Running a Marathon: Training Essentials

If you’ve read my personal experience and still feel compelled to run a marathon, I compiled a breif list of basics you can use to get acclimated to the idea.

Spring and summer offersmany competitive outdoor opportunities and one favorite is the marathon. The idea of completing a marathon is a goal for many casual and competitive runners alike, but to go through the months of training required to complete the event requires so much time and focus that only a small percentage of running enthusiasts achieve this goal.

A marathon is 26.2 miles long and according to MarathonGuide.Com, more than 403,000 runners completed a marathon in the USA in 2007 with the average time and age for participants being 4:41:33 and 40 years old respectively. As you can see, even finishing an event that requires just under 5 hours of continual physical exertion is an accomplishment of which all participants should be very proud.

If you’ve decided you would like to attempt this daunting task, remember an event of this magnitude requires a significant time commitment, planning, and dedication. If you’re out of shape or running a marathon for the first time, it takes even more work more work to get yourself conditioned enough to go the distance. Before you even step onto the road (or treadmill), there are some important parts of your training plan that should be considered.

Training Schedule
First, decide how many months in advance you’ll start your training. A person who is already running on a regular basis typically begins training about 3 months from the day of the race. If you’ve made finishing a marathon you’re means of losing weight and getting back in shape, you’ll start your training program about 4 months in advance. If you haven’t been running at all, you should plan to begin regular cardiovascular exercise at least 6 months in advance. There are hundreds of reputable books and websites you can use as a guide for putting together your training program. A few of them include the website: http://www.runnersworld.com, or the book: Basic Marathon Training: All the Technique and Gear You Need to Get Started by Leigh Ann Berry, Don Garber, and Chip Mitchell

Shoes
Throughout your training, you’ll be putting quite a few miles on your shoes so purchase a new pair of shoes when your training begins. I recommend visiting a specialty store whose personnel have experience in advising serious and competitive runners. This will ensure that you find a shoe that will complement both your running gait and foot strike. Don’t make the mistake of training for months in an old pair of shoes and then buying new shoes a day or two before the race–you’ll end up with blisters (you probably will anyway). Believe me, the huge blisters from a new pair of shoes will be FAR more painful than the small ones you’ll get by using the shoes you’ve already broken in.

It’s not like you cannot buy a new pair of shoes during your training program, just don’t wait until the week before the race. You might even consider buying two pairs of the same shoes at the beginning of your training schedule and using both of them equally throughout your training.

Hydration
Ensure you’re properly hydrated for every run by drinking half your body-weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs, drink 80 ounces of water every day. When it’s time for a long training run, keep a water bottle handy at all times. You can do this by stashing water bottles in strategic locations on your route, wearing a utility belt that holds water bottles, or carrying it by hand for the entire run (not recommended, you’ll drink all the water in the first half of the run and throw the bottle on the ground b/c you are sick of carrying it).

Caloric Intake
Even if you are running this marathon to lose weight you must still eat enough calories to have energy for the entire training regimen. You’ll want to load up on carbohydrates before long runs and keep a pretty even caloric intake throughout the week.

Recovery Time
Remember to incorporate recovery time into your training schedule. Your muscles will need rest after a full week of training plus an additional long run. You could even consider adding a weekly or monthly massage in china into your schedule to assist in your recovery.

Although by no means a comprehensive guide, these are a few of the topics you should consider as you map out your marathon plan.

Sources: http://www.marathonguide.com

Running a Marathon…My Perspective

For a smile….

In case you weren’t sure, a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Yep, 26.2 horrendous miles. Unless you’re nut’s that is, then you might actually replace the word horrendous with enjoyable. If you can imagine running as far and as long as you possibly could and then adding 5 miles until the finish line, that would describe my experience when running a marathon. Sure, the first 10 miles were great, heck even the first 13 miles felt like a breeze, but once you hit the wall with 7 miles to go, it gets ugly!

It was the hottest Memorial day on record, but I didn’t care, I was running a marathon! I hardly noticed the salt that had crystallized on numerous parts of my body, the dry mouth, the fact that I wasn’t sweating in 90+ temperatures, or the runners sitting on the side of the road who had dropped out due to heat exhaustion. I was so delirious it didn’t even bother me to see a man being carted away on a stretcher out of the corner of my eye (that’s right, he was placed in an ambulance and taken to the hospital!).

It wasn’t until mile 19 that it really hit me, I still had 7+ miles to go! As the ‘race’ went on, I began hoping I had read the mile marker incorrectly (every time I passed one). Unfortunately, some of my cognitive abilities remained in tact during the race and yes, each time I approached one they did seem to be in numerical order. Even at mile 22 (yes 22), I still had over 4 miles left. FOUR MILES!!! Seems like a long ways to go, haven’t I been running ALL MORNING? (yes you have been, that’s what a marathon is). Does this so called ‘running club’ know what they are doing…did they mark this race out correctly?? These were the thoughts rolling through my mind as my knees began to ache, my hips felt raw, and I began to wonder if the heat had burned holes through the bottom of my shoes.

All I could do was stare straight ahead, I heard nothing, every step burned, every breath ached….But then I saw the finish. Crowds of people began cheering me on, and the promise of finally being able to complete this stupid thing. And then I did it, I crossed the finish line! I couldn’t believe it, I had finished a marathon!

The glory lasted for days, I had finished a marathon, HOORAY!!! I knew then that I would always run marathons, that I loved running. It was decided, for the rest of my life I would hit the open road, do a long run every weekend and have no one to answer to, loving every minute of it.

WRONG! How many marathons have I completed….ONE. And I’ll never do another one unless someone pays me. After the ‘afterglow’ wore off, running another marathon didn’t seem as desirable. Actually it doesn’t sound like any fun at all to me. But, if you’re interested in running a marathon and feeling that sense of accomplishment (I won’t lie, it feels cool to have done one). We’ll be reviewing the ins and outs of marathon training (for beginners…obviously!) over the next few posts.

