Cool asphalt presses against your Nikes. Excitement pounds hard in your chest. Months of careful, intensive training have prepared you for the next few hours of all out endurance. You will soon be running against the clock, yourself, your peers, Oprah. You will conquer 26.2 miles and will still be breathing. You are strong. You are invincible. You are … the marathon runner. dun dun dun
So it sounds impressive, right? If you were reading it in that movie announcer’s voice like I was, it sounds amazing. But if you are like me (and many other average people), you have entertained the thought of running a marathon only long enough to decide you didn’t have enough information or that you weren’t cut out for it. Let’s solve one, if not both, of these obstacles. As one reader recently pointed out, health is a crucial thing—don’t gamble with it. Marathons are serious. They require many months of training and more than a little know-how, learning the complex balances of the human body. But they can also be a great experience when done well and can leave you feeling accomplished and well, invincible.
Marathons are great. As far as health goes, they provide you with a specific goal to work toward. They can be social. They bring in a healthy dose of good ole fashion competition—not the kind of cut-throat competition that had your sister throwing the Monopoly board across the room, but the kind that pushes you a little farther than you thought you could go.
Tens of thousands of people around the world are getting out and participating in marathons every year, so there must be joy in it. So let’s step back and figure a few things out.
The experts recommend many months to train for a marathon. Your body will need time to build up to what you are asking it to do. Did I mention that it’s a 26.2-mile run? Alternate short runs with longer runs several times a week to work up your muscles. Cross-training with weight training will strengthen your muscles as well. The main three goals here are muscle endurance, muscle strength and mental stamina. Your particular training schedule itself will depend on your lifestyle and the end goal in mind.
What to Wear
Though it’s not all about the gear, there are several things to know about proper attire. The shoes, of course, are the most important piece of your outfit. Different running shoes are designed for different strides and arch levels, so to achieve proper arch support and impact distribution, it is best to go to a specialty shoe store where the employees will to be more knowledgeable about the products. Also, bring a pair of socks you plan to train in with you for proper fit. You will want to buy a new pair of running shoes (in addition to your training shoes) about five weeks before the race for optimum performance. The shoes will be comfortably broken in, yet fresh for the marathon. Do not wear your running shoes for anything else besides running and hand wash rather than throwing them in the washing machine.
Moisture-wicking shirts have become popular recently, and other performance wear may be worth the investment. Get a runner friend’s recommendations and do a little research on the options available to you. It is a good idea to test your clothing during your training, and use your long runs during training as the testing ground for possible solutions.
For the other 98 marathon considerations, I have assembled a short list of valuable websites that can serve as quality resources as you gather more information. You could have visited these sites first, but we have cooler graphics.
MarathonGuide.com is comprehensive website full of info on training, products and upcoming marathons and half-marathons around the world. Also provides significant news and articles on running.
Running Times online is the web companion to Running Times magazine, “The Runner’s Best Resource.” The site has interesting articles and may have helpful health information related to running. Though not catered specifically to marathons, they have the runner in mind and could prove worth a look.
The Marathon Training Website – 26.2 specializes in training tips and helping the runner prepare—for inexperienced runners, “for marathon runners of all ages and abilities.” No question is a dumb question here. It has guidelines to help you set realistic goals for running times (the actual numbers, not the magazine).