Interested in training for a marathon? Here's what to do
With our increased knowledge of the physical body and ways to maximize peak performance training, running marathons has become a popular trend. Since the first marathon in Massachusetts in 1897, which consisted of 18 men, the field has expanded to almost 150 organized marathons across the world. Now both men and women alike participate in these 26.2 mile runs which symbolizes motivation and strength.
If you are a first-time marathon runner or are currently training by yourself you might want to look into joining a running group. It is fun to run in a group, plus there are other people there to motivate you. To locate local running groups in your area, check out 1972 gold medalist Jeff Galloway's website.
If you want to run with a special purpose, you can join a team who runs on behalf of leukemia and lymphoma. You can do your part to help cure a deadly disease. If you join Team Leukemia you will become part of the largest endurance program is the United States. They will provide you with coaching, training and even the travel opportunities to make your athletic goals a reality. It's a rewarding program with great personal rewards. For more information visit their website.
Now it is time to start training. According to Benji Durden, world-class marathoner and marathon coach, "I learned that there is no simple recipes for training successfully for a marathon. Part of the marathon's allure is that it's difficult-not only to race but to train properly."
There are basic guidelines to follow when training for a marathon. Using formulas developed by Jack Daniels, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and a respected coach, Durden has devised an approach that uses his recent race times to adjust to the different physical levels and abilities of runners. This is an 18-week start-up program for beginners who have never trained for a marathon before. For other training programs visit the Runners World website.
Durden's chart is arranged in suggested miles.
According to Hal Higdon, a senior writer for Runners' World, "It does not matter if you are a beginning runner or advanced; if you follow a running schedule and get the miles in you will be able to successfully finish a marathon."
The most important days in this schedule aren't the hard days, but the easy ones in between. Easy days are very critical because they allow the body to recover from and adapt to the hard training done during the rest of the week. If you did not have the easy days between the hard ones, the training would break you down rather than make you stronger.
The philosophy of hard day/easy day comes from University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman. Easy days are also a good day for cross training. Riding a bike, brisk walking, swimming and weight training are all beneficial activities for marathoners in training. When you do your cross training don't over do it; the idea of an easy day is to rest, not become more fatigued.
Another key component to training for a marathon is the long runs. These runs are essential and should be done every week. If you have to skip a run don't let it be on your long day. The long runs allow your body to adapt to the stresses of running the long distance of a marathon. Says Durden, "Covering the distance is not the problem -- most runners who can cover 10-K(6.1 miles) in under an hour should be able to walk or run 26.2 miles-but it's a question of how much stress your body can take-and for how long. That's why I believe that if you have to choose only two workouts to do other than easy runs, do a weekly long run and race often."
According to Wald Amacher, a writer from On the Run, "The actual running of a marathon should be the enjoyable part, it is the training day in and day out that you need to get motivated for."
You need to listen to your body when training for a marathon. If you experience pain other than sore muscles, you need to stop training and consult a physician. "If you try to run though an injury you will end up doing more harm than good," writes David Leon Moore in USA Today. "The majority of the time it will set you back farther in your training, than if you would have taken time off to rest the injury."
Let's suppose now you have done all your training and now it's the week of the race. This is not a time to get in those last few miles that you neglected in week 15, this is a time to relax and let your muscles rejuvenate. According to Liz Applegate, Ph.D, "While you taper your running, this is a time to taper your diet and only eat food that will fuel your body, such as protein and carbohydrates, stay away from sugar. You want to avoid gaining any extra weight at this point so the day of your race you will feel your best."
A good rule of thumb: eat a light meal the morning of your race. Taking in carbohydrates, particularly before longer races, provides more energy for hard-working muscles. Your pre-race meal should be eaten two to four hours before starting time and should consist of at least 200 grams of carbohydrates, which works out to about 800 calories' worth.
When you start your training program you should choose a marathon so you have a goal to work towards. There are listing of marathons and their websites at http://www.runnersworld.com or in The Ultimatte Guide to Marathon's by Dennis Craythorn and Rich Hanna.
Good luck, best wishes, and I'll see you at the races!
(Ed. note: Leslie Jensen ran the Boston Marathon April 18.)