Strategies for Running Your Best 5K this Year

Participating in running races gives you a method for tracking your progress. You can compare times from beginning to end of summer and see how much you improved. Plus you get to be outside and enjoy the excitement of crossing the finish line. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in fantastic shape and want to push yourself or if you are a beginner who wants to make finishing a 5k the first goal they achieve.  A 5k offers something for everyone.  The distance is short enough so beginners won’t be intimidated. Seasoned runners and athletes can sign up expecting to maintain a high level of intensity throughout the entire run and get a fantastic cardio workout. Either way it’s a fantastic summer event to add to your workout routine…Try it!

To prepare for a race you should incorporate both training runs and cross-training into your routine.  During running workouts, you can compare distance and time for each week, incorporate indoor and outdoor runs, sprints, hills, and distance runs.  In addition to running, strength training, core strength, and other forms of cardio will improve your performance when race day arrives.  When it’s time to strength train, remember to work the entire body as opposed to focusing only on your legs.  Upper body, lower body, and core muscle groups work together throughout the running motion, so training the entire body will be more effective in improving your performance.

I found two studies that talked about strength training and running being used together in a training program. In the first study, it was found that explosive strength training improved the 5K time endurance athletes [1].  Explosive training can be defined as performing the eccentric (lowering) portion of a movement at normal speed and the concentric (raising) portion rapidly and forcefully as possible.  This type of training increases the nervous systems ability to fire the muscles at higher rates of speed and allows you to generate more force and in turn will assist with your ability to turn the legs over at a faster rate of speed throughout the running movement.

 

The second study indicated that endurance athletes could benefit from strength training if they were doing certain activities that required fast-twitch muscle fibers [2].  These studies were done on trained endurance athletes and indicated some positive correlations between strength training and running, depending on the distance. Most athletes will  benefit from strength training as a cross-training activity to improve 5K time [1], although endurance runners who run 4-6 days per week may not see notable improvement in running performance for longer races [2].

If you have just signed up for one of your first races or you haven’t raced in a long time, you definitely want to start training runs at least 4 weeks before race day (for a 5K). If the race you’ve chosen is a longer than 5K, plan on training at least 8 weeks prior to the race.  Before you start training, design a training program that includes various types of running and regular strength training.  Beginners should start with basic and controlled strength movements before moving on to explosive training.

References

1. Leena Paavolainen1, Keijo Häkkinen2, Ismo Hämäläinen1, Ari Nummela1, and Heikki Rusko <em>Journal of Applied Physiology Vol. 86, Issue 5, 1527-1533, May 1999</em> Explosive-strength training improves 5-km running time by improving running economy and muscle power

2. R. C. Hickson, B. A. Dvorak, E. M. Gorostiaga, T. T. Kurowski, and C. Foster

J Appl Physiol, Nov 1988; 65: 2285 – 2290 Potential for strength and endurance training to amplify endurance performance

Trail Running…The Ultimate Mind Eraser!

Trail Running…The Ultimate Mind Eraser!

Have you ever gone trail running? It is an amazing experience! In our family we have a trail near our home that we run and walk regularly. Recently, we have begun affectionately referring to it as “The Mind Eraser” because of my Dad’s favorite running hat (he wears it every time…notice the sweat marks!).

I’ve always viewed running as a sort of therapy, it’s a great way to manage negative emotions and clear the mind. But trail running takes it to a whole new level. While intense hills, traversing rocks and roots, and avoiding poison ivy keep you focused, the beautiful surroundings inspires a state of awe and peace of mind.

Before I knew the challenge and joy of trail running, I used to run on the road all the time. I ran 4-7 miles about five to six days per week. Some people might even say I was a little addicted to running (because I once ran a marathon on a whim, (dumb)). After the marathon, I began to adjust my fitness routine and tailor it to meet my goals. Long runs didn’t fit in with my lifestyle anymore (too much time) &amp; wasn’t helping me reach my body weight/body fat goals.

I totally changed my attitude about running. Instead of setting a mileage goal for the week and forcing myself to run every mile, I began to have fun by doing speed training and trail running. These took less time, were more enjoyable, and helped me reach my goals.

The photo at right is the trail head entrance. Immediately as you enter the trail, a long steep hill warms up your legs, it’s impossible to run this section without being winded.

I’ve introduced this trail to friends and family over the last few years and everyone loves it. We appreciate the fact that the trail is so close. We get to enjoy the beauty of nature while getting our daily exercise at the same time, what a blessing!

The photo shown here depicts a wonderful stand of large white pines that border a portion of the trail. It’s marvelous running through this area because of all the soft needles on the ground and the promise of the upcoming lake view. The only problem is, it’s about this time during the trail when you really start to feel the burn and begin to contemplate walking the rest of the way.

Next, after a few more treacherous hills, you come to a boardwalk that serves as a bridge over a small, isolated lake. This is one of the few lakes in our area that isn’t surrounded by houses and infested with jet ski’s and ski boats. The only way for people to access this lake is by canoe, kayak, or swimming.

Once you cross the lake, you’ve completed about 2/3’s of the trail. The only problem with that is the final leg of this particular trail has one of the most difficult hills of all time (at least in my opinion). The main thing that keeps you moving is the promise of the beautiful sunset at the finish line…and it’s worth it! I highly recommend you getting out and walking or running some natural trails in your area. You’ll not only give yourself a workout, you’ll refresh your mind and spirit as well. Just don’t forget the bug spray!

Are you interested in incorporating trail running or trail walking into your health and fitness routine? If you have trails in your area, try them out, leave a comment and let me know about your experience!