Just the thought of running 26 miles can play with the head, not to mention the toll it takes on the body. Training your body to withstand the punishment of long distance running should be taken seriously both in the running and the nutrition aspects of training.
HOW TO TRAIN
Much of an individual’s training program will depend on their fitness level prior to kick-starting this endeavor.
“If you run daily and have 10 or more miles at one time under your belt then the extra miles will not be too soon or too hard on your body,” said Woodall. “There are many free training plans out there. I would recommend using a known site, such as ‘Running times’ or ‘Runners World.’ There’re others but these sites have it down to a science.”
Former U.S. Olympian and finisher of 146 marathons, Jeff Galloway, said he has a method that can work for everyone and prevent first time runners from wearing themselves out.
The biggest challenge for first time runners is the tendency to run continuously until they reach exhaustion or near exhaustion, Galloway said.
“My run-walk-run method has worked for everyone I’ve worked with,” Galloway said. “Each person only runs a few minutes or seconds, followed by a strategic walk break. This erases fatigue. With liberal walk breaks the mental challenge is significantly reduced, but still there. Walk breaks allow the runner to focus on each running segment, giving the individual control over the experience.”
Preparing for the marathon should begin well before the race.
“Depending on your level of fitness I would go with nothing less than a 12 week plan but a 16-to-18 would be better,” Woodall said. “Your muscles don’t know what distance is, all they know is to work overtime. If you condition your muscles for long runs, over time they will adapt and become used to running three to five hours.”
WHEN TO REST
Galloway suggests a training schedule of running three times a week.
“Thirty minutes on Tuesday, Thursday, and a longer run on the weekend,” Galloway said. “The one long run is every other week until 17 miles, and then every third week. On the short mileage weekend, the distance doesn’t need to exceed seven miles.”
Taking time off from running and resting the body is as vital as the running itself, especially to avoid injury.
“I recommend four days off from running each week,” Galloway said. “Every-other-day runners have the lowest rate of injury.”
THE FEW, THE PROUD
All the training and hard work is worth it in the end. Only one-tenth of one percent of the population finishes a marathon each year.
Finishing a marathon can be a life changing experience, Galloway said. It can unlock potential the individual never knew they had. By running conservatively and inserting the correct ratio of walk breaks it’s possible to avoid injury and pain, while reaching an elite level of fitness.
PROPER FOOT WEAR
Having the proper foot attire for these long runs can be overlooked but is important.
“Running in old or worn-out shoes is the most common cause of running issues, to include shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis,” said Lauren K. Baker, exercise and program manager for Marine Corps Community Service Henderson Hall.
The current trend is for running shoes to be made lighter and more breathable, so they tend to break down faster, Baker said. The old adage of changing shoes out about every 500 miles or six months has changed to about every 300-500 miles or three-to-four months.
The diet portion of training plays a role but doesn’t change as much as some might think.
Only before long runs does the diet need to change, avoid fat, high fiber, dairy, alcohol and any individual irritating foods within 24 hours before a long run or the marathon, Galloway said. Stay away from large meals the night before or the morning of a long run or marathon. Fine-tune the diet prior to long runs and you will have a diet plan.that you can barely manage for 15 reps. Move from one exercise to the next as quickly as possible.