A marathon is no easy task, and that should be a given. At twenty-six miles long, a marathon is one of the most grueling races currently in existence. That’s before factoring in weather, terrain, and elevation.
Marathon runners don’t have to have the biggest muscles in the world. As we mentioned in previous articles, cardio is a lot about breathing and a strong mental game. Of course, if we want to get competitive, then it really does become a lot about having one of the more toned bodies in the race.
A marathon is more than just who can run the longest without getting tired. At a certain point, everyone gets exhausted and at that point it becomes about who is smart and trained for these situations. Don’t expect to be able to run around the world tomorrow. Even the Olympians didn’t get to where they are now without years of training.
So how do you prepare for a marathon? The answer isn’t pretty nor is it simple, but with consistency and effort, you can definitely progress up the ladder to that goal of twenty-six miles. In this guide, we’ll explain the basics.
The first thing you need to do is start running. If running hasn’t been your forte for a while, then it’s better later than never. As you might have guessed, the goal is to run further every day without stopping. If your schedule is constricting, it’s not terribly important that you run every day, but that you run as often as time permits.
Twenty-six miles gives you a much higher risk of injury, so that’s why it’s important to consult a physician or doctor to see if your body is ready to start training. Once you’re cleared, its time to start running.
5k and 10k (3.1, 6.2) races are good beginners races. It can take months, even years for some to prepare for a marathon, but that’s why it’s more of a personal challenge and commitment for some people. These races shouldn’t be taken lightly either, but they are far easier than a straight twenty-six mile stretch.
Having good running form will help you cover ground faster. If you feel your body is dragging and your movements becoming lazy, mark those times so you can improve on them.
- Take good strides and make sure your feet get adequate traction on the ground.
Once your body as adapting to running on a consistent basis, you can really start getting into the grueling parts of training. That’s not to say that everyone trains the same way for a marathon, but there are a few key pointers that you can pick up on to make yourself more efficient.
- High-intensity intervals-you might think that a marathon is all about endurance and longevity. However, pacing yourself and even sprinting shorter distances will build your overall endurance and willingness to go faster at certain times.
- These intervals can be sprints or short distance miles depending on what you’re feeling. Remember, consistency will be the game changer for you.
- Weekly goals-you should make weekly goals to run a certain amount of miles each week. If you are consistent in reaching your weekly mileage over the course of the next couple months, the more mileage you’ll be able to cover in the future.
- Recovery-As you go on longer and longer runs, you will have to take days off in order to let your body recover. These aren’t days where you can rest for a couple hours and then go running again. Your body will need a full eight to nine hours of sleep and a large meal to recover the energy you lost.
- As the day of your race draws closer, the key is actually going to be laying off how many miles you run. If you’ve been training consistently for months, your body will be up to the challenge come race day.
It’s a good idea to begin training for a marathon at a minimum of six months before the race. If you can train even earlier, that’s even better.
You’ll pretty much have to throw junk foods and beverages out the window when considering a marathon. Some people can get by with having fast food as a convenience, but definitely try to limit your intake of high fats, greases, and sugars.
For the longer runs, it may not be feasible to jog and run with a water bottle. A hydration pack may be a good purchase if you tend to dry out quickly.
- Don’t try to do the long runs or the marathon twenty-six miles, because few people can run it like Pheidippides, the Greek soldier for whom the race honors.
Lots of protein, carbs, and water after running are going to be necessary to recover that energy loss. In a way, it’s not too different and lifting or muscle building but you’re not actively trying to lift. Sure, your body is going to get one hell of a workout after running so much, but cohesive breathing and keeping your mind on the goal are going to get you to the finish line as much as your muscles are.
You may hear of experience runners talk of “hitting the wall“, which is a point where one’s glycogen count runs critically low. Glycogen is an energy converted from carbohydrates you consume. When you run, glycogen is burned to produce immediate energy.
The body can store up to two-thousand calories worth of glycogen, which is enough energy for around 18-20 miles worth of running. At this point, your body begins to burn fat to use for energy at a far slower pace than glycogen. Even the best runners in the world will hit the wall at one point or the other.
- Some runners try to maximize the amount of energy burned from fat during a race before their body switches to glycogen. They avoid large sources of carbs so their body focuses on fat.
Its common for runners to carry energy gels, small packets of glycogen to propel oneself for the final miles. If energy gels aren’t your thing, you’ll want to look for digestible (and small) snacks that can be converted to energy quickly and easily. Consuming water with gels or snacks will be key to getting that energy conversion.
Here’s a quick overview of what we discussed.
- Starting out-running/jogging and building mileage each day, week, month
- Intensity-interval training, having goals, and getting good amounts of rest
- Eating/Hydrating-consume lots of carbs, protein, and water every day that you run
- Running the race-pacing yourself and anticipate hitting the wall in the 18-21 mile mark. Keep protein/glycogen/carb packets at the ready.
Everyone has their different method of preparation. At the root of the entire preparation process is consistency. Of course, you should take days off but remain vigilant in your progress towards your weekly and monthly goals.
Remember, much of running and cardio has to do with controlling your breath. If you feel your muscles are tiring out, it could just be that your breathing is inconsistent and becoming labored. Head on over to some of our tips on how to control your breathing both in the world of sports and in your daily life.
Do you have any useful tips when preparing for marathons or long distance running in general? Let us know in the comments!