Training for a Marathon

You enjoy walking or running for exercise, but participating in a marathon remains only a dream.  Would you like to attain such a goal?  Do you believe it is possible to complete such a challenging event?  With proper training for a marathon, you just might be able to see your dream come true.

Note: A marathon is a long race.  Even if you exercise on a regular basis, be sure to consult your medical professional and get a complete physical examination prior to beginning marathon training.

Once your doctor has given you the “go ahead,” select the marathon in which you wish to participate.  If this is your first marathon race, be sure to choose one that is scheduled at least 3 to 4 months in the future, so that you have plenty of time to train at a comfortable pace.  

Not For Sissies

You may want to walk the race, or you may want to run it.  Either way, you need to get in shape for the event, if you ever want to cross the finish line.  

Marathon training should be enjoyable.  At the same time, it needs to be challenging and consistent.  Such training requires a lot of hard work and dedication.  However, it will all be worth it, when you find that you are truly ready on race day.

Keep in mind that the distance of an entire marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers.  That’s quite a distance to run or walk!  Unless you really want to finish the race, you’ll probably give up.  Both physical and mental stamina are necessary to make it to the finish line.  Adequate training can help to ensure that you have plenty of both.

Training Suggestions

If you’re a runner, your main goal of entering the marathon may be to win the race.  If you’re a walker, your main goal may simply be to finish the race.  The best training process for either goal is a leisurely one in which you gradually build up your mileage.  

Runners should be able to run at least 30 minutes straight BEFORE ever starting marathon training.  This is to allow your body to become accustomed to running.  Distance at this time is unimportant.  If you are a novice runner, you might begin by alternating walking and running during the pre-training stage to reduce the risk of running injuries.  Marathon coach Art Liberman suggests that an individual have at least one year of running experience prior to considering marathon training.

Focus on building up to completing a distance of at least 15 to 20 miles about 2 to 3 weeks before the race.  To achieve this goal, you need to try to increase your distance a little each week.  The final two weeks of training should be spent decreasing your mileage to allow your body time to heal and rest.  Don’t entirely stop training, however, because you want to be sure that you stay in shape for the marathon.   

Try to avoid injuries!  Set up a training schedule that allows your body time to recover.  (For instance, you might run for two days and then take a day off to rest.)  If your muscles or joints become sore, put ice packs on them for 15-20 minutes, four times per day.    

Be sure to invest in a good pair of walking or running shoes.  (In fact, you may want to purchase several pairs to get you through the training period and the actual race.)  Shoes are the most important gear you’ll need for the marathon.  A local store that specializes in athletic footwear can help you choose the shoes that will work best for you.  

Pay close attention to your diet during training.  If you’re a runner, you should eat a diet that consists of at least 65% carbohydrates.  Carbs will be your primary source of fuel during long runs.  Also, make sure that you drink plenty of water or sports drinks throughout your walks and/or runs.  Anytime you walk or run for an hour or more, you need to carry water or a sports drink with you.  To ensure proper hydration, drink 6 to 8 ounces of fluids every 20 minutes.  Weigh yourself before and after each long run.  Drink as much liquid as you need to get your body weight back to its pre-run weight.

Enjoy the Race

Stick with your training!  Consistent training and dedication will help you to build up your distance capability as well as improve your endurance.  

Stay motivated!  Without motivation, you may not make it to the finish line.  A marathon is hard work!  With motivation, you can enjoy the race and remain determined to successfully finish it.  If you enjoy your first marathon, you’ll be more likely to enter other marathon races.  

Written by Cyndi Waters, Fitness Researcher and Writer

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