So, a friend of a cousin got you to sign up for the Durban City Marathon. Great idea as it takes place in one of the warmest places in South Africa, just after the heat of summer has abated somewhat. A wonderful first run over 42 195 kilometres, which can easily be combined with a holiday or long-weekend break for the family.
Anyone who has entered a distance race of this magnitude will tell you that they have experienced a measure of apprehension, anxiety or self-doubt. They have, of course, also heard the smart-alecks calling the ‘crazy’ or well-wishers saying ‘Wow!’, ‘Good for you’ or ‘That’s awesome!’
Entering a race, such as a marathon, is an exhilarating experience! To get yourself over the finish line, however, is a feat which is going to require quite a bit of preparation and commitment.
This raises the question: How best do I start to prepare my body and mind for the demanding task of running for somewhere between four and six hours?
To find the answer to this often-posed query, consider carefully what you wish to achieve by running this particular distance. The first thing you need to know is how to train for a marathon. Your training regime will differ from someone who’s looking to improve their marathon time, if you’re a novice who’s going into the race fairly green and simply hoping to finish the race in one piece.
This article should provide with the answers you’re seeking, whether you wish to discover the value of a good training program, learning about the apparel you require or you just want some advice as regards training for such a tough challenge.
Why is it Crucial to Know How to Prepare for A Marathon?
Preparing for a marathon is all important!
Many experienced marathon competitors will state that they discovered that training to run 26.2 miles was far more challenging than actually running the race. Do, however, not assume that this means that you can have a crack at a marathon without any training! What they actually intend to carry across, is that they found this test of human perseverance, far less challenging because of all the preparation they put in on their way to the starting line.
Is it possible to finish a 42 195 kilometres run despite not following a dedicated training programme?
One also has to consider what the effects on the body would be, if you were to attempt something that many would mildly describe as ludicrous. It is possible to finish such a long run … but then it might just finish you!
Yes, someone who is healthy, fit or robust, could manage to complete a marathon, without having followed a training schedule - but it is not advisable to do so. Besides the cardio-vascular, muscular and skeletal demands placed on the body, the great physical demands have, in the past, caused exhaustion and dehydration in even experienced marathon runners.
Adequate mental and physical preparation cannot be over-emphasised! Heart attacks and even deaths have occurred in marathon races. If these facts don’t get you to commit to a dedicated training programme, then you should rather not sign up for a marathon!
The benefits of preparing for a marathon and maintaining focus and discipline throughout, have numerous benefits. You will lower the risk of possible injury as well as the chance of any health issues arising from the running of a marathon. Also, the time it takes your body to recover, will be shorter than had you not trained sufficiently! This is because, during training, you would have primed your body to run a very long distance and given it enough time to recover. It won’t, thus, come as a shock to your system!
You could also consider contacting a professional personal trainer online to show you how to train for a marathon.
Equipment Required for Marathon Training
In the age we live in, where information is at your fingertips 24 hours a day, many runners go online or browse through magazines seeking advice on the best way to kit themselves out for the big day.
Below is a brief overview of all the items which are essential in the run-up to race day:
- Running Shoes
This is, in all probability, the most important tool in your running arsenal. The value of a good pair of shoes should not be underestimated.
A well-chosen pair, in the right size, should be comfortable, with a gap, the width of your thumb, between your toes and the front end of the shoe. You don’t need to buy the most expensive pair in the store, but you must ensure that you buy the right pair for the shape of your foot and your running style.
The way your foot strikes the ground is unique to each person. It is, thus, immensely important to approach a professional to assess your gait. This may be done, at no cost to you, at many running stores, which will have a treadmill available for you to run on. Alternatively, you could consult a podiatrist or biokineticist, who are trained professionals and will set you off on the right foot from the very outset! You can then head off to the store knowing whether you should purchase a neutral or support shoe or whether you can get buy with a shoe which has a small heel-to-toe drop (HTD).
- Moisture-Wicking Gear
You are definitely going to be pretty sweaty at the end of 42 kilometres of running, especially on a warm day. This can cause you to feel very hot and uncomfortable, besides looking like a wet rag.
