By Coach Lora Erickson “Blonde Runner”
Many runners will tell you that there is nothing like the feeling of completing a marathon. It’s an amazing accomplishment and is often the crowning achievement of a runners life. A marathon is no small undertaking and takes a lot more prep time than any other road race, so here are some things in mind when you are training for one.
Take time to get in shape. It is not wise to enter a race out of shape, and let’s face it, you can really hurt yourself. Running a race unprepared is rarely enjoyable and might prove to be a downright horrible experience souring your feelings towards ever doing one again. To avoid this take the time to get in shape so it can be a great experience that you will want to repeat again.
Training correctly for a marathon usually takes a number of months; so you can properly build your mileage gradually over time to prevent injury. You’ll find that the average program takes 6-10 months to complete even when starting it in pretty good shape. That is running about 15 miles a week consistently. Follow the standard rule increasing 10% of your mileage each week and taking an easy week every three weeks. Allow enough weeks to run one or two long runs consisting of between 18 to 22 miles each. This way you will go into the race confident that you can complete the distance. Make sure to incorporate speed work, cross training and strengthening exercises into your routine to keep you strong and injury free.
Train for the race route terrain. Nearly all races have the race route available in advance for you to review and adapt your training. Are there some considerable hills? If so, you will want to add hill repeats into your training plan. Will you be running on loose gravel, a trail, sand, grass or mostly pavement? Most likely there will be a variety of terrain; so practice on various surfaces. This may also effect what shoes you race and train with. You may need to consider altitude differences and add in some high altitude training sessions.
Create a race plan or strategy. Too often runners go into races with no plan in place; no race strategy. Even if you are not out to win it, you should still have a plan. The plan should include, pace variables, and a re-hydration/glucose strategy. Plan out how much water and electrolyte fluid you need to consume at each water stop. Study the map and learn where the water stops will be and what type of carbohydrate sources may be offered. Then practice with the same brand at the same intervals to see how your body tolerates it. Nothing is worse than having to stop and go to the restroom in the middle of a race. Having a plan can also help prevent you for “running out of gas” or “hitting the wall.”
Run your own race. In college, my coaches would often tell me to run my own race, which means to go the pace that I have trained for and not get caught up in the “race,” starting out too fast. It’s important to know your pace and stick to it, follow a plan. By varying your terrain and taking the time to train properly you will find that your half marathon experience will prove to be much more enjoyable.