looped races will have you seeing the same thing twice, so if you do not like that, pick a different location. Think about what type of terrain you train on as this should impact your decision as well. If you train on uneven terrain, try to find an uneven race that is similar to the ups and downs you train on.

Make Sure to Have the Right Gear

The right pair of running shoes is as important as training for the marathon as they will make or break your experience. The right shoes can improve your form and protect your feet from impact. It is a good idea to invest in your shoes and find the right shoes for your type of feet.

Check whether you overpronate, underpronate, or have a neutral gait to start your shoe search. From there, pick the right type of shoes for the terrain you will be running on.

The next thing you should consider is what to wear on race day. Your outfit should consist of materials that wick away moisture and fight odor. These materials are merino wool or synthetic materials. Stay away from cotton as it does not breathe as much as these other materials.

For long marathons, you need a place to put water, phone, ID, keys, and anything else you may need while on your run. There are a few options for this when it comes to gear. One is a shirt with pockets in the back. Some shirts have zippers while others have pockets. Another option is a waist belt. This has places specifically for water bottles and other items. Try both options on and see what is most comfortable for you while you run.

If you are running during the summer months, you should be concerned about UV protection. Find clothes that protect you from the sun’s harsh rays as well as sunglasses to protect your eyes. Hats are another option to further protect yourself. To keep track of your time or distance, use a watch. Some are equipped with GPS, which is good if you are running in a more rural setting.

Eating and Drinking

Eating healthy is another essential of the marathon. Before you run you should eat food to help you keep your energy up. It should be a low-fiber meal with high carbs about three to four hours before your run. During that three to four hour break, your body will have time to properly digest the food so you do not have stomach issues. Sometimes it is not possible to eat this far ahead of a race. If this happens, try to eat an hour beforehand. The meal should have 50 grams of carbs and some protein. For example, a couple of waffles with an egg.

While you are running, you still need to take in fuel to keep your blood sugar even. Most of what you intake should be in the form of carbohydrates and should amount to 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour while you are exercising. Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, has 28 grams of carbs for 16 ounces. Another option is GU Energy Gel, which gives you 22 grams of carbs in one packet. During your training, try out different methods to keep your carbohydrates and energy up so you know what will work for you on race day.

After your run, you should eat a mixture of protein and carbohydrates. This should happen within 30 to 60 minutes because it will help your body recover faster. The protein will repair muscle tissue and the carbs will replenish your energy stores. The meal you eat should have about 50 to 75 grams of carbs and 15 to 25 grams of protein for optimal recovery.

Drinking the right amount before, during, and after your run is crucial as well. If you run is between 30 and 60 minutes, water is sufficient to keep you hydrated. For runs longer than an hour, a sports drink is needed to replenish your electrolytes and carbs. Also, take into consideration how much you sweat to decide how much you drink. Aim for six ounces every 15 to 20 minutes as a general rule.

The Training Process

The overall training process for the marathon should be between 12 to 20 weeks. The goal is to build up to running 50 miles before the day of the marathon. Run three to five times a week at an easy pace for these days. When increasing your mileage for the next week, make it no more than a 10 percent increase.

After you have built up this base mileage, add a long run. Keep running three to five days a week at an easy pace, but once a week have long run. The long run should increase one mile every week. For example, if you run 12 miles for your long run, the next week you should run 13 miles. After three weeks of increasing the long run by one mile, take a couple mile off to give your body a break. Once you get up to 15 miles in this example, the next week you should run 12 miles.

Speed work can be done during your training to increase your aerobic activity. This will make the marathon feel a little easier. Interval training is one of the more popular forms of speed work, which consists of a sprint at short distances then a jog in between these springs. If you do not want to try speed work, you can try temp runs. These are longer intervals are running where you challenge your body to run harder. When doing any kind of speed work, make sure to warm up your body and cool it down with jogging slowly for a little while.

Tips for Race Day

Now that you have an idea of what you need to do for your marathon, there are a few things you need to know for race day. Drink a lot of water in the days leading up to the marathon. Drink water before you go to bed the night before and more in the morning when you wake up. If you are prone to chafing, use Vaseline in these areas to prevent it from happening. Go to the bathroom a half an hour before start times. The lines may be long so prepare for that. If you want to listen to music, check if the marathon allows headphones.

When you first start the marathon, begin slow and pick up your pace as you go. Drink water as you go along and try to pace yourself when it comes to going to the bathroom. If someone offers you donuts or other pastries near the end, it is a good idea to wait a bit. Your body would not appreciate it at this point.

Recovering From a Marathon

After you have finished the marathon, drink your water or sports drink to replenish your fluids. Let your muscles cool down my walking around and by doing some stretches. Eat a few simple carbohydrates to help your body recover. This is important to do even if you do not feel like it.

Before running again, take a week off from your normal schedule. When you decide to get back into it, take it easy with the frequency and distance you run. Make sure you get enough rest, eat well, and take care of any injuries you may have sustained during race day.

Training for a marathon takes a few months of running, planning, and eating healthy. Plan far enough in advance so you can get your miles in and build up your endurance. Take note of what you feel comfortable running in and if you experience any chafing. This will help you decide what clothing to wear on race day as well as if you need to purchase new gear. Training for a marathon takes time, so be sure to plan well in advance so you can thoroughly enjoy the run and the atmosphere once it is time for the big race.

Dr Christine Nolan is the CEO and founder of Footdiagnosis.com. She also has extensive clinical experience and is therefore uniquely qualified to detect and manage diseases of the lower extremities including those related to peripheral arterial disease and diabetes.


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