The first step to conquer a marathon is educating yourself, which you are already doing by readying this article. Below is the ultimate guide and steps on how to conquer a marathon or any long run!
First, let’s talk about Training:
Step 1 - Make A Plan
Keep your current abilities in mind when making a schedule of practice runs. If you're considering running a marathon, you should already be able to run for at least 30 minutes without stopping. Your schedule should include what types of training exercises you want to do, how many miles you want to do in a single run, and recovery exercises. Don't expect instant results, especially when it comes to endurance training. You should set aside at least 16 to 20 weeks to train for a marathon.
Step 2 - Plan Long Runs
Schedule running one long run a week and make sure you actually do it. When you start training, your long run should be about 10 to 11 miles. Every week, try to schedule extra miles. By the sixteenth or seventeenth week of training, you should be able to run about 22 miles for the long run. Long runs are important for preparing your musculoskeletal system for the actual marathon. Try to run at a pretty slow pace during your long run.
Step 3 - Alternate Long Runs With Short or Medium Runs
Short runs (around 3 or 4 miles) can improve your cardiovascular function. Medium runs (starting around 7 or 8 miles) should be a little faster paced. These runs help you build confidence that you can run for an extended time. Aim to do 1 or 2 short runs and 1 medium run a week. Start out running about six miles per hour and add a tenth of mile per hour to your speed every minute after ten. By about thirty minutes you should be going about eight miles per hour.
Step 4 - Workout
Running too much can actually hurt your ability to perform in the marathon. You should spend some of your training days doing low-impact workouts that help you maintain your endurance and build upper body strength. If you don't currently workout, start with just one day of low-impact exercising a week. Then, bump that up to 2 or 3 days of low-impact exercising a week alternating with running days.
Step 5 - Take Training Seriously
Treat your long runs as practice runs for the real marathon. If you have to miss a day or two of training, adjust your schedule so that you're only missing workouts or easy runs. When you do intense training runs, remember to have about a liter of water on hand and some gel nutrition packets. Be sure to taper off the distance of your long run a few weeks before the race so that your body can be at its best for the actual marathon.
Second, let’s talk about Recovering:
Step 1 - Make sure you Ice Down Your Legs
You should ice down your shins, knees and any sore parts of your legs after each run or whenever you feel muscle soreness. The ice will reduce any swelling or bruising in your legs that could lead to a severe injury later on. Apply an ice pack or immerse your legs in an ice bath for about 6 to 12 minutes. Take a warm shower about 30 minutes after using the ice.
Step 2 - Take Recovery Days
If you workout every day, you’ll exhaust your body and damage your joints. You should take two days a week to relax and let yourself heal. Don’t do any type of strenuous exercise on your recovery days. Allowing your body to rest gives your muscles a chance to rebuild and get stronger after you break them down during your workouts.
Step 3- Stretch your Muscles
Do stretches every day to decrease your chances of getting hurt. Stretch before and after runs and make sure to stretch muscles throughout your body, not just your legs. Do static stretches by extending your arms or legs and holding the muscles so you feel the stretch. Hold them for 30 seconds and gently release. Avoid bouncing stretches that could pull or damage your muscles.
Step 4 - Listen to your Body
You should never try to push yourself too hard if you feel that you may be risking an injury. If at any time during your workout you feel that something isn’t right, you cramp up, or feel your legs go weak, stop immediately and take a break or walk. At the beginning of your training, your body may not be able to handle all the impact on your joints.
Third, let’s talk about Nutrition:
Step 1 - Make a diet high in Carbs
While you're training, 60 to 65% of your diet should come from mainly complex carbs. Eat foods like potatoes, beans, yams, wheat bread, pasta and apples. While you're running, eat carbs gels every 30 to 45 minutes. Carbs help your body produce energy for running so they're an important part of a marathon runner's diet.
Step 2 - Eat Protein
While you’re training, 12 to 15 percent of your calories should come from protein. Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.6 to determine how many grams of protein you need. Include chicken, eggs, fish, peanut butter, and lean beef in your diet. You can also get a protein supplement from a health food store if you have trouble meeting your daily requirements from your diet alone.
Step 3 - Consume plenty of Calcium
Perhaps the most important part of preparing for a marathon is making sure your body can withstand the intense punishment it can inflict on your bones. Make sure you're eating lots of calcium-rich foods like broccoli, collard greens, milk, yogurt, and salmon.
Step 4 - Drink Water
While you're training, stay properly hydrated. Drink at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water. While you're running (a long run or the marathon), plan to drink 8 ounces of fluid every twenty minutes that you run. Avoid drinking too much water or you could get hyponatremia.
Last but not least, lets talk about getting the right Gear:
Step 1 - Wear running Shoes that Fit
Buy your shoes from a store that specializes in running footwear. A professional shoe store will measure the width and the arch of your foot and guide you to the shoe that best suits you. Wear shoes you've trained in several times when you actually run the marathon. You don't want to break in new shoes while running a challenging race.
Step 2 - Wear running Socks
While you’re at the running store, pick up a pair of double layered socks. Double layered socks will prevent your heels and toes from getting blistered during the marathon. Normal socks don’t offer enough protection and can leave your feet blistered and in pain. The discomfort could be so bad that it causes you to cut your workout short.
Step 3 - Get a Heart Rate Monitor
You want your heart rate to be fifty to eighty-five percent of your maximum heart rate to get the most out of your work out. Your ideal maximum heart rate should be about two hundred and twenty minus your age. For example, if you’re twenty, your maximum heart rate should be about two hundred beats per minute. While you workout, it should be from one hundred to one hundred and seventy beats per minute.
Step 4 - Wear a comfortable Running Belt
The actual marathon will have tables set up at points in the race where you can grab cups of water. But, you’ll need a way to hydrate yourself during your training runs. Use a running belt to carry a few bottles of water with you while you run. The belt should be snug but not too restricting.