Running a marathon is not an unattainable goal for most people. The marathon is, however, something that is not to be taken lightly. For many people, it is a difficult journey into their physical and mental souls, an achievement of which they can be very proud. For others, it is the stepping stone to even more long-distance adventures. For all, the marathon is a unique challenge.
The marathon is exactly 26.2 miles (about 42.16 km). According to legend, it is the distance between Marathon and Athens, which the Athenian runner Pheidippides ran to tell his fellow Athenians of the famous victory over the Persians at Marathon. Actually, the .2 miles was added later, when the Olympics were in London.
Most people who run a marathon don’t just start right out and run it. Rather, they run shorter-distance races as building blocks, in order to prepare to run the longer-distance marathon. A half marathon is 13.1 miles (about 21.08 km) and is a common pre-marathon race. Other races of shorter distance include the 10k, which is 6.2 miles, and the 5k, which is 3.1 miles.
For each of these races, a runner will prepare by running a few times a week, varying the time, distance and speed in order to maximize his or her training. Common preparations for races up to a half marathon routinely involve running distances exceeding that of the race itself. Most medical professionals, however, recommend that marathon runners not exceed the 26.2 miles before race day, because studies have shown that such long-distance training can break the body down more than can be easily repaired.
A common marathon training plan has a runner steadily building up the total number of miles or kilometers run per week and the number of miles or kilometers covered in each run. Marathon runners usually have the longest run on the weekend, with the distance of that long run steadily increasing until it reaches a maximum of 20 or 22 miles (about 32.19 or 35.41 km). Shorter runs during the week will be a mixture of time and distance, with the overall goal to maintain fitness and to build strength and endurance.
As with other athletes, marathon runners will need to pay close attention to the food and drink that they consume, not only during training runs but also at other times during the weeks and months leading up to the race. Proper nutrition, with moderated intake of fat and concentration on carbohydrates and proteins, is vital to a marathon runner’s success. The food and drink that a marathon runner takes in during training runs should be first and foremost easily digestible. Especially on longer runs, the body needs increasing numbers of calories that can deliver both quick and long-lasting fuel. Running is an activity that can be extremely hard on the body and its nutritional needs, and a marathon runner especially needs to replenish lost fuel, both during and after a run.
Many sports experts recommend that a marathon runner also do other athletic things. Such cross-training activities can be cycling, swimming, aerobics, skiing, walking or a host of other sports. The idea behind cross-training is to keep the body in shape while giving it a rest from the heavy pounding that running creates.