There are many reasons that people run marathons. Some do it after a large amount of weight loss, some do it to support a cure (such as cancer, AIDS, or autism), some just do it because they like to run. But even amongst those with such divergent reasons to run a marathon, they all have one thing in common – they have to train and prepare for a marathon.
Training techniques and tips that can help you to prepare for a marathon
The first thing to remember about a marathon is that it is all about pacing. If you expend all of your energy right out of the gate, you will crash and burn very quickly. So it is important to learn to take your time and spread your energy out evenly over whatever the course of the marathon may be (5K, 10K, et cetera). This will involve a lot of endurance training to increase your stamina and building up your aerobic system.
Cross training and strength training are also good ideas when preparing for a marathon. A lot of people do not realize the stress that a person’s body goes through during marathon running. Your whole body should be in tip-top shape before running. A quick visit to the doctor for a checkup and physical is also not a bad idea. Always listen to your doctor’s advice to insure your safety. If they advise you not to run, you should not run.
The next tip for marathon training is to regulate your diet. You obviously would want to stay away from things that are high in fat, LDL cholesterol or are deep fried as they will cause you to become sluggish. You should be mindful of your carbohydrate intake the night before a marathon, as carbohydrates offer your body energy to burn and act as the body’s fuel.
Keep in mind the recovery as well when you prepare for a marathon
You should also be mindful of your immune system, as running for such long distances can cause a lot of stress and depletion to your immunity. Foods high in vitamin C such as orange juice and strawberries will insure that your body stays healthy enough for a long run. After the marathon, it’s all about recovery, which is where protein and more carbohydrates come into play.
Protein offers strength to the body and replenishing your carbohydrates will bring balance back to your body after such an exhausting physical task. Foods high in anti-oxidants are also important to boost your immune system and energy, so a good after run snack could include blueberries, granola, or greek yogurt.
It is also important to remain hydrated the day of the marathon. You should have a lot of water on hand to keep your body from overheating. Steer clear of “energy” drinks such as Red Bull or Monster. These drinks are loaded with caffeine and sugar, which, while offering a temporary energy boost – will cause nothing but a hard crash and burn once their effects wear off.
Something else to remember is to get plenty of rest the night before a marathon. Running on little rest can cause a lot of damage to your body and may lead to exhaustion, heat stroke or a plethora of other health issues which will make it impossible to run the marathon. It is advisable to get between six to ten hours of steady, uninterrupted sleep before the running day.
It is also advisable that you have the proper outfitting for running a marathon. A pair of heavy duty training running sneakers (already worn in and comfortable) and light, breathable, cotton poly-blend clothing that wicks away sweat is a must so that you don’t hurt yourself or become uncomfortable. A change of clothing for post-marathon is also advisable to keep on hand just for comfort issues. You should also wear sunscreen to prevent burning, blistering, and reduce your risk of skin cancer.
You should monitor your physical condition whilst running. Keeping a heart rate monitor is a good idea. The heart probably comes under the most stress during marathon running, pumping blood throughout the body at a higher rate than usual. If you feel at any point during the marathon that your heart is acting irregularly, you should remove yourself from the race and seek medical attention from the marathon staff. Also, it may be fun to have a pedometer, just for fun and to track the progress of how many steps you take during the marathon.
Many runners often times complain about “hitting the wall” during performances. When a runner hits the wall, they have depleted their glycogen (which is converted over from carbohydrates), causing them to run out of steam. It is literally like a car running on an empty gas tank. At this point, the runner’s body becomes dependent upon its fat sources which will drain their energy very quickly. As mentioned earlier in the article, stocking the body with carbohydrates and going through proper training cycles will assist in avoiding the wall, but sometimes it just happens. At this point, many runners just walk because running becomes too difficult, which is a good idea.
Now for a few safety tips: first; it’s a good idea to carry some sort of photographic identification. This may be as simple as your driver’s license or state ID. Some marathon organizers provide identification badges before the start of the run. Should you fall unconscious or suffer some sort of medical mishap during the marathon, your identification will allow paramedics, EMTs, or marathon staff to identify you and contact your loved ones.
You should also always run facing traffic and, if you’re going to be wearing audio headphones during the run, keep them at a lower volume so you can hear what is going on around you and to hear traffic. We expect drivers to be alert during all times, but accidents do happen and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
It is also a good idea to know the marathon route and to let your loved ones know the route as well, just in case you take a wrong turn and are unable to find your way back or if you injured yourself along a secluded part of the route. If people know where you should be or could be, then you run less of a risk of being severely hurt and becoming ill without anyone else’s knowledge.
If you follow this advice and these simple tips, you are likely to have a fun, safe, and happy marathon running experience. Good luck and happy running!