Just 0.5 percent of Americans complete a marathon in their lifetimes.
Being a part of this elite group is inspiring, rewarding, and undeniably both physically and mentally challenging. Not everyone has the necessary strength of mind and body. If you think you have what it takes, there is one training secret you absolutely need to know.
The Secret To A Successful Marathon
Experts agree. The secret to marathon training and preparation is deceptively simple: start small. Marathons are finished mile by mile, step by step. Whether you are an experienced runner or just beginning, the rules for training are the same. Start small and break the training down into manageable steps. This strategy works all throughout your training and during the event itself.
Tip #1: Running Gear
You run on your feet. During a 26.2 mile race and the hundreds of training miles leading up to it, your feet need adequate protection. This small detail quickly turns into a big problem without proper foot support.
Purchase a high-quality pair of running shoes for training and if you can afford it, a lightweight pair specifically designed for marathons. Save the latter until a few days before the race to prevent too much wear and tear. Comfortable, supportive running shoes help prevent injury and unnecessary fatigue.
Running clothing is equally important. Wear whatever is comfortable when you train. Remember that 26.2 miles is a long time to wear the same outfit. Your clothes need to keep you comfortable and cool. Cotton is not going to cut it. Lightweight running clothes that wick away sweat and moisture are the preferred apparel of marathon and long distance runners.
There is only one gadget that you need during your training: a stopwatch. It doesn’t matter if it is on your phone, on your watch, or an old school stopwatch. As long as it keeps track of time, it is an invaluable training tool for setting your pace. A pedometer is another useful tool. Smartphone users have a plethora of marathon training and running apps to choose from for added support.
Tip #2: Establishing A Training Schedule
There are many marathon websites devoted to training schedules and plenty of professional marathon coaches available for serious runners. Both are valid training methods. The most important thing to remember when establishing a training schedule is to start small.
Set goals and keep them.
Commit to your training plan and follow through. There is no way a beginning runner can complete a 26.2 mile run if he or she can’t run five miles, four miles, or three miles. Start at the beginning and work your way up.
Tip #3: Run Shorter Races First
The racing environment is different than running the back roads by your house. It is something marathon runners need to experience before the race. Adrenaline and competition bring out different aspects of our running selves. Start out with a few 5K runs to get a feel for the racing atmosphere.
Tip #4: Tips For Walkers
If you enjoy walking or are physically unable to run, walking a marathon is certainly an option. More marathons are welcoming walkers to their ranks as the races grow in popularity. Just like running, walking long distances requires training. Walking is certainly easier on joints than running. You still need comfortable walking shoes and clothing for protection. Start off with short walks and work up to longer ones. Carry a timer and monitor your walking pace.
Tip #5: The Little Things Matter
As training progress and the race draws nearer, the little things start to add up. What you put into your body affects how you run. Different food and drink affect our bodies differently. Alcoholic beverages are certainly enjoyable, but save them for after the race. Getting enough sleep is vital for runners about to embark on a long distance run. If possible, try to keep your life as stress-free as possible. Don’t go so far as to tell your boss you can’t take on more tasks until you are done training, but try to minimize outside stress as much as possible.
Tip #6: Positive Mindset
As small a thing as your attitude makes a big difference on race day. Visualize your success in the days leading up to the race. Picture yourself crossing the finish line. Competitive marathon runners say that imagining themselves crossing that line with a good enough time to qualify for the next race, or beating a personal best, is a helpful tactic. For many, finishing the marathon is an achievement in itself. Hold that goal firmly in your mind as the race approaches.
Tip #7: Save 26.2 For The Race
Professional marathon coaches strongly discourage racers from attempting 26.2 miles during their training. The risks associated with such a distance so close to the big race are not worth it. Instead, do a few long runs as a dress rehearsal in the last few months before the race. A twenty-mile run is long enough to test your mental and physical endurance without causing injury.
Wear your racing clothes on your rehearsal runs. Eat the meal you plan on eating prior to the race. Wake up at the same time as you would on race day. This helps your body adjust to the routine and prevents any unpleasant surprises. Race day is not the day to try something new.
Tip #8: Small Sips For Speed
Hydration is crucial during a race.
Drink plenty of water and sports drinks before, during, and after the race. Dehydration slows you down. Try and take in three to six ounces of liquid every fifteen to twenty minutes.
Start small, stay healthy, and train safely. These are the key factors in making your marathon a positive experience instead of a negative. Above all, be proud of yourself. Few people complete a marathon in their lifetime. Even if you don’t make it to the finish line, the hard work that went into your training is impressive by itself.