The marathon has been around since the days of ancient Greece, and for many people, they're a bucket list item. But even if you're more interested in 5Ks or ultra-marathons, many of the training tips still apply.
You've completed your half-marathon training plan. You've been tapering for the last three weeks, and you feel great. You've got your loyal fan section ready to get out there and cheer you on. Now all you need to do is run.
If your half marathon is in another town, state, or even country, you want to make sure you get there early. Traveling can take a toll on your body. Muscle soreness, dehydration, and fatigue are common side effects of long-distance travel. Make sure you're drinking lots of water. When you get to your destination, do a yoga sequence that focuses on travel soreness. Go on a walk or easy jog to loosen up.
Traveling can also take a toll on your mind. Airport delays and traffic can cause unnecessary stress. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going.
Before you leave, make a list of everything you need to bring and check it off as you go. Figuring out what you want to race in is partly dependent on the weather. Check the forecast for your race and plan accordingly. And then plan for the unexpected. The key is layers (and wearing gear you won't be afraid to part with if necessary).
Think about packing three different outfits: one for a really hot afternoon, one for a perfect fall day, and one for cold that came out of nowhere. Remember to bring rainproof gear to protect against the dreaded thunderstorm. Don't forget sunscreen and headgear. This fun calculator will help you decide your best race-day outfit.
Now's the time to begin "carbo-loading" so your body has time to store up the energy it will use to get you through your first half marathon. Your body uses both glycogen (which comes from carbs) and fat to fuel you through your day. Glycogen is much easier to burn than fat, so you want to make sure your levels are high before the race.
In the few days leading up to the race, about 85 to 95 percent of your calories should come from carbs like pasta, bananas, oatmeal, rice, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, tortillas, yogurt, juice, pancakes, waffles, and bagels.
Avoid fat, fiber, caffeine, and alcohol. This cool endurance calculator will tabulate how many calories and carbohydrates you need to finish your marathon without "hitting the wall," or the moment when you've used up your glycogen and your body has to begin converting fat to energy.
You've arrived at your race location and have had time to relax. You're carbo-loading. Now what? While it may seem counterintuitive to run the day before the race (won't that make me tired?!), it's actually the best thing you can do. It will loosen your muscles and put yourneuromuscular system into alert mode.
Your neuromuscular system is the connection between your muscles and your brain. You want to make sure they're effectively and efficiently communicating with each other. Every time you run, you activate the system, and you want to keep it primed right up until race day. This doesn't mean doing a lot of running, a 3-mile jog the day before is enough. Afterwards do some strides — short sprints of around 20 seconds —to really fire up your muscles and blood.
Having a plan in place for getting to the starting line will make race day less stressful. Check the race's website for tips on how to get to the race location. If it's in a big city, public transportation might be the best option. Often transportation is free or at a discounted rate for race participants. Many systems expand their hours and train lines to accommodate the runners.
Now's the time to make a post-race plan with your friends or family. Figure out a meeting point after you finish (avoid official "meeting areas" as they can be crowded). There's nothing worse than wandering around for an hour after you just ran for four, looking for your cheering section.
You don't want to eat a huge dinner the night before. Just make sure that you get enough to eat and that most — if not all of — of your calories come from carbohydrates. A bowl of pasta (without cream or fatty sauces) is perfect when preparing for your first half-marathon. Avoid alcohol (it dehydrates you), and make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
Lay out your outfit, water bottle, gel shots, shoes, and bib number. Use already broken-in footwear so you won't have any problems during the race. Blisters from new shoes or insoles can turn your run into a nightmare.
Get some rest. Don't worry if you're nervous and can't sleep, it's natural. Your body will be full up on adrenaline on race day, and you won't be adversely affected from one night of poor sleep.
Most runners think the pre-race dinner is the only meal that impacts your performance. But your breakfast is just as important. Some of your stored energy from carbs (glycogen) will deplete overnight (remember, you are still burning calories even while sleeping). Jackie Berning, Ph.D., reminds us of the importance of replenishing your body's fuel source: "Glycogen keeps your blood-sugar level steady during exercise." What this means is that a good breakfast will sustain you for the entirety of your marathon.
That being said, many of us are nervous we will eat too much before a big race. The key is timing and type of food.
If you're worried about mid-race GI trouble, avoid fiber, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.
Get to the race with plenty of time. It may be chilly in the morning, so make sure you are wearing the correct layers (that you will peel off later).
