Major marathons can cost a pretty penny, but the price is still one of the easiest parts of getting to the starting line. The planning that goes into it, the miles and miles of training, eating well, and waking up early can all take a toll. A carefully executed marathon training cycle will pay off on race day, and it’s worth the effort. There is nothing worse than running 26.2 miles underprepared and under-trained.
Assuming you can run about 6-8 miles for a long run, you can be marathon-ready in 16 weeks. The first step is making a plan. If you have the money, hire a coach—preferably someone who has experience with the marathon itself and has successfully gotten others across a finish line. Otherwise, scour the internet. There are multitudes of books and training plans available for every level of runner, whether it’s your first marathon or you’re improving on your last one.
Marathon training can take several forms depending on your goal of completing one or bettering your time. All runners should have weekly to bi-weekly long runs. More competitive runners, or those with marathon experience, will also add tempo runs and speed work. The other days will be rest days, easy runs, or cross-training. Recovery is just as important as running. The last 2-3 weeks of marathon training are for the taper. Your mileage should decline incrementally, but make sure to keep some quality runs in your training in order to stay sharp for race day.
Long runs are the most important part of marathon training. It’s okay to miss one or two, and modify accordingly, but it’s essential to get in distance and time to be able to finish 26.2 miles. Modifying accordingly means that if you miss your 16 miler, don’t go out and run 16 miles one day and 18 the next. Overdoing it leads to injuries and can put you out of the race. Treat long runs like any other. Don’t let them intimidate you. Build up slowly, and find a friend or a group to cover the miles with you. Plan routes that are interesting or utilize water fountains and tap routes.
Nutrition is a crucial element to successful marathon training. During the run, you only have to replace some of what’s lost. Long runs are the perfect time to practice nutrition and figure out what works and what doesn’t for your body. Experiment with calories before the run like a banana, bagel, or energy bar. Focus on recovery after the run. A 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is optimal. Remember, you aren’t burning as many calories as you think. Covering lots of miles isn’t an excuse to eat a bunch of junk food. Your body needs good fuel to do the work, so focus on quality foods as much as possible.
Now that you’ve signed up for the big race and paid the big money, make the most of your marathon training by doing the work and fueling your body with the good stuff. With that and a little bit of luck and good weather, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth on race day.
Visit Fleet Feet Sports for all your hot weather running needs. We have a large assortment of hydration systems, electrolyte supplements, and technical clothing to make summer running bearable.
Rachel Randall is the Marketing Director at Fleet Feet Sports. She is also a teacher, a musician, a mother of two active boys, and a runner. She finds a way to fit her runs in, but she does not clean her house unless you are coming over. For more information call 901.761.0078 or visit our website at fleetfeetmemphis.com.