If you are thinking of running a marathon then this is a decision that you need to spend a lot of time considering and that you need to make well in advance before the actual event if you are going to train effectively. This is no small undertaking, and it places a huge strain on your body. At the same time it also places a great strain on your time and resources in the build up to the event, and particularly if you are running for a charity and need to raise lots of money to secure your position. You can’t just decide you want to run a marathon and then just turn up…
Should You Run a Marathon?
First of all then, you need to decide whether or not marathon running is in fact for you. There are certainly pros and cons of running, and while you will place a lot of strain on your body and while you will lose a lot of time in preparing, you will get an incredible sense of satisfaction from having run the marathon. It’s one of those milestone achievements that people love to say they’ve accomplished and the very fact it’s so difficult is what ensures you gain so much respect from it.
Of course if you can’t ‘run’ the marathon or are too worried about seriously damaging your knees and ankles, then you can always alternatively walk it or jog part of the way. That is to say it doesn’t have to be such a strain on the body though even walking 26 miles is taxing.
When you run a marathon you use up all your available fat stores for energy meaning you’ll lose a huge amount of weight, and training will have a similar effect. This will furthermore help you to improve the strength of your heart (as it will beat faster to help you get the blood around your body) and your muscles which you will use for the actual running. This is a great way to lose weight, but also to improve fitness, lower blood pressure and even improve your mental discipline.
Finally if you run a marathon then you will likely be raising money for charity and thus contributing to a good cause. If you have a cause that you feel particularly strongly about, then this is a perfect way to do something worthwhile and help those who need it.
In shot then running a marathon is an incredible experience and a great way to test yourself. It’s a perfect accomplishment and something you can tell your children about in years to come. If you have the health and the time then, you should consider running.
Once you’ve taken the plunge and decided to run, the single most important thing to think about is the shoes you are going to run in. You need to make sure that you have good running shoes that will cushion the bottom of your feet and that will correct your stride in case you run pronated or otherwise incorrectly. Spend some time shopping around for your trainers and be prepared to spend a fair amount on them. At the same time be sure to go to shoe shops that specialize in sports shoes and that use ‘gait technology’ to record your stride and so choose you tailored shoes.
Other things you might benefit from are supports if you have any sports injuries, some kind of lubrication to prevent chaffing between your legs, tape for your nipples to prevent them from rubbing on your shirt and good clothing. Don’t be tempted to show up in a cloth t-shirt, you will find the whole experience far less grueling if you have specially designed running clothes that use breathable materials.
Preparation and Training Tips
Preparing for the marathon is a grueling process and it’s crucial that you put in the maximum effort and time. The time you spend training now will be time invested – pain now means less pain later.
That said though there is also a fine balance to tread between pushing your body and training your mental discipline and your health and fitness versus training too hard and harming your body as a result.
In short your target is to train your body as much as possible, but without damaging your knees or ankles and generally without making it more difficult for you on the day. You shouldn’t for instance run a full marathon during your training a) because the number of marathons you do should be kept to a minimum for the sake of your body, and b) because you will need a lengthy recovery time during which you won’t run and you will end up setting the training back in the long run.
Instead then, your port of call is to gradually increase the amount of running you do so that you are running further and further. For the first few weeks of training don’t run more than 5/6 miles. Once you have achieved the full amount, aim instead to decrease the time it takes you to run that distance. This way you will still be increasing your fitness, losing fat etc, but you won’t be increasing the strain on your body too much. Of course be sure to stretch properly before each run too and where possible consider running on softer surfaces such as grass or sand.
After you have run these shorter lengths you can increase the number of miles to around 10 at the halfway point in your training. However when you do this you should also aim to increase the amount of rest you get between training sessions to ensure that you are fully recovered before each run. Again you can increase the challenge by aiming for shorter times.
About three quarters into the way of your training it is time to try a half marathon. This will help prepare your body for the rigors of the full event, but don’t go above that amount. If you can try to also make this a ‘dress rehearsal’ and aim to mimic the actual event in every way possible. That means starting at the same time, running the same route, wearing the same clothes, trying to drink water while you run and generally aiming to do the exact marathon… only half.
You then get to take some well earned time off before the marathon. Use this time to let your body recover and to ensure that you are in the optimum condition before the run. Tend to any aches and pains and ‘carb load’ the night before to ensure you have as much energy available as possible. Be sure to carb load and not fat load.
On the Day
On the day make sure you arrive early and spend some time stretching and relaxing yourself mentally. The most important tip is to start slowly and to take a leisurely pace. You might be anxious to get moving and start cutting down the miles, but remember there will be plenty time for that and you don’t want to burn out early. Once you reach around the 20 mile mark, then is a good time to put some more steam into your running speed if you can.
A lot of the challenge of the marathon is your own psychology, and it’s about how you think about the challenge and how you approach it. Don’t worry yourself with your condition, rather see this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go all out and worry about the consequences later (unless you aren’t interested in your time/finishing). Meanwhile try to break the marathon up into segments in your mind. If you think of it as two 10 mile runs and one 6 mile run, then suddenly it becomes a lot more achievable. You’ve probably done a few 10 mile runs by now, so it’s just that done followed by a short run.