If you've followed your first half-marathon training plan, you shouldn’t worry about getting to the finish line. But, you’ll want to keep in mind:
You crossed the finish line with you arms up. You got a medal, a cool t-shirt, and even one of those foil blankets. Make sure you celebrate your accomplishment and help your body recover.
Immediately after the race you should focus on both carbs and protein. For a 150-pound person, a bagel with peanut butter and a banana is a great option. Re-hydrate with water or sports drink. Continue eating lots of carbs with small amounts of protein for 48 hours after the race.
Your muscles will probably be sore after the race (and may be for a week). Avoid hot tubs or warm baths as that will increase muscle inflammation. Icing specific areas, using foam rollers, or even getting a massage are recommended.
It's also important to let your body have a break. Take a couple weeks off from running, particularly if this was your first half marathon and switch to lower-impact activities like swimming, biking, or even walking. Continuing to run high mileage puts you at higher risk of injuries likeplantar fasciitis and stress fractures.
You did it.You can cross running your first half-marathon off of your bucket list. If you’re hungry for the full marathon next, follow these nine simple steps toward training for a marathon.
So you think you're ready to cross running a marathon off your bucket list? When starting to train for a marathon, it's important (especially for beginners) to train smart and listen to your body.
Most marathon training plans for beginners range from 12 to 20 weeks. It's important to map out your runs and follow your plan closely to avoid injuries or over-training. Look at some of the free plans and training options available, as well as the more advanced beginner marathon training guides with customizable options.
If your goal is to run a certain time, try using a pace chart. This tells you what your mile times should be on race day, and you can train accordingly.
There have been a number of high profile barefoot runners over the decades - think Abebe Bikila, Shivnath Singh, and Zola Budd. But the more recent surge in popularity came after Christopher McDougall's 2009 book "Born to Run." In it, he promotes the virtues and benefits of barefoot running.
Despite the resurgence, there remains a lot of debate within the running community. There's no evidence that barefoot running is better than “shod” running (a fancy way of saying wearing shoes), or vice versa. But there are pros and cons.
The benefits of barefoot running include:
1. A change in strike and impact. Running shoes cause feet to strike the ground heel first (known as the heel strike), increasing the force on your feet and body up to 3x. Barefoot running shifts the strike to the midfoot or forefoot, creating less impact. Less force could reduce the risk of repetitive injuries like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and runner’s knee.
2. Stronger feet and arches. Barefoot running strengthens the muscles in your feet—particularly your arches. As researchers at Harvard University argue, “A healthy foot is a strong foot, one that pronates less and is less liable to develop a collapsed arch.”
3. Energy conservation. The same Harvard researchers argue that when you midfoot or forefoot strike, you use the “natural springs” in your feet and calf muscles. Moreover, barefoot running means you are carrying less pounds around. In other words, you use the muscles in your lower legs and feet more efficiently and you’re lighter on your feet.
The benefits of barefoot running seem like a win, but there are downsides.
1. It strains other areas of the feet. Going barefoot will change your stride. A switch to forefoot and midfoot striking can strain your Achilles tendon. If you have a history of Achilles tendinitis, this might not be the best option. Some studies have contended that it can also cause bone injuries.
2. Proper shoes and insoles can prevent bad running gaits like overpronation. When you overpronate, your ankle rolls inward when your foot hits the ground. This can lead to a host of injuries including shin splints and plantar fasciitis. Proper shoes and insoles prevent this.
3. The ground can be unforgiving. Ever run across broken glass, gravel, or dog poop? Glad you were wearing shoes? Not everyone has access to the sand of Copacabana Beach. Serious cuts, blisters, and scrapes can result from barefoot running.
Now that you know the pros and cons, you can weight them for yourself. If you decide to try barefoot running, start slow. You might want to try minimalist running shoes before going completely barefoot.
Finishing a road race is a great feeling of accomplishment. You might find that you're completely hooked and start thinking about your next race before you finish your first. Just make sure to give your body the time to rest and relax that it deserves.
And whichever distance you choose to tackle, prepare well, take care of yourself with the right gear, and have fun!
Questions? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're here to help.
Mark has always believed exceptional footwear can change lives. He's been in the footwear industry for over 30 years, working with podiatrists, pedorthists, foot care experts, and footwear makers. Mark started Chaco sandals in 1989 and developed a game-changing sport sandal that delivered comfort and durability. After Chaco sold in 2009, Mark ultimately started Tread Labs to continue transforming people's footwear so they can walk better, feel better, live better.
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