You’ve decided to run a marathon and have a long road ahead: 26.2 miles to be exact (and that doesn’t include the pre-race mileage). Training doesn’t have to be tricky, however.
Here are five key tips to set you on your way to a strong finish:
CONSIDER HIRING A COACH
With a coach to hold you accountable, you’ll get a customized training plan — and a potential kick in the pants. “It’s easy to skip runs and end workouts early when you know you don’t have someone checking in on you,” says run coach and five-time Nashville Marathon winner, Scott Wietecha. Check with your local running store, as many have training groups and programs to help you. If you can’t fully commit to a coach, apps like MapMyRun offer various plans.
TRAIN FOR THE TERRAIN
“People often train just to complete the 26.2 miles without also catering to the course and conditions they’re going to race on,” Wietecha says. If your race course is hilly, you’ll want to prepare. “I have several athletes about to run the Boston Marathon [which features varying pitches], for example, so we focus on fartleks over rolling hills, instead of intervals on the track.”
Wietecha also notes that it’s important to train for downhill running, too. “It’s more demanding on your body, because of the eccentric muscle contractions required to control your speed,” he says.
PREPARE FOR RACE DAY
Practice what you’ll be doing right before, during and after the race, so nothing comes as a struggle or surprise. Figure out what you’ll eat for breakfast, for example and eat that before your long runs. You may also want to train in the type of gear you’ll wear, considering the race day temperatures. “You’ll need to learn little things, too, like how much liquid your stomach can handle while running,” Wietecha says. “Run with water so you can assess your hydration needs.”
It’s also wise to consider your fuel: “Are you going to use liquid carbohydrates during your run, or something more food-like, such as a bar? Or perhaps you might want to use a gel,” Wietecha says. “My marathon go-to consists of four caffeinated energy gels, but I found through training that there are certain brands that don’t work for me.” As the saying goes, know what you like.
READ MORE > FOUR TYPES OF FOOD CAUSING GI ISSUES ON THE RUN
DON’T SWEAT THE DISTANCE
If you don’t run a full 26 miles until race day, that’s OK. “Many people have successfully used the Hanson method, which uses a 16-mile long run,” Wietecha says. Instead, think consistency: “If you are consistent with your training during the week and get your workouts in, the long run becomes less important. Training is about the overall balance, and having a good week is more important than running really well or really long on just one day.”
REMEMBER TO REST
“Recovery is so important,” says exercise physiologist Tom Holland, author of “The Marathon Method.” “Be sure to take one day completely off each week when you’re training. That’s when your muscles actually ‘heal’ themselves, and your body can get stronger.”