The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 miles, or 26 miles 385 yards), usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides (more correctly, Philippides), a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, who reported the victory. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 500 marathons are held throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes as larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants. A marathon training program can survive any challenge — as long as your determination remains strong. Here are 10 principles to carry you through your training (source).
1. Alternate hard days with easy days
If you need to adjust the training schedule because of travel, time conflicts at home or work, or weather problems, remember to follow an easy day/hard day pattern. (Run easy today, hard tomorrow, easy the next day, hard the day after, etc.) Don’t run hard two days consecutively to compensate for lost training. And be sure to view Long Slow Distance (“LSD”), as well as any speedwork, as a hard day – and thus never do speedwork and a long run on successive days.
2. Ain’t no mountain high enough
Regular runs on hilly terrain are an important component in building strength and stamina. If hills are available where you live, make sure to include them in your running routes – especially if your marathon has hills.
3. Don’t skimp on the sleep
Don’t skimp on sleep during your marathon build-up. Consistent quality sleep (7 hours minimum a night for most people) is vital to recoveryfrom the wear-and-tear of workouts.
4. If you’re hurting, take it easy
Don’t run with an injury. If you sense the onset of one, rest or cross train for 1-3 days to see if the injury symptoms subside. If they do, resume gentle running. If they don’t, seek professional medical opinion as to the nature of your injury and continue to lay off of running until cleared to resume by the professional.
5. Step lively
Never train in broken-down shoes. Quality running shoes last for a maximum of 500 miles or less before their support systems break down. Carefully gauge the condition of your shoes against the number of miles you’ve run in them. When you begin to feel regular flare ups of knee, shin, foot, or hip discomfort, it’s probably time for new shoes. Continuing to run in broken-down shoes often results in injuries.
6. Shop wisely
The best place to shop for shoes (and running clothing and accessories) is a retail store that specializes in running shoes – not soccer cleats, basketball shoes, or pro team jerseys. In a specialty running store you will be waited on by runners (no doubt more experienced than you) who’ve been trained in running mechanics and schooled in running-shoe technologies. They’ll guide through the maze of choices to shoes that are most compatible with your running mechanics and training practice.
7. Follow the path
Follow our marathon training schedules as best you can. They work, but listen to your body and be smart and flexible in making training decisions. If you’re exhausted, skip your scheduled 7 A.M. Sunday 20-miler and sleep in; do the long run another time. If you’re running track repeats at 5 P.M. and it’s 95 degrees, wait for a cooler day to do this workout.
8. Get social
Marathon training can be either a solitary or social experience; we recommend making it social. Why? Training with a compatible partner, or as part of a group of runners with compatible goals, can provide support, motivation, humor, structure, information exchange, and sometimes professional coaching.
9. Dress accordingly
Keep abreast of local weather forecasts and dress for running accordingly. Generally, wear less clothing than you think you’ll need for the expected temperatures. The body generates plenty of heat during running, and by overdressing, you significantly increase your risk for dehydration and may inhibit your body’s natural cooling abilities.
10. Eat to perform
Gone are the days when marathoners wouldn’t drink or eat during training runs. Now it’s essential that you plan to drink water or sports drinks for runs exceeding an hour, and plan to eat (energy bars, energy gels, fruit, bagels, or sugary snacks) during training runs 90 minutes or longer. Just as important is to be well-hydrated and fed before you start any run. Of course, you’ll also want to keep well-fueled during your marathon itself. The bottom line on hydration and eating: Find out through experimentation what quantity and mix of beverages and foods works best for you during longer training runs, then follow through with it during your marathon. For all you need to know about sports nutrition.