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Marathon running is not for every athlete. It is designed for runners who wish to test the extent of their ability, push their bodies beyond simple treadmills and trail runs. Marathon running can be an extremely rewarding physical challenge, but it does carry several health risks. By preparing properly for a marathon, you can improve your chances of a successful, injury free run. Proper preparation for a marathon begins weeks or even months before the race.
If you are not currently an avid runner, set a marathon as your long-term goal and work up to it with shorter racers. While nearly every physically capable person can train themselves to have the endurance and strength to run a marathon, don’t expect to be running one tomorrow. Five kilometer (3.1 miles) races are a good place to start, once you are able to easily run that much on a regular basis.
Before beginning your training regimen, some experts recommend undergoing a full physical with a doctor. Tell your doctor of your marathon plans and ask them to make sure you are in sound muscular and cardiovascular shape. Marathons are supposed to improve your health, not aggravate medical conditions; do not attempt to run a marathon or train for one against a doctor’s orders.
Purchase quality marathon running gear, such as shoes and breathable running clothes. Remember, the most expensive gear is not necessarily the best. Many websites offer running shoe guides with extensive editorial and user reviews. Wearing the proper shoes may correct running imperfections, improve your performance, and most importantly, prevent injury.
If your marathon running training regimen includes outdoor runs, be sure to take basic safety precautions each time you set out on a run. Carry identification, a cell phone, and plenty of water in case of an emergency. If you run with headphones, be certain to pay careful attention to traffic and take headphones off before crossing any streets. You may also want to run with a friend if you will be going through unknown or unsafe areas; at the very least, make sure one other person knows your route and when you will be running.
Many runners believe that the most important training you can do for a marathon is mental rather than physical. In order to get through a grueling training program and race, you must have clear and specific goals for yourself and a support system to help you get through it. Include friends and family in your running life as much as possible; even if they can’t run the race themselves, knowing they will be cheering at the finish may push you through a lot of miles.
Set goals that are reasonable and achievable for you. Chances are, you are not an Olympic marathon runner, so do not expect to reach comparable times. By setting goals you can achieve, you avoid the frustration of failure. Moreover, while a marathon is meant to push you, pushing yourself too hard can result in injury and take you out of the race completely.
According to experts, one of the biggest rookie mistakes is underestimating the amount of water you need to drink. Dehydration is a serious problem in marathon running, one that can land you in the hospital if you are not careful. Be sure to carry more water than you think you will need and remember to keep hydrating after your race or training session.
On race day, do not let excitement get the better of you. Eat what you normally eat before training, do not decide to switch running shoes on the day of the race, and try to get enough sleep the night before. When your race starts, keep to your own pace and resist the urge to run faster than usual; you are likely filled with adrenaline that may quickly burn out and leave you on the side of the road long before the finish line.
Once you finish your race, celebrate the way you deserve! You have pushed your body to a level most people will never achieve, and have put in every hour of hard work necessary to make it to the end. Be careful of celebrating with too much alcohol the night after the race; while you may be ready to party, your body probably would appreciate a nice long rest. Take a few days off if necessary, and then start training for your next challenge.