Running a marathon is daunting to many even for runners who have run a few marathons. Running 23 miles / 42 kilo meters is no mean effort. I can honestly admit that even after four marathons and more than a dozen half marathons, it makes me to approach a race with the respect it deserves. The key to gaining confidence to run a race, be it half or full marathon is to plan and adhere to a “running program”.
Running programs come in various forms and there are many programs that you can get for free from net, designed by running experts. It is important to decide a race that you want to undertake and stick to a running program. I would advice beginners to first enroll for a shorter race namely a 5K and then as you gain confidence move to a longer race 10 K, a half – marathon and a marathon. It is important to have a target / race to practice your running program. This will help you get motivated and any runner worth his salt would attest that motivation is the fuel for running races.
Once you have chosen a target / race to achieve, it is important to practice the running program. A running program for a marathon typically would include a 18-20 week program interspaced with easy runs, interval runs, hill runs, Long Slow distance runs and a rest days in a week. I like to add some strength training in between, especially if you are in your 40-50s and need to regenerate muscle tissues.
Do not rush into a program if you have lost some training weeks. Patience is the mother of all virtues and it is true for running too. If you are not prepared for a race, it is better to skip the race, train better and participate in the next opportunity. I have skipped couple of marathons in the past, as my practice was not up to the mark due to my family / job commitments. It is tough to make the call but one needs to be fully prepared and confident before a race. Practicing to a complete running program is important to approach a race with confidence and run the race well and to avoid run injuries that could deter you from running.
Maintaining a healthy diet and sleep routine is important to be a good runner. Do not run on empty stomach and have an egg, banana, oats, dates or almonds that will give an early nourishment to kick start your run. Longer runs would need nutrition supplements and many of the races provide you these at different water points along the running course. I carry nutrition gels in my running belt to consume at different intervals. These gels keep you nourished with the carbs, electrolytes and other salts like potassium and magnesium etc. It is also important to keep yourself hydrated along the run as you lose water from your body and get dehydrated. Cramps are runners nemesis and getting yourself hydrated along the way is important to finish the race without cramps.
Running is a great exercise to lose excess body fat. If you want to do well in races and save your legs being punished by bodyweight it is important to maintain an ideal body weight. I spoke of an ideal body weight for runner in my earlier posts. I started my running following Hal Higdon running programs and would recommend anyone starting running to follow his programs in his website https://www.halhigdon.com/.
“If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep moving.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.