Once running has become a part of your life, and friends and family recognise that you are a runner, a familiar question will be: ‘When are you going to run a marathon?’ But before you rush to sign up for an event, you must ask yourself: ‘Are you ready for marathon training?’
The challenge of running 26.2 miles is not a one to be taken lightly. It is certainly not something you can undertake without some proper marathon training, and it is also not something you will be able to do without a good running basis.
There is no reason why a healthy person cannot complete a marathon, but as many most marathon runners will tell you, it is the marathon training that is the major challenge, and it is during the build up that many people are hit by injuries that stop them from achieving their challenge.
Taking a few simple precautions will make your marathon training and the eventual event itself much easier and less painful than the experience of many runners.
The first thing to do is to check with your doctor that you are healthy and fit enough to undertake marathon training. Talk through your training plan with your doctor; he or she may have some exercise recommendations to help you cope with the extra demands of the marathon training.
Next, you must ensure that you have a good running base. If you are new to running it is important that you build up your mileage. You should have been running for at least six months before you even contemplate a marathon, and your weekly mileage should be at least 15-20 miles.Once you are running regularly, then choose a marathon training program. There are many of these and you can discover the best of these through the C25K website. Think carefully about the way you want to train and choose your training based on your own demands. This will be discussed in more detail later in this article.
During your marathon training it would be of enormous benefit if you could run some shorter races in the build up. 5K and 10K races will help you build up your speed and get used to running with many other runners, by doing a half marathon you will be running over a longer distance and you will be able to learn about drinking on the move and preparing for an endurance event.
Plan your nutrition and hydration carefully. You will find you are eating more and need to drink more. There is no reason why you need to change your diet if you are eating healthily, just eat more of the same. It is really important that you eat plenty of vitamin-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Protein-based foods such as lean meat, eggs and nuts will also have a big part to play as they will help your muscles cope with the demands you are placing upon them.
You must also ensure that your fluid intake matches your output. You will only be able to train effectively if you are hydrated. Water is obviously essential, but mix it with fruit juice and sports drinks because water by itself will not do the job and could end up causing you problems of water intoxication (diluting essential enzymes in the body).
When you are considering your marathon training do think about your lifestyle and how this training will affect your daily activities and demands. There is no doubt that marathon training will take a lot more time than any of your previous training. If you have been training for a half marathon you are now doubling the distance you are used to.
Training programs will vary tremendously and you will need to read the schedules carefully and read reviews before you decide which route to go down. The main marathon training programs will be either focused on long runs that build your capacity to run the distance or they will be programs that encourage you to run shorter distances at a higher pace, with just one long run a week.
You will need to take into account your family commitments, the demands of your work and the constitution of your body. If you are someone who picks up injuries easily, then your marathon training program will need to reflect this, with some cross training included.
Finally, be aware of the need to nurse your body through the marathon training. Regular sports massages, stretching before and after training, as well as stretching on your rest days and making sure your running shoes, socks and running gear is all comfortable and meets your needs.
This is the biggest challenge of your running career to date, so make sure you have everything in place to make it an enjoyable experience.