So You Think You Can Run a Marathon
Running a marathon is really tough, but also really rewarding. However, there are a few things you should know before setting out to run 26.2 miles.
First, marathon training is a lifestyle change. Many programs involve running three to four days a week, with a cross training day (or two) and a recovery/rest day. It is a big time commitment, and it may impede your social life, including brunches and after-work happy hours. The good news is: running can give you a new and different social life, especially if you join a running club or team. The best place to find out about clubs near you is by going to your local running store.
Next, training for a marathon does not simply involve running. Cross training, stretching, strengthening, foam rolling, and recovery are all just as important as the mileage you put in to make it to the finish line. Before undertaking a marathon, consider speaking to a doctor, physical therapist, or even get a Movement Assessment/ Running Analysis to determine your strengths and weaknesses with the help of a professional.
Much like the training, marathon day itself requires planning. Make sure to plan ahead for meals the day before, and the morning of, the race. Ask your doctor or nutritionist what is right for you, but think along the lines of sustainable energy and complex carbohydrates. Dress for the weather. Layer up with thin layers if it is cold out, and do not be afraid to shed layers as the race goes on. Unfortunately, unless you have a friend in the crowd, it isn’t uncommon to lose a garment or two along the way if you don’t want to carry it. Do not wear your favorite pullover!
Bring your own water and fuel, especially in warmer or more humid climates, and remember to drink small sips even if you are not thirsty at the time. Practice with fueling options such as supplement gels, chews, etc. Race day should not be the first time you use your selected fuel. Think of your longer training runs as rehearsals to feel how your stomach reacts to the fuel. It may take a bit of experimenting to find the right fuel for you, but when you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes at a time it’s vitally important that re-fueling be part of the plan.
Try to schedule some practice runs on the course so you don’t run into any unexpected hills or surprises. If this isn’t possible, research the course and plan some training runs that mimic the topography. This means that if there are hills in the race you should train running hills as well!
Lastly, a marathon can be tough on your feet and other sensitive areas of the body. Double layered socks are a great way to avoid blisters, as are anti-chafing gels for areas such as underarms, thighs, etc.
Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy the run and the experience. Training for and completing a marathon is a huge accomplishment!