It’s officially marathon season, as runners around the globe challenge themselves to compete in competitions of stamina and endurance. The Boston Marathon was held on April 17 and many more will be held throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. If you’re thinking of registering for one of these events, there are a few things you should know first. A full marathon is 26.2 miles, so obviously running a marathon is not for everyone. It’s a great thing to put on your bucket list and be able to say you’ve accomplished, but you won’t be able to go from three-mile runs to running a marathon overnight. Marathon runners are in prime physical shape, but they didn’t start out that way. You need to work your way up to running a marathon.
Whether you’re training for a full marathon, a half, a quarter, or a shorter race like a 5K, the rules are still the same. Only you really can really know what physical extremes you’re capable of pushing yourself to. If you’re a casual runner who enjoys leisurely jogs around your neighborhood, then you probably want to start small with an event like a 5K. If you’re used to long distance, 20+ mile runs, then you just may be capable of a marathon. Regardless of the distance of the race, you’ll need to be prepared in order to finish the race and avoid injury. Here are the tips you should follow to train for a marathon, or a race of any length.
Get your gear in order
It may sound like a trivial detail, but having the proper running shoes is critical for how well you run. Too tight, too loose, not enough support or not enough traction, and you could injure yourself and impair your ability to compete in future races. Running shoes are one accessory you definitely don’t want to be cheap with!
Stretch before every run
The pre-run stretch is just as important, if not more important, than the run itself. If you don’t stretch your muscles to loosen them up before the run, you could be putting yourself in real physical danger by putting too much strain on under-worked muscles. It’s also important to cool down after running to allow your body to recover from the workout. Stretching before running is believed to reduce muscle tension and increase flexibility, improve muscular coordination, stimulate blood circulation and raise energy levels, and increase the range of movement in the joints. Consult rei.com for some stretches you can try out before your run.
Start training early
It’s vital, when training for a race, to allow yourself plenty of time to work up to a comfortable run, close to, but not quite as far as, the distance of the race. Marathon runners start training months in advance, sometimes even a whole year before the event. If you try to take on too much too fast, you could injure yourself. Instead, run consistently each week, gradually working your way up to longer runs. If you’re training for a full marathon, you could start with shorter races like 5Ks, 10Ks, or a half marathon. Eventually, you’ll want to be running about 20 miles each time on your weekly training runs; if you can make it that far, the last six miles you’ll need to complete the marathon should come naturally on race day due to the increased adrenaline and crowd support.
Don’t overdo it
Depending on your experience level, you may need to start with intervals of walking and jogging before working up to a consistent run. Also, be sure to keep a steady, consistent pace. If you exert yourself too much at the start of your run, you won’t have the energy to keep going. Take deep breaths and be conscious of how your body feels.
No matter how hot or cold the temperature is, it’s easy to become overheated and dehydrated from running. Therefore, drink plenty of water. Bring a water bottle with you while you’re training (try a hydration pack or belt if you don’t want to hold a bottle the whole time) and on race day, be sure to stop at the hydration stations along the way.