To ensure that you stay and look cool, invest in a moisture-wicking running top, which is designed to wick the moisture away from your body. This will ensure that, even a k 32, you’ll still be trotting along comfortably- no sweat! If, however, you’re with a running club, you may have to run in club-issued gear.
- Waist Pack
On race day or when doing a training run, you may require a place to put your car keys or your cell phone. You may also be carrying a race bar or two as well as some change for some eventuality, like having to pay to use a toilet.
There is no way that you could carry these items in your hands. Your hands become sweaty and slippery as you progress through your run and your keys, besides jingling irritatingly in your pocket, could hop out of your pocket. It’s also very uncomfortable to carry a bag.
This is where a waist pack comes into its own! They come in various designs, sizes and designs. Some even come with two small bottles which can be filled with water and/ or your favourite sports drink, which clip onto the belt. This frees up your hands and allows you to cruise by the first couple of refreshment tables, where there is often a fair amount of congestion. So, scout around for one that suits you.
- Anti-Chafing Balm
Not the nicest of topics to discuss, but an important one! Chafing can really put paid to your completing your first marathon or clocking a PB (personal best). A sure-fire way to obviate this painful condition is to use a product such as Body Glide or petroleum jelly. You could also wear an under-shorts which stretches down towards your knees. They will prevent your shorts riding up between your legs and, so, prevent an irritating and distracting bout of chafing.
Tracking Your Progress
You are in the process of changing yourself – mind and body. It is a great idea to keep a record of how you progress by keeping a log of your training sessions. This will become an important facet of your preparation as it will remind you of the last distance you have run and prevent you from ramping up your distance, in particular, too quickly.
Further, it will ensure that your build up is logically sequenced and that your cross-training sessions, speed work, strength training and periods of rest are all recorded for future reference. When you cross that finish line at the end of your first marathon, this record of your preparation will fill you with a sense of pride, when you consider how far you’ve come!
Below are several popular ways that runners keep track of their progress:
- Make Use of a Running App
There are a number of apps available to records and save your practice runs on your phone. Your records on apps like Runkeeper and Strava can also be shared on Facebook where friends, family and fellow-runners can view them.
Apps also provide feedback on your mileage, pace and elevation, but also provide some external motivation to get you up and out there!
- Running Logbook or Diary
As indicated earlier, at the start of this chapter, a diary can help you tremendously to ensure that you stay on target and that you don’t step outside the bounds of a moderate, logical increase in the intensity of your training regime.
The diary will reflect how you felt on a particular day and what the weather conditions were like and how you managed to drag yourself out of bed at 03:30 (to start a 04:30 run), when all the world was still warmly tucked in.
- Social Media Posts
Everybody who is anybody is active on social media nowadays. Posting your progress on Instagram of Facebook can serve as inspiration to get you improving every week. Putting yourself out there, in this fashion, may serve to motivate you as you continue on your voyage of self-improvement. It may also serve to connect you with others who are on a similar journey in the wider runner community.
A Marathon Training Programme: Beginner
Runners spend no less than 20 weeks preparing for a marathon. This extended period is crucial as you will be preparing your body to cover an unusually long distance.
A beginner marathon training plan may look something like this:
- Weeks 1 – 4: Start your marathon journey by employing a walk-run strategy. Combine walking and running while you build up your cardio-vascular capacity to the point where you can run nonstop, without walking.
- Weeks 5 – 10: Increase your mileage (kilometrage). You are now acclimatising your body to handle longer distances.
- Weeks 11 – 15: Keep on increasing mileage and run a half-marathon.
- Weeks 16 - 20: Continue to ramp up the km’s to about 29 or 30 km, before you cut back (taper), allowing the body to recover before race day.
Each of us is a unique individual and, so, don’t be too surprised if you are advised to follow a somewhat different plan! One thing will remain common though: the need to incrementally increase the distance you run! Stick to your beginner marathon training plan and enjoy the sweet fruits of success at the end of your first ‘impossible’ run!
Break a leg … no, not literally! Get out there and become a legend in your neighbourhood!
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